Imagine yourself out on the water at a beach on a hot summer’s day. As you’re enjoying the view, a wave sweeps in behind you. Next thing you know, the stylish sunglasses you were wearing are lying at the bottom of the lake! It’s after times like these when my patients ask whether it’s worth investing in sunglasses, or if a cheap pair will work the same. To that, I say that there is absolutely a difference!

UV protection is #1 priority. UV blocking sunglasses are just as important as slathering on sunscreen. UV damage is linked to numerous eye diseases including cataract, macular degeneration, and skin cancer. Skin is thinnest on your eyelid, and so it is very susceptible to UV damage. Make sure your sunglasses are truly UV blocking by purchasing from a reputable retailer. In Canada, most sunglasses – even inexpensive department store pairs - block UV. It should say 100% UVA and UVB protection, or UV400 protection. They should fit well enough to provide coverage around your eyes too. No matter how dark your sunglasses are, however, never look directly at the sun – it can cause permanent vision loss.

Optical quality. Summer is beautiful with its green trees, sandy beaches, crystal blue water, and gorgeous sunsets! Why wouldn’t you want to see clearly and enjoy all the natural beauty around you? Unfortunately, lenses made of cheaper plastics are not as clear, and have quite a bit of distortion, glare, and colour disruption.

Polarization. Have you ever noticed reflections off the water, making it impossible to see beneath the surface? Have you ever been bothered by glare off other cars on a sunny day? Polarized lenses, such as those made by Maui Jim®, use special technology to cut out glare, making everything appear much more crisp. Everyone can benefit from polarization – whether you drive a car, spend time on the water, walk around outdoors, or play sports. Once you try polarization, you’ll never want to go back! It’s like the difference between watching a movie in HD on Blu-Ray, as opposed to DVD.

It’s About Safety. We all have experienced times when we’re driving with the sun directly ahead, with our visor down in order to see the road while squinting. There is no doubt that wearing a clear, polarized pair of sunglasses improves visibility, reduces distractions, and increases safety on the road.

What About Kids? Sunglasses are just as important, if not more, for children! The WHO estimates that 80% of a person’s lifetime UV exposure has already occurred by age 18. Protect those young eyes, it will pay off in the future!

The Verdict. My advice is to own at least one pair of high-quality polarized sunglasses, and to wear them year-round when outdoors or driving in daylight. If you are concerned about losing sunglasses out on the water, you can always have an inexpensive basic UV-blocking pair for those riskier situations.


Written by: Dr. Natalia Fong

Image Credit: Richard Pouncy Jr.