Not all sunglasses block 100% of harmful ultraviolet (UV) or High Energy Visible (HEV) rays, and cheap sunglasses are essentially worthless - little more than colored plastic or glass. The same is true of the out-of control proliferation of fake, reproduction designer sunglasses. Rare vintage sunglasses have been specially targetted for fakes due to the often high prices they bring in the marketplace relative to new sunglasses. Like cheap drug store sunglasses, Asian fakes and reproductions use colored plastic or glass that has no optical value in protecting your eyes from harmful radiation.
Most authentic, quality sunglasses block a portion of HEV rays, but some color tints block more blue light than others. Unlike UV light, blue light is visible to us. Blue light waves are what makes the sky, or any object, appear blue. Blue light waves are also very short and scatter easily, so a great deal of the glare we experience from sunlight also comes from blue light. The color that blocks blue is yellow, so blue blockers must contain a yellow tint of some kind. Remember to wear sunglasses even when you're in the shade. Although shade reduces your UV and HEV exposure to some degree, your eyes still will be exposed to UV rays reflected from buildings, roadways, and other surfaces. Sunglasses are important especially in winter because fresh snow can reflect 80% of UV rays, nearly doubling your overall exposure to solar UV radiation. If you ski or snowboard, choosing the right ski sunglasses or goggles is essential for adequate UV protection on the slopes. Even if your contact lenses block UV rays, you still need sunglasses. UV-blocking contacts shield only the part of your eye under the lens, and harmful UV rays still can damage other eye tissues not covered by the lens. Wearing high quality sunglasses protects these delicate tissues and the skin around your eyes from UV damage. If you have dark skin and eyes, you still need to wear sunglasses. Although a darker skin may give you a lower risk of skin cancer from UV radiation, your risk of eye damage from UV and HEV rays is the same as that of someone with fair skin. You need not fear the outdoors and sunny days as long as you are equipped with the right eye and skin protection to reduce your UV exposure.
Just like you should always use suncreen to protect your skin from the sun, don't forget high optical quality sunglasses to protect your eyes. The same harmful rays that damage skin can also increase your risk of developing eye problems such as cataracts as UV light is absorbed from various wavelengths at different rates as part of the UV absorption spectrum. When exposed to environments such as water or snow which have the effect of reflecting sunlight and increasing exposure to UV radiation, it is even possible to develop a type of sunburn of the cornea which can result in temporary loss of vision. Yet, everyone is at risk for eye damage from the sun all year and even on cloudy days, and the greatest risk is from about 10AM to 4PM. Sunglasses should be dark enough to reduce glare, but not dark enough to distort colors or affect the recognition of traffic signals; while there are some differences, lens tint is largely a matter of personal preference.
You don't always fully appreciate your eyes until you have some type of vision problem, a situation the wife of one of the Vintage Sunglasses Shop's founders discovered after a problem with Lasik eye surgery. Cheap sunglasses are little more than colored plastic, and most offer little or no eye protection from these harmful UV and HEV rays despite claims to be "polarized" which is by itself little or no protection whatsoever. Don't forget that children's eyes also need to be protected. While sunglasses can also be fashion statements, remember that their primary purpose is to protect your eyes from the potentially harmful effects of sunlight and glare.
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