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The Ultimate Guide to Choosing Sunglasses

February 14, 2019 9 min read 0 Comments

The Ultimate Guide to Choosing Sunglasses

Cut Through Marketing Noise & Find The Perfect Sunglasses For You

Estimated read time: 15 mins

Shopping for sunglasses can be a confusing process. Not only do you have to worry about finding the right style that looks best on you, but you also have to worry about whether or not those frames will work well for your lifestyle. And then there's the lenses... Do you get them polarized or non-polarized? Photochromic? What kind of coatings do you look for? Hydrophobic or hydrophilic anti-fog? Anti-glare? What about Revo coating? Mirrored or flash mirrored? Are there pros and cons to each? The amount of options alone is enough to make your head swim.

On top of that every brand is quick to tell you that what they are offering is the best. With so much noise out there, it's hard to determine what is just marketing fluff and what is actually and important useful feature.

We're here to help you cut through the noise. In this comprehensive guide we'll dive deep into sunglasses, the different options, and the pros and cons of each.

By the end you'll have everything you need to choose the perfect pair of sunglasses.

 

SUNGLASS LENS MUST HAVES

To start, it's important to go over what your sunglasses must have. This is NON-NEGOTIABLE.

  1. 100% UVA/UVB protection

      OR

      2. 100% UV 400 protection

We go over the differences between the 2 in more depth here. UVA and UVB rays have been found to cause eye damage. If your sunglasses don't offer either 100% UVA/UVB or UV 400 protection, then you're going to end up doing more harm than good.

Think of it this way. When you put on a pair of sunglasses, less light is reaching your eyes. To offset this, your pupils will dilate which allows more sunlight to enter. More light entering your eyes means that more UVA/UVB rays will now be entering as well. If your sunglasses don't offer 100% protection against these UV rays, then you are increasing the amount of damage that is occurring.

It also doesn't matter how dark your lenses are, if you don't have the right UV protection, you're still in trouble. In fact, super dark lenses without UV blocking are even MORE dangerous. The darker the lenses, the more your pupils dilate to increase light, which means more harmful UVA/UVB rays will enter your eyes - further increasing damage.

 

ALPINE sunglasses with 100% UV Protection

 

LENS MATERIALS

  • Glass:Widely considered the Crème de la Crème for visual clarity and scratch resistance. Glass does tend to be more expensive, heavier, and less impact resistant (more prone to chipping and shattering) than its counterparts.
  • CR-39 (Plastic):A lightweight option with decent optical quality. These lenses are prone to scratching and will shatter under high impact. Once a popular choice, CR-39 lenses have been unseated by Polycarbonate.
  • Polycarbonate:Probably the most popular lens material in use today, and for good reason. Polycarbonate (PC) excels as a high impact resistant, lightweight, rugged lens that is built for abuse. It also tends to be shatterproof and scratch resistant.

 

BUILT IN LENS TECHNOLOGY

  • Polarized:An extremely popular option, polarization blocks reflections and reduces glare. We talk about it more below :)
  • Photochromatic:When exposed to UV light (not just any light), these lenses will become darker. The more intense the UV light, the darker they will get. On days where UV rays are less intense (cloudy or overcast days), the lenses won't get as dark. It's worth noting that some these lenses may take a little while to transition back to normal when you walk inside. It also doesn't work in cars and is slower to work in the winter.

 

TO POLARIZE OR NOT TO POLARIZE

Simply put, polarization in sunglasses acts to reduce glare on horizontal surfaces by blocking reflections. Examples of horizontal surfaces include water (lakes & oceans), snow, roads, etc...

PROS OF POLARIZATION

  • Improves Comfort:Your eyes won't have to work as hard to compensate for glare which means your eyes can perform in a much more relaxed state.
  • Increase Visual Clarity: Polarization will not only allow you to see crisp clear color, but it will also allow you to see sharp contrast and enhance the detail of the world around you. This means you will be able to see through water, windows, and other surface level objects more clearly than non-polarized lenses.
  • Eyestrain Reduction:Reduces glare and reflections which reduces the strain on your eyes. Glare causes you to squint and to make constant adjustments which will cause your eyes to fatigue.
  • Enhance Performance:Not being distracted and temporarily blinded by intense glare will allow you to focus fully on peak performance.

