Is It Worth It to Pay Extra for Fancy Sunglasses?

When it comes to your shades, the highest price doesn't necessarily translate into the best quality. Here's what you need to look for.

It’s summer, the perfect time to head to the beach or pool and gaze at the world through the coolest sunglasses of the season. For some, the designer brand on a pair of shades is just as important as the label on their bathing suit, and the eyewear might even cost more.

No matter how stylish your glasses, remember that the primary role of sunglasses is to:

  • Shield your eyes from the sun’s harmful rays.
  • Boost visibility by eliminating glare.
  • Provide an optimal level of comfort.

Some people insist on sporting the most stylish and expensive pair of frames. But is the quality of designer shades truly superior, or are you simply paying for the logo?

When looking for sunglasses — designer or not — keep in mind the following when determining whether they are worth buying:

Choose glasses with good ultraviolet absorption

The most important thing is that your sunglasses protect your eyes from ultraviolet rays — which include both UVA and UVB — that can lead to cataracts and growths, including cancers. The American Academy of Ophthalmology says:

Look for sunglasses that block 99 percent or 100 percent of all UV light. Some manufacturers’ labels say “UV absorption up to 400nm.” This is the same thing as 100 percent UV absorption.

Don’t misunderstand the role of polarization

Polarization is helpful because it reduces glare reflected from flat surfaces like pavement or pools of water, which can affect your visibility while you’re driving. But polarization has nothing to do with protecting your eyes from harmful rays. And it can sometimes make it more difficult to see illuminated screens, such as on smartphones.

So, you might want to check your phone while wearing the glasses in the store and make sure there won’t be problems.

Administer a quality control test

To determine if nonprescription lenses are made well, the American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends you:

  • Fix your eyes on a tile or other object with a rectangular pattern.
  • Cover one eye. Hold the glasses away from your face.
  • Slowly move the glasses up and down and side to side.

If the lines in the rectangular pattern remain straight during the test, the lenses are fine. If they wiggle, the lenses are likely made of cheap pressed plastic.

Choose the right frame design

No matter how good the lenses, UV light can still leak around the edges of the frames. Large-framed wraparound sunglasses — which seem to go in and out of style every few years — can protect your eyes from all angles.

The next best choice are big lenses that provides good coverage, WebMD says. The site also recommends you get glasses that sit close to your face so that UV rays don’t leak over the top. As a bonus, a bigger lens shape also offers better protection from sand and allergens.

For a wide selection of latest styles in quality sunglasses, look for deals with these online sellers before you duck into a pricey sunglasses store:

Don’t let lens color fool you

Just because the lenses are dark doesn’t mean they’re actually blocking UV rays. WebMD notes that a darker color without the UV protection actually could work against you, since it will force your pupil to open wider and let more of the damaging UV light into your eye.

The bottom line

So, are designer shades really worth the cost, or can you tolerate a more affordable pair? They are likely both made by the same company, and, as far as your eyes are concerned, the UV protection is the only thing that matters.

You could opt for the logo and the high price — maybe style is worth the money to you. But for the same money, you could instead buy several less-expensive pairs that protect your eyes just as well. That way, if you lose a pair, you have backup glasses.

Are your sunglasses closer to the Target end or the Tiffany end? Share with us in comments below or on our Facebook page.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Allison Martin
Allison Martin @amthewriter
After spending years as a governmental accountant, I decided to transition into the world of freelance writing. When I'm not busy writing, I enjoy mentoring mommy-preneurs and helping others manage their finances. ... More

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