From the iconic Ray Ban Wayfarers to Kanye West’s famous shutter shades, designer sunglasses have long been a status symbol, as well as a fashion statement. There’s just one caveat: they usually come with a hefty price tag. We assume that in addition to the name and the style, we’re paying for unmatched protection from the sun’s harmful UV rays. Right?
Not necessarily. According to ABC News, an experiment done by Good Morning America with the help of Dr. Dennis Fong, a professor at the School of Optometry at the University of California, Berkeley sought to see how cheap shades measured up to their designer counterparts.
Good Morning America purchased designer sunglasses from brands like Coach, Smith, and Ray Ban, as well as inexpensive sunglasses from kiosks, drugstores, and even street vendors. Dr. Fong measured the amount of UV rays that were able to go through the lenses using a spectrophotometer.
Believe it or not, Dr. Fong found that the less expensive sunglasses performed just as well as the designer brands in blocking out UVA and UVB rays, which amounts to 100% protection. According to Dr. Fong, when people spend more for designer sunglasses, they’re paying not for more UV protection, but for higher quality frames, a better fit, and of course that designer name that’s often etched into the temples.
Overexposure to UV rays can cause a number of health issues. In addition to the initial discomfort, exposing your eyes to UV rays can cause macular degeneration, exfoliation syndrome, corneal growths, and even skin cancer in the thin skin around the eyes.
Since polarized lenses protect best against UV rays, you’ll want to make sure that your shades have them. Here’s a trick to find out whether or not they are: Take two pairs of sunglasses and look through the lenses of both pairs. Turn one pair 90 degrees. If the lenses are polarized, there should be an obvious blocking out of light.
So unless you’re wearing your sunglasses on the red carpet, or you have disposable income to throw at high-end designer shades, you’ll be just fine picking up a pair — with polarized lenses — at your local department store or drugstore.