Almost everyone has done it: tried on a pair of funky, fun, cheap sunglasses. They’re great in a pinch, especially if you forgot your regular sunnies. They’re budget-friendly, sure. And sometimes, they’re even stylish. But are cheap sunglasses bad for your eyes?

The good news is, as long as you take some precautions, you should be able to find stylish, cool sunglasses and still be able to pay rent this month.

Important Considerations When Buying Affordable Sunglasses

In many instances, cheap sunglasses are, of course, cheap for a reason. They aren’t made of the same quality materials you’ll find in more expensive sunglasses. They might break more easily, for example.

But the most important consideration when buying cheap sunglasses is how well the lenses will protect your eyes from ultraviolet (UV) light. UV protection is key, especially if you plan on being outdoors for a long time.

The best sunglasses will shield your eyes well from harmful UV rays, whether they are expensive or not. But if you’re looking at cheap sunglasses, you need to make sure they won’t hurt you.

Now, UV protection is extremely important, because ultraviolet light can damage not only the skin on your eyelids but the internal components of your eye as well. These include the lens, cornea, and retina.1

Best Sunglasses: What to Look For…

Cheap Sunglasses | Sight OriginsSo, when you’re looking for cheap sunglasses, you’ll want to look for models with lenses that:

  • Block out 99 to 100 percent of UV rays
  • Screen anywhere from 75 to 90 percent of visible light

Additionally, the sunglasses should not cause any sort of distortion in your vision, and their frames should fit the contours of your face. This will help further minimize UV exposure.2

The best lenses offer what is known as “UV 400” protection. UV 400 lenses are so-named because they block 400-nanometer radiation. What this means is that the UV 400 lenses will block radiation emitted by both UVA and UVB rays.3

So, how do you know whether those cheap sunglasses are providing the UV protection you need?

Well, you should never assume anything from any labeling. If you want to be 100 percent sure, take the glasses to an optometrist. They will have a device known as a photometer, which can check the level of UV protection your sunglasses have in as little as 30 seconds.4 Make sure you keep your receipt and take those glasses back if they don’t pass the test.

Other Things to Consider When Buying Sunglasses

Whether you’re looking for affordable sunglasses for women, or affordable sunglasses for men, there are several other things to keep in mind.

You should, for example, look for sunglasses that provide the most coverage around your eyes. The bigger the lenses, the less UV exposure you’ll experience. You might also want to think about wrap-around models that keep light from entering the sides of your eyes. The darkness of the lenses doesn’t matter, nor does the color. Darker lenses don’t block more UV rays, and one color doesn’t block rays better than another. Polarized lenses don’t block UV rays, either. They are merely designed to reduce glare.5

Cheap Sunglasses | Sight OriginsYou should also think about the quality of the lenses you’re getting.

Poor quality lenses could cause eye strain if you wear them for several hours at a time. Also, lenses in cheap sunglasses often aren’t as impact-resistant as more expensive models. This is something to keep in mind, especially if you wear your sunglasses in any sort of environment where something could fly up into your eyes.6

Wrapping it Up

Again, not all cheap sunglasses are bad for your eyes. You can find affordable sunglasses that will provide the UV protection your eyes need. But before you wear them on a regular basis, have them checked by an optometrist to make sure the lenses will protect you from damaging UV rays. And if you work outside on a regular basis, you will probably need to spend the extra money to make sure the lenses offer impact resistance.

Learn More:
Color Blindness: What Is Color Vision Deficiency?
Vision Changes: How Your Age Affects Your Eyesight
These Are the Telltale Signs You Need Glasses