Cheap Sunglasses Are Great, Just Make Sure They Offer the Proper Protection

By , dealnews contributor

Although the bard Corey Hart sang, "I wear my sunglasses at night," that probably isn't a stellar idea, unless you're dressed as Hart and it's Halloween. However, sporting shades during the day is a great idea no matter what the season. Excessive exposure to UV light (even as reflected by the sand or pavement) not only causes bug-eyed squinting, but can do serious damage to your eyes. Harsh sun rays can burn your eyes the same way the sun can cause, well, a sunburn. And, as sun damage continues, you can do some real harm to your eyesight without even knowing or feeling it.

But, like slathering on sunblock with SPF, you can easily protect your eyeballs from UV rays. The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends wearing sunglasses as a preventative measure, provided they screen out 99% to 100% of UV light. But which are better? Do dollar store specs or designer lenses better protect the eyes? To clarify any shades of gray in the matter, here are some tips on how to pick your perfect pair of sunglasses:

Look for a UVA-UVB Protection Rating
Remember what we said about sunblock and SPF? Well, imagine going out — and staying out — on a bright day without any sunscreen. Unfortunately that's exactly what you'll do to your eyes if you overlook the levels of UVA and UVB protection from your sunglasses. Watch out for chic $5 shades from the convenience store, as many don't pack the protection you need. Some do however, so examine the sunglasses to ensure that they block 99% to 100% of UVA and UVB radiation; the label should read either "UV 400" or "100% UV protection." The pictured Smith Optics Men's Foley Sunglasses ($55.96 via coupon code "ALSPRING2" with $9.95 s&h, a low by $5) strike a balance between style and protectiveness, with both 100% UVB and UVA protection. When shopping on your own however, don't be fooled if the glasses merely say "UV protective." That's not good enough — and in fact, may mean they're no good at all.

For Maximum UV Protection, Try Wraparound Shades
Wraparounds are designed to keep the light from shining around the glasses frames and into your eyes. Studies have shown that enough UV rays enter around ordinary eyeglass frames to reduce the benefits of protective lenses, but large-framed wraparound sunglasses can protect your eyes from all angles. These classicly styled Electric Eyewear Women's Mayday Sunglasses in Tortoise Shell/Bronze ($76.99 with free shipping, a low by $3) are subtly tinted brown and will keep the sun out of your eyes from all angles.

For the Best Eye Protection, Get a Prescription Pair
The FDA regulates sunglasses to the extent that manufacturers who sell over-the-counter, nonprescription pairs can only claim they reduce eye strain and eye fatigue due to glare. Other labels that claim UV protection need proof and proper labeling. To find such a pair, opt for a prescription. You might find your perfect pair of sunglasses at Googles4U, where you'll save $5.95 on any prescription pair of sunglasses priced up to $19.95 via coupon code "1dglasses".

Pick Polarized Lenses
They're not as essential as UV protection, but many wearers prefer polarized lenses, which employ polarizing films to help reduce the glare when light bounces off water, highway roads, and other reflective surfaces.

Try Tapered Lenses
Many cheap shades have inferior optical quality. Good lenses require careful manufacturing control that includes "decentering," or tapering the lenses, whereas inexpensive plastic lenses will strain your eyes. You might not notice it at first, but after a while, subtle fatigue or even severe eyestrain and headaches can occur. The Oakley Men's Trojan Signature Sunglasses in Black/Matte Black/Grey (pictured) ($69.99 with free shipping, a low by $31) are a popular pair of curved-lens shades that also feature 100% UVA, UVB, and UVC protection.

Approach fancy designer brands with eyes wide open — especially if the company is better known for handbags than eyewear. You'll probably pay more for the designer name and the logo than for the quality of the lens and glasses. However it's also ill-advised to shop for eyewear at your local convenience store. Many people like to visit eyewear boutiques or local optometrists to scope available styles and prices first. Do your research and then check out the eyewear selections at Sunlgass Hut (where you can bag free shipping via coupon code "MARNEXTDAY") Zappos, Amazon and 6pm, and more. The online boutique RueLaLa is also popular for its short-term deals on brand name shades, offering savings at up to 50% off.

But no matter where you shop, be sure that your new favorite pair of sunglasses not only suit your style, but protect your eyes from the harmful rays. And remember, if you can't find your perfect pair of sunglasses from the places we mentioned, sign up for an email alert to get notified about the latest sunglasses deals as they appear.

Lou Carlozo is a dealnews contributing writer. He covers personal finance for Reuters Wealth, and was most recently the managing editor of, and before that a veteran columnist at the Chicago Tribune.

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DealNews may be compensated by companies mentioned in this article. Please note that, although prices sometimes fluctuate or expire unexpectedly, all products and deals mentioned in this feature were available at the lowest total price we could find at the time of publication (unless otherwise specified).


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try a pair of designer sunglasses and you won't regret.  I know it's expensive.
Maybe this one.  tp://www.topfashionshades.coml]
But sometimes I just can't afford a pair of designer and have to opt for
oh yea another comment on the wraparound shades.  They are not only good for UV protection.. they are indeed extremely comfortable and keep you cool. Don't believe me? check out a few here: ttp://]
 I got my DG4111 from sunglasshut for $260 but ended up returning it because my wife was pissed at how expensive it is.  Next day I found a better deal at TFS for like $150.  They have some p://[/u on-sale every now and then.  Well she's still mad but whatever.
I get what you are saying about WrapAround shades protecting from all angles. However, glasses with wide, opaque sides also block peripheral vision... which could pose much more immediate dangers. I love wraparound glasses, but go for models that don't block my vision on the sides. It may be a fashion vs function argument, but what good are sunglasses if they actually obscure your vision?
Greg the Gruesome
A better musical reference would have been to "Cheap Sunglasses" by ZZ Top.