Next time you attack your children with sunblock, make them wear sunglasses too. Kids’s eyes are especially vulnerable to damage from ultraviolet radiation, and using protective lenses now may prevent cataracts, retinal disease, and macular degeneration later. The problem is, sunglasses aren’t federally regulated, so it’s hard to know how much coverage you’re getting. We consulted optical experts and put sunglasses from 18 popular brands to the test under a UV meter, a machine that measures UV absorption and visible-light transmission (see results, right). Here, some eye-opening advice.
Decode the label
Some stickers marked uv protection don’t specify how much—if no percentage is given, lenses may not offer enough coverage, says Dr. Jeffrey L. Weaver, director of the nonprofit American Optometric Association. Look for 99 to 100 percent UVA and UVB blockage.
Be careful in the dark
Gray, deep green, and brown lenses filter visible light but don’t necessarily block UV. In fact, according to Dr. Irene Magramm, a pediatric ophthalmologist in New York City, dark lenses without full UV protection make pupils dilate, letting in more ultraviolet radiation—yikes! So skip pastel lenses; get dark ones with a UV coating.
Polycarbonate lenses shut out all UVA and UVB rays—and save little faces from errant Frisbees.
Make them shape up
Steer your kids towards glasses that shield as much of the eye area as possible. Sure, that heart-shaped number is cute, but snug-fitting wraparounds are a better cover-up.
Save for a rainy day
Many shades under $30 offer everything you need, says Dr. Phillip L. Kaufman, a Chicago-area optometrist. That’s certainly not too much to safeguard the apple of your eye.
Brands that aced our test
Adidas Eyewear, Baby Banz, Circo, Eyes Cream Shades, Foster Grant, Gymboree, Janie and Jack, Julbo, Oakley, Quiksilver, Ray Ban Junior, Teeny Tiny Optics, and Vuarnet Kids.