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Wrap It Up: Reducing Glare And Increasing Safety With Sunglasses

If you're looking for sunglasses in order to protect your eyes and make it easier to see in very sunny conditions, you know you have to look for UV protection and possibly anti-glare coatings. But you've also likely had the experience of putting on sunglasses only to have the sun shining right in that little gap between the edge of the glasses and your skin, rendering the glasses almost useless. It takes more than just grabbing a pair of sunglasses off a rack or getting basic prescription sunglasses to see more easily in bright conditions. Here are some options to look for that can decrease the glare you deal with -- and increase your safety while traveling.

Sunglasses vs. Regular Glasses

First, don't rely solely on regular glasses, thinking that will save you money. Regular prescription glasses can be coated with anti-UV and anti-glare coatings, but the lenses don't offer anything in the way of filtering. Bright light remains bright light -- you don't get any sort of shading or dampening effect. So you can get huge lenses that cover half of your face, but you're not going to get the same benefits that you would with sunglasses. Plus, those anti-glare coatings can make the lenses easier to smudge, making it more difficult to see clearly without vigilant cleaning.

Regular lenses also can't be polarized. "Light" in terms of glasses and vision is often described using "vertical" and "horizontal" terms. Horizontal light scatters easily and is usually what you're dealing with when you have a lot of glaring, bright light in front of you, such as light reflected from light-colored concrete on a sunny day, or the glare coming off water. Polarized lenses cut out that type of light, and regular eyeglass lenses don't have the right composition and construction for polarization.

This glare reduction also means you won't be hit with sudden flares of light while driving or riding a bike. If you turn onto a road only to be hit with glare from shop windows, for example, you're not going to be able to see the road in front of you. That is unsafe for you and other people on the road. Reducing glare through both tinted lenses and polarized lenses makes traveling in bright conditions a lot easier.

Larger Lenses vs. Smaller Lenses

Now that you've started looking at sunglasses, the size of the lens is likely the difference you'll see first. Larger lenses reduce the size of that gap between the edge of your glasses and your skin. If you have tinted lenses, especially polarized lenses, they increase the area that is protected from reflected glare. Larger lenses that have an anti-UV coating also cover more skin and offer more UV protection than smaller lenses. While you could get that same benefit with regular glasses, again, you're not getting the filtering or polarization that you'd get with sunglasses. So you wouldn't be getting the best combination of benefits if you went with larger clear lenses only.

Wraparounds vs. Front-Only Lenses

Wraparounds have thicker arms right next to the lenses, and this increased coverage blocks most of the gap between your glasses and your skin (unless you find glasses that rest right on your skin all around your eyes -- goggles, essentially -- you're not going to get rid of that gap completely). The issue of sunlight blasting in through that gap is almost gone, making it much easier to see in conditions where you may be turning around a lot, such as when you have to check your blind spot when driving or when you're making a lot of turns on a bike. If you know you're going to be in this sort of situation, wraparounds with large, polarized lenses are your best bet.

If you want to look for sunglasses with larger lenses or see if you can get some prescription wraparounds -- they're not as common, but if you have a smaller prescription, you may be able to find some -- talk to your optometrist and see what styles are available. Click here for more information.