SUMMER EYEWEAR, PART 1: Summer brings sunshine aplenty in the Fraser Valley, which got me wondering about my eyes. I take care to consider sunscreen needs to protect my skin, so why should my approach to eyes be any different? I tend to go for cute, fun and inexpensive shades, so thought it might be time for me to look into the protection of my peepers.
Scott Linn, certified optician and owner of Winter Park Optical, sat down with me to explain the ins and outs of sunglasses.
RR: Scott, let’s start with the basics: What should people be looking for in terms of summer eye protection?
SL: Getting ultraviolet protection is [the] number one [priority], and almost every sunglass, from the cheapest to the most expensive is providing that. You can’t really find anything that doesn’t offer UV protection these days.
RR: Okay, so sometimes I see different numbers associated with that, like UVA 100 or 400. What’s that all about?
SL: Light is measured in nanometers, in wavelengths. Zero to 400 is the UV spectrum, and you’ll see a number of UV400, and that’s what you want [because it offers the most UV protection]. Beyond 400 is visible light, which can be filtered out to be very specific, like offer detailed color, or make things very neutral. For example, lenses can filter out blue light. Blue light doesn’t focus very well in the eye, so removing it makes everything sharper and clearer so the eye can focus. Amber and rose lenses filter out much of the blue light so that you can see clearly in flat light conditions.
RR: That leads right into my next question: Are lens technologies offered at every price point?
SL: When it comes to eye protection, you basically get what you pay for. That being said, there are good companies and brands at a moderate price point that are offering really good optics, and then you can build up from there. When you want to step beyond basic UV filtration and get more into more advanced light filtration, lens colors and the optical quality, we start to see the price tag increase.
RR: Got it. So let’s talk about lens materials.
SL: The two most common lens materials are glass and polycarbonate. Polycarbonate is a very safe material; it’s a soft material so it’s impact resistant. It’s lightweight. Glass is better for optics and polarization, and is more scratch resistant than polycarbonate. However, glass is more likely to break upon impact, so is less safe. Each lens type has its advantages. But not all lens materials are created equal. Some materials outside of the common glass or polycarbonate options shatter, fragment or distort the light, causing dullness in everything you see. That dullness is distortion, and distortion is poor vision.
RR: So, we’ve covered UV protection and basic materials. I also see options out there like polarization. Why is it important?
SL: Polarization blocks glare and reflected light. When you’re looking out, you’re getting light coming at you from all different directions. A polarized lens is two lenses fused together with what is essentially a venetian blind film sandwiched between two. As light comes in vertically, because we have these horizontal blinds, that horizontal glare is filtered out. And glare is reflected light off of water, or snow, or pavement… almost everything reflects light. Reflection, blue light, all this is bad light. And the point of all these different technologies is to take away the bad light and increase the good light.
There is so much information and technology surrounding sunglasses, I realized I needed to dig a little deeper. Check out the next installment of Mountain Musings to learn about frame and lens wraps, colors, mirroring, and risks of inadequate protection.