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doggie with shades

National Sunglasses Day is June 27! What a fantastic way to highlight how necessary and important it is to wear sunglasses or other UV-protective eyewear every day for long-term eye health. That’s right, looking cool behind the shades is not just for the laidback beach bum or the big-time movie star hiding from the paparazzi. Assuming you’re not in either of those two camps, you may need some help and be reminded to wear sunglasses on a regular basis.

So I’m using this great opportunity to shed some light (yes, pun intended) on how to properly purchase sunglasses. Studies show 70% of Americans are concerned about the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays damage, yet only about 30% of us wear sunglasses each time we head out the door. Hand raised, guilty as charged, I’m among that 70% not practicing safe eye protection. Why? Because I just haven’t mastered the skill of purchasing the right ones.

My Sunglass Trauma

I know this isn’t a legit excuse for not protecting my eyes, but I absolutely dread buying sunglasses — and yes, it ranks right up there with going to the dentist. I don’t know how I’ve come to despise such an innocent task. (Wait, is there that much disdain that the word “despise” has to be used? Yes, I guess there is.)

I suspect it has something to do with the fact that I’ve lost so many of my favorite pairs of sunglasses over the decades. Some were quite expensive, too, relative to my budget. So I’ve developed an aversion to buying “good” sunglasses.

I don’t have a clue how so many of them got lost either. Possibly left in the bathroom stall at some restaurant or event? Perhaps abandoned on an amusement park bench, while resting in between roller coaster rides? I’m sure I’ve laid them down on a department store shelf a time or two while sifting through stacks of clothing, then walked away without another thought of them until too late.

Such a sunglass-losing streak led me to buy cheap $5 pairs. That way, losing them wouldn’t hurt. But guess what? Those are the ones that never get lost! I have a couple of them. Right now in my car’s glove compartment is a pair I bought at a pharmacy four years ago. They’ll probably remain there until I sell the car one day.

I think I’m ready again, though. Ready to take on the grown-up responsibility of buying a real pair of sunglasses. Some that are designed to actually protect my eyes from those fierce UV rays. Time to separate me from that 70% statistic.

The Lens

Let’s first take a look at lenses. Seems like a logical place to start when considering how to protect your eyes against UV rays. There are three types of UV lenses: UVA, UVB and UVC. With sunlight as the obvious source, radioactive light rays are located a bit past the violet section of its visible spectrum. Do note that UV rays can go right through clouds, so eye protection is important even if it’s a cloudy day. Ensure your lenses block at least 99% of rays and contain a UV400 rating. Each of those UV rays affects us differently:

UVA rays: longer wavelengths that pass through glass easily.
UVB rays: dangerous to vision, but can’t pass through glass.
UVC rays: do not reach Earth because our atmosphere blocks them

Polarization is a term you hear a lot in relation to the sunglass lens. It means the lenses are treated with a coating that dims incoming light rays. They also reduce bright glares that bounce off reflective surfaces like water or other vehicles. There is an extra cost for this, especially useful feature.

There are many misconceptions about which lens color is the “safest”; however, color is a personal choice and has no effect on eye safety. One thing about color is that it can affect the perception of existing light sources (e.g. traffic lights). Gray, black, and brown are all good choices as they distort colors the least.

Your Face

Now that I have the type of lens all figured out, I’m anxious to start shopping for the latest and greatest brands. But wait! I forgot. I need to address another reason for my sunglass-buying phobia. In the past, finding the right frames that complement my face was such a long and arduous task. However, I’m learning now that I should determine my desired frame shape first before even deciding on particular styles. This will save a lot of time. So, let’s have at it.

Round face? Square face? Oval face? Heart-shaped face? So much to think about. How can one really tell which shape is theirs? I soon realized finding the answer to that question was super important if I was ever going to overcome this feeling of contempt and purchase that perfect, high-quality pair of sunnies.

Below is a sunglass buying guide to help us determine what type of frames work best with our face. There are actually up to seven different types of facial structures; I’m only covering those four most dominant face shapes here.

First, there are two easy ways to measure your official face shape. One way is to trace your face shape on your bathroom mirror using lipstick, a bar of soap, chalk, a dry-erase marker or some other non-permanent marking item. The second way is to use a tape measure and record the dimensions of your face as follows …

Forehead: Measure from highest point of one eyebrow’s arch to the opposite side of the other eyebrow.
Cheekbones: Measure across your upper cheeks, starting and ending at the bump below the outer corner of each eye.
Jawline: Measure the tip of your chin to the point below your ear where your jaw angles upward. Multiply that by two.
Face length: Measure from the center of your hairline to the tip of your chin.

If your face is round, your cheekbones and face length will be about the same measurement. They will be larger than your forehead and jawline, and the angle of your jaw will typically be soft. If your face is heart-shaped, your jawline is usually long and pointed. Your chin will be the smallest point on your face. All of your measurements will be about the same and your jaw angle sharp if your face is considered square. Finally, for an oval shape, your face length will be larger than the width of your cheekbones, your forehead will be larger than your jawline and the angle of your jaw rounded.

Based on that, my face is heart shaped. Did you find your shape?

The Frames

Now that we know the shape of our face, the sunglass experts are showing us what frames go best with that shape. Check it out here:

The Styles

Styles of sunglasses are actually categorized for better functionality. You’ll want to consider what activity you’ll be performing while wearing your sunglasses to ensure you’ll get the most proficient use out of your choice. The categories are either casual, sport or glacier.

Time to Buy!

Whew! Finally! I am now empowered to purchase a real pair of sunglasses. Just remember that the information given in these guidelines are only suggestions. At the end of the day, you’ve got to go with your gut and pick what lens, style, and brand you like.

Also, at the end of the day is the start of a new day. (How’s that for logic?) So get out there and seize it! Be adventurous but be smart. Protect your eyes at all times. Look like a smart adult sportin’ your stunna shades.


Love & RAWspect,


Photo courtesy: and Zappos, Inc.

Face chart courtesy:

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