Polarized sunglasses are ideal for:

  • Boating
  • Fishing
  • Driving
  • Hunting
  • Running
  • Biking
  • Hiking
  • Shooting
  • Most other outdoor activities

CONS OF POLARIZATION

  • Harder to See LCD Screens: Probably the biggest drawback of Polarization is the difficulty it causes when looking at LCD or LED screens. You may have to tilt your device (or head) at specific angle in order to view properly. Otherwise, it may seem like parts of the screen have disappeared. This can causes issues trying to see the navigation when driving, trying to operate an ATM, or just using your phone in general.
  • It's Expensive: Polarization is expensive. Not only are the lenses themselves more expensive, but any other coating added during manufacturing will cost more (most time 2-3 times more expensive) as well. This is often reflected in a higher price when compared to non-polarized sunglasses.

Non-Polarized sunglasses are ideal for:

  • Pilots
  • Operators of heavy equipment
  • Skiing
  • More casual users on a budget

 

COATINGS, COATINGS, AND MORE COATINGS...

Example of Revo Mirror Coatings. Courtesy of LensTech.

A lot of sunglasses have various combinations of features and coatings. But what are the different options for coatings and what is the purpose of each one?

  • Anti-Reflective (AR) Coating (also called "Anti-Glare"):The purpose of AR coating is to remedy a problem called back-glare. Back-glare occurs when light bounces off of the inside of the lense and is directed back into your eyes. AR coating is typically applied to the back end of the lens and helps to reduce this reflection minimizing the glare. With proper care, most AR coatings will last about 2 years.  
  • Anti-Fog Coating (also called "Anti-Haze"):Prevents the build up of condensation on the lenses. There are 2 types of coatings to look for.
  1. Hydrophilic (water loving) Anti-Fog:These coatings prevent fog by soaking up water (like a sponge) and releasing it on the edges of the lens. The coating creates a permanent bond with the lens which means it will last much longer than Hydrophobic Anti-Fog.
  2. Hydrophobic (water adverse) Anti-Fog:On the other hand, hydrophobic coatings work by repelling moisture on the lens. Think of it as a slippery surface that prevents anything from landing on it. Every time moisture lands, it slips or slides off. A down side is that since the coating is applied to the surface and not bonded to the lens, it will wear out over time and doesn't last as long as hydrophilic coating.
  • Mirror Coating:Added to the front of the lens and acting much like a normal mirror (hence the name), these coatings work by reflecting and reducing the amount of light that enters your eyes. Someone looking at you wouldn't be able to see your eyes and instead would see a reflection of themselves. A lot of people like this coating for how it makes them look. However, be careful that you don't annoy those around you by flashing light in their eyes. It is also important to note that these lenses are very prone to scratching.
  • Flash Coating:Similar to a mirror coating, flash coatings offer reflective properties but are a "half-mirror" as opposed to the "full-mirror" of mirror coatings. Someone looking at you would still be able to see your eyes. They are much more toned down and less flashy (pun intended ;)) than their full mirror sibling.
  • Scratch Resistant Coating: Although no lenses are truly scratch proof, coatings that act as a protective layer exist which help make your lenses more durable. However, a lot of Polycarbonate (PC) lenses have a scratch resistant coating built in, so you won't always need an extra coat.
  • Revo Coating:Have you ever seen those multi-colored sunglass lenses that have a gradual color gradient (see image above)? Chances are that was a Revo coating. There's debate about whether or not Revo coatings actually provide any benefits, however, it can't be denied that there is certainly a "cool" factor to them. They are more prone to scratching so you will need to take really good care of them.
  • Oleophobic Coating:Literally meaning "Oil Adverse", the purpose of this coating is to repel oils that may get on the lens. This include smudges and fingerprints.  

