It's time to invest in a new set of sunglasses. What figure should you write into your monthly budget?

In general, inexpensive drugstore sunglasses offer as much sun protection as their expensive counterparts. The glasses you buy from a street vendor might not be up to quality standards, but those in pharmacies and established shops can adequately protect your eyes from the sun. (Learn more)

If you're an avid outdoor enthusiast and you hope to take in all the sights when you're outside, you could benefit from glasses with a higher level of durability. A more expensive set can also come with higher quality lenses that provide clearer, sharper images. (Learn more)

Some sunglasses come with polarization benefits. They don't offer enhanced protection from sun damage, but they can cut down on glare. You could have less eyestrain if you wear them while near large bodies of water. But if you drive with them at night, you could experience problems. (Learn more)

Regardless of whether you're in the market for expensive shades or their cheaper cousins, there are several key aspects to watch for to ensure you're buying protection that is appropriate for your eyes. (Learn more)

How Do Cheap Sunglasses Stack Up?

Look in any drugstore, department store, or grocery store, and you're likely to find racks and racks of sunglasses. Most come with a bargain price tag. But in some stores, you'll see even more options in glass cases you can only open up with a key. Are those better?

Reporters wanted to find out. In 2014, ABC News reporters bought cheap and expensive sunglasses, and they had the products tested by an expert. The result: The less expensive versions worked just as well as the others.

But there is an exception. You can also buy sunglasses from street vendors. They often offer tantalizing knockoffs of designer shades at a fraction of the price. Those products, experts say, aren't regulated. No one ensures that they do what they promise to do. Don’t buy those versions.

When Is Paying More Worthwhile?

If you have the money to spare and fashion is important to you, spending more may always seem like the best idea. But there are times when it pays for everyone to reach for the expensive shades.

Consider your hobbies. As an outdoor enthusiast, you might enjoy:

  • Skiing
  • Waterskiing
  • Fishing
  • Hiking

The visual component of your hobby is likely very important to you. As one blogger says, expensive glasses with high-tech lenses can help him see the beauty of the world around him. His trips come with less eyestrain, and he enjoys them more. Spending more on sunglasses makes a lot of sense for him.

Conversely, you might be someone who needs multiple glasses. A set sits on your desk, on your deck, in your car, and in your purse or locker.

Expensive sunglasses tend to come with high-quality lenses that can last a long time, experts say. But if you need multiple pairs and you won't wear any pair for very long, durability isn't very important to you. Price is more important.

In the end, it's a very personal decision you will make based on your budget, your eye health, and your plans for your sunglasses.

Does Polarization Matter?

holding glasses up to the sun on a beach

As you shop, you might notice that some lenses come with polarization. Often, this feature comes with a slightly higher price tag. You may wonder if it's worth the added expense.

The American Academy of Ophthalmology explains that polarized lenses are coated with a chemical that blocks horizontal light from entering the lens. That could be helpful for people planning to spend time:

  • Fishing.
  • Sitting in front of a body of calm water.
  • Watching a car race or any other event that includes swaths of metal.

The blocking technology will keep you from squinting excessively. When your eyes are open wide, you can see more. And you'll likely feel lower levels of fatigue as you watch the world around you.

It's important to note that polarized lenses don't offer more protection than other lenses. They don't block out more of the sun's harmful rays, experts say. You'll use them to improve performance alone. And sometimes, they're not helpful.

Experts say that wearing them while driving can be troublesome, if the lenses interfere with the coatings on your windshield. You may not see the dangers in the road ahead of you.

Polarized lenses can also block your ability to see a flat electronic screen, like your phone. If you plan to spend an afternoon in the sun while you text your friends, these lenses aren't the right choice for you.

What to Look for as You Shop

Choosing sunglasses is personal. The right lenses for you depend on your eyes and your habits. Your needs will vary dramatically from those of your neighbor, but there are general principles to keep in mind as you shop.

The American Academy of Ophthalmology says the best sunglasses offer:

  • 100 percent protection. Sunglasses should come with a sticker that certifies UV protection. Yours should block 100 percent of these dangerous rays.
  • Big lenses. The more coverage the lenses offer, the better the protection.
  • Color options you enjoy. Lens colors, including green and amber, don't block more sun than their darker counterparts. But they can enhance contrast. Even very dark lenses don't offer more protection from UV rays. Choose options that you appreciate and will wear.

Don't be afraid to try on your sunglasses and wear them outside before you commit to a purchase. Shop around and ensure that you're getting the pair that's just right for you.

 

References

Pricey vs. Cheap: Do Designer Sunglasses Provide Better UV Protection Than Cheaper Shades? (September 2014). ABC News.

Are Expensive Sunglasses Worth the Splurge? (June 2017). ABC13.

Nice Sunglasses Are Worth It After All. (March 2018). Adventure Journal.

Debunking 9 Common Myths About Sunglasses. (April 2007). Today.

What Are Polarized Lenses For? (January 2019). American Academy of Ophthalmology.

Why Polarized Sunglasses and Infotainment Screens Don’t Mix. (May 2014). Road & Track.

Is It Worth It to Pay Extra for Fancy Sunglasses? (July 2018). Money Talks News.

How to Choose the Best Sunglasses. (May 2015). American Academy of Ophthalmology.