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Thursday, December 18, 2008

Sunglasses Work ?

If it's a bright, clear day outside, you may instinctively reach for your sunglasses when you head for the door. And you probably do it without much thought about them. But you probably do think about sunglasses when you go to buy a new pair -- whether you walk into the discount store or the Sunglass Hut at the mall, you are immediately struck by the bewildering array of choices before you! For instance, there are differences between tinted, reflective, photochromic and polarizing sunglasses. The style of the frame and size of the lenses also make a difference. Is that $200 pair of Serengeti sunglasses really any better than a $10 pair from the flea market?

Now, we'll take the mystery out of sunglasses and help you understand what to look for when you buy a pair. We'll analyze the different styles and look at the technology behind the different lens compositions. You will also learn how light works and see why light, in certain situations, can make sunglasses absolutely essential. You will be amazed at how complex and sophisticated a simple pair of dark glasses can be!

Is There Really Any Difference?
A pair of sunglasses seems so simple -- it's two pieces of tinted glass or plastic in some sort of plastic or metal frame. How much more straightforward can something get? It turns out that there are many different things you can do with two pieces of glass, and these things can have a big effect on you when you use the lenses. As you will see in this article, there really is a difference between the various sunglasses you'll find out there.

There are four things that a good pair of sunglasses should do for you:

  • Sunglasses provide protection from ultraviolet rays in sunlight. Ultraviolet (UV) light damages the cornea and the retina. Good sunglasses can eliminate UV rays completely.

  • Sunglasses provide protection from intense light. When the eye receives too much light, it naturally closes the iris. Once it has closed the iris as far as it can, the next step is squinting. If there is still too much light, as there can be when sunlight is reflecting off of snow, the result is damage to the retina. Good sunglasses can block light entering the eyes by as much as 97 percent to avoid damage.

  • Sunglasses provide protection from glare. Certain surfaces, such as water, can reflect a great deal of light, and the bright spots can be distracting or can hide objects. Good sunglasses can completely eliminate this kind of glare using polarization (we'll discuss polarization later).

  • Sunglasses eliminate specific frequencies of light. Certain frequencies of light can blur vision, and others can enhance contrast. Choosing the right color for your sunglasses lets them work better in specific situations.
When you buy a pair of cheap sunglasses, you often give up all of these benefits and can even make things worse. For example, if your sunglasses offer no UV protection, you increase your exposure to UV rays. The cheap sunglasses block some of the light, causing your iris to open to allow more light in. This lets in more of the UV light as well, increasing the damage UV light can cause to the retina.
So there is a difference. Buying the right pair of good sunglasses for the conditions in which you use them gives you maximum protection and performance.

The sidebar shows some of the top sunglass manufacturers. Manufacturers of other products sell sunglasses, too. From Nike and Timberland to Gucci and Kenneth Cole, many big brands include sunglasses among their product lines. Many sunglass manufacturers make huge claims about the features and special qualities of their products. Prices can range from less than $20 to several hundred dollars depending on the features and the name.

Then there are the imposters. You go to a discount shop or a flea market and see vendors offering sunglasses that look exactly the same as the high-dollar brand names for a fraction of the cost. Are you really paying that much for a name or are there fundamental differences between the look-alike sunglasses and the brand-name ones?

The biggest problem with cheap sunglasses is in the way the lenses are made. Inexpensive sunglasses have lenses made of ordinary plastic with a thin tinted coating on them. While the tint color and a similar frame design may make them look like Oakley X-Metal Romeos or Ray-Ban Predators, the actual lenses are very different. You will learn exactly how different they are, and how important the differences are, in the following sections.

Choosing the Perfect Features for You
The key to finding the perfect pair of sunglasses is to pick the right features for your situation. Here are some of the most important features to compare when you buy a pair of sunglasses:

See the section on sunglass technologies for a complete description of specific technologies like polarization, photochromic lenses, anti-reflective coatings and so on.

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