RIDGE sunglasses with blue revo mirror, anti-reflective & scratch resistant coatings

 

LENS COLORS

Color Feature Conditions Activities

Gray

Provides true color perception and recognition while reducing overall brightness.

Great for general purpose from low light to bright light conditions and for reducing glare, especially off water.

Mountain Biking, Cycling, Water Sports/Boating/Fishing, Driving, Golfing, Outdoor Leisure, Shooting

Green

Equally transmits all colors while reducing glare and increasing sharpness and visual contrast.

Great for general purpose use and excels in everything from low light to bright light except snowy conditions.

Cycling, Water Sports/Boating/Fishing, Driving, Mountain Biking, Golfing, Shooting, Outdoor Leisure

Blue

Helps enhance color perception, reduce glare, and filter out white light.

Great for all light conditions ranging from low light to bright light.

Excel with Water Sports/Boating/Fishing, Driving, Shooting, Mountain Biking, Outdoor Leisure

Red

Reduce glare and provides the largest amount of contrast by blocking out blue light which greatly improves visual depth of field.

Great for most weather conditions ranging from cloudy to bright light.

Driving, Cycling, Mountain Biking, Outdoor Leisure, Shooting

Amber

Enhances contrast and improves depth of perception.

Great for everyday variable conditions ranging from low light to cloudy to sunny bright light.

Shooting, Water Sports/Boating/Fishing, Outdoor Leisure, Driving, Hunting, Golf

 

FRAME

 

Material

  • Metal:Variations including steel, titanium and aluminum. Typically used on thinner frames like Aviators with more intricate designs. Metal frames are not as durable as their nylon counterparts and tend to get hot if left out.
  • Nylon:Tough durable material often used in performance frames. Nylon is a very broad category with multiple different quality levels. Some Nylons are cheaper and less durable than more expensive more durable versions.
  • Acetate: Generally used in fashion style frames. Acetate tends to be heavier, brittle and less forgiving. It's not a good choice for performance frames.

 

Base Curve

The base curve measures the surface curve of a lens. Frames with a higher base curve tend to be more wrapped than frames with a lower base curve.

  • Base 4:What you will find on fashion frames. They provide a flatter look. The downside is that they let a lot of peripheral light in which can cause headaches and don't always provide the most secure fit.
  • Base 6:A blend between performance and style. A lot of hybrid performance frames use a base 6 as it provides the secure fit of a base 8/9 with some of the style of a base 4.
  • Base 8/9:Are also known as "High Wrap" designs and are for high performance sunglasses. They block out all peripheral light preventing headaches and typically provide the most secure fit.

Smoke ALPINE with "High-Wrap" design

Nose Piece

  • Adjustable Nose Pads:Are used on aviator styles as well as our ALPINE sunglasses. This style nose piece is helpful to adjust and achieve the perfect fit. One drawback is that it doesn't sit as close to the face as a Close Fit style nose pad.  
  • Close Fit Nose Pads:Are used on wayfarers and our RIDGE sunglasses and allow for a snug fit to the face. It can sometimes be challenging to find the perfect fit, however, when you do this style is extremely comfortable and secure.

 

Hinge System

  • 90° Hinges: The industry norm and have been that way for a really long time. The downside is when the hinge is forced to flex more than 90° (for example when the frame is stepped on or sat on) they will typically crack and the temple will be separated from the frame.
  • 110° Hinges:Created by STNGR to combat this issue. The premise was to design a hinge that flexes 20° more if sat or stepped on (hence the name 110° hinges (90° + 20°)) to prevent breakage and increase durability. These hinges are currently being used by our Alpine and Ridge models.

 

Finding the right pair of sunglasses can certainly feel like a momentous undertaking. However, with the right information you can cut through the marketing fluff and find the perfect pair of shades fro your lifestyle. Hopefully you found this guide helpful! If you have any questions, don't hesitate to leave a comment below or contact us.

Also, be sure to check out our line of ultra-durable sunglasses mentioned in the article below:

ALPINE

RIDGE



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