Sunglasses are more than just a suave fashion accessory. They are essential to protect your eyes from the harmful rays of the sun, serving to prevent eye conditions that can arise from exposure to UV rays.  Before you start obsessing over style preferences, start with considering these three important traits of great sunglasses.

Trait 1:  Look for the Eye Protection Factor

Most people are familiar with the damage that prolonged exposure to invisible UV (ultraviolet) radiation from the sun causes to the skin. However, your eyes are also at risk from UV damage. Eye health conditions linked to UV exposure include pteryia (growths on the cornea), pingueculae (thickening of the conjunctiva), macular degeneration, cataracts and photokeratitis (sunburn on the cornea).

Sunglasses that protect your eyes from direct and indirect exposure to all UV radiation, including UVB and UVA rays, are the best option. Look for sunglasses that indicate they will block at least 99% and ideally 100% UVA and UVB as well as blocking HEV or blue light. The EPF or Eye Protection Factor listed on the sunglasses should be as close to 10 as possible for optimum protection.

Trait 2:  Make sure they provide adequate coverage

To provide the most complete UV and HEV protection as well as to protect your eyes from wind, dust and debris, larger lenses are the best option. Smaller cats-eye styles and square or rectangular lenses do not provide complete coverage for the eye and the delicate tissues around the eye.

Good options include the larger aviator styles as well as full wrap-around styles of sunglasses that block both direct and indirect light.

Trait 3:  Remember that darker lenses are not always better

There is a mistaken perception that darker lens colors provide more protection for the eye. In fact, this is not true, as the protection from UV and HEV is provided by the coating that is applied to the lens during the manufacturing process.

The tint or color of the lens is usually a personal preference. Be aware that yellow tints and rose tints do contribute to color distortion and fully HEV blocking lenses will limit your ability to see blues and violets. Generally most people find that grey, brown and green tints provide the least amount of color change or distortion.

Keep in mind that the cost of the glasses is not related to the quality of eye protection. Many low to mid-range priced sunglasses provide comprehensive eye protection and still allow you to stay well within your eye care budget.  Choosing sunglasses with maximum UV and HEV protection, lens styles that fully protect the eyes and a lens tint that works for you is an essential step in protecting your ocular health.