Sunglasses are often seen as unnecessary fashion accessories, but they serve a much more important role. While most people are quick to put on sunscreen to protect their skin — and their kids' — in the summer, not as many realize how much the sun can damage the eyes. Sunglasses protect your eyes by blocking out harmful ultraviolet rays, as well as simply making your day out much more enjoyable without that constant glare.
When it comes to protecting kids who often spend many hours out in the sun, sunglasses are even more important. In fact, your little ones' eyes are more vulnerable to the sun’s UV rays, because their eyes aren’t fully developed yet and their crystaline lenses let more light in. It’s clear that sunglasses are vital for your kids' health, then, but not all sunglasses are actually good. How do you pick a good pair of sunglasses for your child that’s also within your budget?
Celebrate this National Sunglasses Day by learning the importance of sunglasses and getting your child a new pair of sunglasses that they'll be able to enjoy more than any fashion accessory, because it'll also keep their eyes healthy!
What Can the Sun’s UV Rays Do to Your Kids' Eyes?
By now, everyone knows that the sun’s harmful UV rays can seriously damage your eyes, but not as many know exactly how they can harm your eyes over time. To understand the detrimental health impact that ultraviolet rays can have on your eyes, and most importantly your kids', you’ll first need to know about the different types of UV rays:
- UVC rays aren’t dangerous because they are completely absorbed by the Earth's ozone layer and have the shortest wavelength.
- UVB rays have a slightly longer wavelength and can cause damage to your eyes. These UV rays can damage your cornea and lens over time, with prolonged sun exposure speeding this process up.
- UVA rays have the longest wavelengths and also case the most damage to your eyes. When exposed to these rays, your central vision will be harmed, like your retina and macula, which are in the back of your eyes.
Even a little bit of exposure to sun’s dangerous UV rays can cause some damage, but long-term exposure can have extreme and irreversible effects. Photokeratitis, for instance, is often described as an "eye sunburn", and can set in even after short-term exposure to powerful amounts of UV radiation. This condition causes your cornea to become inflamed. Though it can be pretty painful, photokeratitis doesn’t usually cause any permanent damage.
Long-term damage to your eyes can happen after many years of exposure to even just a small amount of UV rays. You may develop a cataract which will start to impair your vision over time, and you may notice your retina is damaged. If your eyes aren’t protected and you spend a lot of time exposing yourself to UV rays, you may have an increased risk of skin cancer around your eyelids or develop chronic eye disease. You could also develop pterygium or pinguecula, which are both nasty and painful growths in your eye.
Reading about all the nasty things UV rays can do to your eyes may worry you, but we aren’t here to scare you. Instead of worrying about what the sun can do to your child’s eyes, take action and get your child a pair of trusty sunglasses. Just how do you decide which ones actually protect your eyes, though?
How to Pick the Right Sunglasses for Your Child
You’ve probably bought your child a pair of cheap sunglasses before to protect their eyes or stop the sun from causing them any immediate discomfort. These basic sunglasses can be found anywhere, from your local Walmart to Ali Express or Amazon, or that tourist shop you come across on vacation. They may look neat, but those bad quality sunglasses that break a week after you got them never actually block UV rays.
If you actually want to protect your child’s eyes, you’ll have to spend a bit more money on sunglasses that do block the sun’s UV rays. While you may getting a cheaper pair will save you some money, these sunglasses are practically useless and it’s much better in the long run to get a good but more expensive pair.
If you shouldn’t buy a pair of cheap sunglasses, though, where can you buy high-quality sunglasses that protect kids' eyes?
1. Choosing Sunglasses with Good Lenses
Lenses are the most important parts of sunglasses, as they are the part that gives your eyes protection against UV rays! That's why it's crucial to check if the sunglasses you want to buy actually have certified UV protection. If you're looking for the best, it's optimal to pick a pair with around UV 400 protection.
It's also vital to look out for durable lenses, especially when it comes to your kids, who will often be running and jumping around a lot. Polycarbonate is probably the best lens material for your child, because it's not only durable but also pretty light.
2. Pick A Sturdy Frame That Fits
The lenses aren't the only thing to consider when picking a pair of sunglasses, and the frames can be just as important. If the frame doesn't fit your child, the sunglasses are practically useless. Larger frames that cover your child's entire eyes are best. Because you may not know if the sunglasses will fit your child's face shape beforehand, it may be best to purchase sunglasses in person, rather than online. You don't want to invest in quality sunglasses that just fall off your child's face while they jump around, breaking the new sunglasses on the day they arrived, after all.
3. Consider Your Budget
Good sunglasses are expensive and you'll have to keep that in mind when picking a pair for your kid. Some sunglasses are more budget-friendly while some can be really expensive. Typically you'll have to pay around $70 to $140 and sometimes even more. Though they can be very pricey, good quality sunglasses will serve your child way better than any of those cheap ones ever did. (If you have a toddler, mind you, supervise them closely to make sure your sunglasses stay intact. Some curious ones may take them apart in an attempt to make a Spider-Man mask, or something.)
In Conclusion: Get Your Kids' Sunglasses at the Same Place You'd Buy Prescription Glasses
By now, you know that your kids will need good lenses with excellent UV protection, and a sturdy and well-fitting frame. Your local optometrist is best suited to provide you with this. They can help you pick out the right lenses, help your child find a frame that fits well, and even adjust it to the shape of their face and ears so the sunglasses fit just right. If your child wears prescription glasses, this is your only option — yes, prescription sunglasses are very much a thing. Even if that's not the case, however, this is still the way to go.