Most of us select our shades for their style. Let’s face it: Shades can make us look hip, mysterious, flirty or fun. But sunglasses are more than summer’s trendiest fashion accessory. They also perform an important function — protecting our eyes from serious health conditions.  

Cataracts, age-related macular degeneration, skin cancer, and other eye growths are just a few of the serious vision issues excessive sun exposure can cause. And outdoorsy types aren’t the only people at risk. Anyone who spends time outdoors can suffer eye damage caused by the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays.

Next time you’re in the market for some new shades, consider fashion and function. Feast your eyes on these tips for finding the perfect pair. Your new shades should:

  • Block 99-100% of UV radiation
  • Screen 75-90% of visible light
  • Be free of imperfections and distortion
  • Feature extended lenses to protect your eyes and surrounding skin
  • Carry a label stating the UV level
  • Fit snugly on your nose and ears without pinching or rubbing
  • Have lenses with a gray tint, which reduces light intensity while maintaining the most natural color of objects. Gray is the most popular sunglass lens color in the United States.

“Consider transition lenses, which change tint depending on the brightness of your environment,” Michael Somers, MDsuggests Michael Somers, MD, an ophthalmologist with Somers Eye Center. “Some people wear transition lenses full time and do not need a pair of sunglasses.” Dr. Somers also encourages people to consider incorporating polarized lenses into their sunglasses. Polarized lenses can make participating in water-related summer activities more enjoyable because they reduce the glare caused by the light reflecting off the water.

Keep in mind that a higher price tag doesn’t necessarily translate into high-quality lenses or UV blockage. If inexpensive sunglasses meet the recommended UV protection levels, you should be good to go.