It used to be that getting your first pair of sunglasses was a rite of passage from childhood to adulthood. Purchasing sunglasses meant you actually had a job and could afford to buy things your parents weren’t willing to pay for. Sure, they covered the basic necessities like food, clothing, and housing. But sunglasses were not a necessity. So to get a pair, you had to grow up and get a job. How times have changed.
This old rite of passage has given way to medical science. Today, doctors recommend that people wear sunglasses whenever they go outdoors regardless of age. Some go so far as to say that children should never be without sunglasses outdoors, even for a couple of minutes.
So what’s the deal? Why has medical science taken away yet another rite of passage? It boils down to UV rays and all the damage these can do to human tissue. A rite of passage is pretty much meaningless if it contributes to some sort of disease that could have otherwise been avoided. That is where we are with sunglasses.
Sunglasses and UV Protection
Olympic Eyewear, a Utah company that designs and manufactures more than two dozen brands of designer sunglasses, explains that UV protection is built in. It has nothing to do with lens tint or color. Rather, UV protection is achieved through a thin film embedded in eyewear lenses. The film is clear, by the way.
That film is capable of blocking ultraviolet rays at a range of frequencies. This is where rating comes into play. UV rays are measured according to their frequency. When you see a label that says UV 400, it is indicative of the fact that those sunglasses block the highest frequencies of UV rays. A pair of sunglasses rated UV 400 provides 100% protection. A pair rated at UV 300 offers less protection.
UV Rays Are Bad for the Eyes
Most of us are familiar with the idea that UV radiation is a bad thing. As for UV rays and the eyes, they make for a poor combination. UV exposure has been linked to cataracts, macular degeneration, and even certain forms of cancer. Also note that the eyes are not the only parts of the body in danger.
The skin around the eyes is also extremely sensitive as well. It is also quite thin. Continual exposure to UV rays has been linked to skin cancer in that particular area. This is why experts recommend oversized sunglasses rather than their standard or tiny counterparts. Oversized glasses protect the eyes as well as the skin around them.
Affordable Protection for Kids
Thankfully for parents, providing eye protection for their kids does not have to be expensive. Neither kids nor their parents really need a $500 pair of sunglasses from a big-name label. What is most important is adequate UV protection. And yes, you can buy more than adequate sunglasses for less than $50 if you know where to look.
This is important when you are talking about children’s sunglasses. Kids are notorious for not taking care of their things, so having to buy multiple replacement pairs in any given year is pretty routine. Parents want to get away as cheaply as they can without sacrificing eye protection.
Yet another rite of passage has been set aside by medical science. Nostalgia says that’s a shame but giving way to medical science is more important. If donning sunglasses outdoors will reduce the chances of children eventually developing ocular diseases as an adult, it is well worth giving up a rite of passage.