Choosing Sunglasses for Teens
Most teens are more concerned with looking good than with eye protection. At this age, they aren't thinking about things like cataracts, macular degeneration or other eye diseases, but every day that they spend in the sun without UV protection is increasing their risk of those very things. No matter how much you harp, nag, beg, plead, threaten or bribe, your teens will not wear their sunglasses unless they pass the “cool” test from temple to temple. One single component off and those glasses will find themselves being “lost”, broken or abandoned regardless of how much you spent on them. To make sure that you aren't wasting money and that your teen isn't risking their future vision, help them to find just the right shades.
Teens should pick sunglass frames that suit their face and match their personal style. There are many different styles, materials and colors available to choose from, each with pros and cons. For example, wrap-around shades can be a great choice to block light from all sides, but are not available for all prescriptions.
While there are a variety of lens materials available, including glass and plastic, polycarbonate lenses are usually best for teens, especially those who might be rough on their glasses. These are very light weight but still durable and are more impact resistant than lenses made from other materials.
Sunglass lenses can be a variety of colors, common choices include gray, brown and green. Tint is unrelated to the amount of UV protection offered: even pale lenses can block 100% of the harmful radiation, while cheap, dollar store glasses likely offer little protection, even if they appear very dark. Only purchase sunglasses that are clearly labeled as having sufficient UV protection.
The lenses can be transitional or dark tinted but should have scratch-resistant coating. Transitioning glasses are great because they are more economical than buying two separate pairs of glasses. There is less risk that the glasses will be forgotten, and they will be more likely to be worn.
Polarized lenses are especially good for teens who bike, hike, boat or fish because they reduce the glare reflected from large, flat surfaces such as water, snow and flat stretches of road. Polarized lenses should be worn with caution during certain situations however, including while driving, because they may affect the ability to read certain types of information on the dashboard. They also may not be appropriate for certain sports, such as skiing, where glare is necessary to detect upcoming hazards. In addition, some teens find polarized lenses annoying, because they can interfere with the ability to read some electronic displays, like cell phone screens.
In general the best choice lens choice for teens is one which gives adequate protection from UVA and UVB rays, and gives clear vision while still looking great.
For the active teen
For the true outdoor athlete, sun protection must be selected with even greater care. For instance, the lenses have to be even more impact resistant and the frames might have to be of a different style. There are specific sunglass types recommended for each outdoor sport and also tints which can maximize vision clarity for certain activities and compensate for various lighting conditions.
If your teen doesn't need vision correction, frames with interchangeable lenses might be a great choice, allowing them to choose exactly the right lenses for their sport and the type and time of day. This is especially true if they play multiple sports and/or in a variety of conditions.
Asking for advice
If you and your teen are at an impasse for what you deem to be the right sunwear, or simply can't decide, ask your eye care professional for some advice. He or she can tell you not only what they typically recommend for this age group but what the best sellers seem to be and which types of frames, lenses and options give the best protection, the best sun protection and the best quality for the price.
You can also try asking the salesperson at your local optical shop for ideas, and allow your teen to try on different pairs of glasses in the store, if they're not sure what they'd look good in. Most sunglass shops keep a wide variety of frame sizes, styles, and colors in stock. In addition, there are several websites that allow you to virtually try on sunglasses by uploading a photograph of your face. This won't help your teen find a comfortable fit, but may help him or her choose a style and color.
Before the appointment
Prepare for your shopping trip by researching price of popular styles. If you have vision insurance, find out how much it will cover, and decide how much you are willing to spend on the glasses. Discuss this price limit with your teen beforehand, and if they want more expensive shades, explain that they will have to pay the difference themselves. Planning in advance will make for a smoother and less stressful in-store experience for both of you.
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