Are dollar store sunglasses as good as expensive ones? You Asked | Expert Answers


An ophthalmologist answers

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Readers often ask questions to which we don’t know the answers. But we know where to go (and if not we will) to get the facts they’re looking for. And that’s what the “You asked for | The “Expert Answers” series is all about finding the information you’re looking for from trusted experts.

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Whether it’s the details of a new kitchen appliance or choosing the best from a plethora of product options, no question is silly. And if that’s something you’re interested in, chances are others will benefit from further research into the details.

The question: Sunglasses – are dollar store glasses as good as expensive sunglasses?

We recruited Dr. E. Anderson Penno, owner of the Western Laser Eye Associates and author of several books including Laser vision correction: what you need to know to help us.

Trained at the Mayo Clinic, the doctor and his team provide everything from health checkups and eyeglass and contact lens prescriptions to careful monitoring of eye conditions from glaucoma to diabetes. Penno has performed thousands of refractive and other eye surgeries since 1996.

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The answer: It’s both yes and no. For sunglasses labeled as having broad-spectrum UVA and UVB protection, price doesn’t matter when it comes to protecting the eyelids and eyes from harmful UV rays.

Sunglasses without a UV protection label will not protect against these harmful rays and it is possible that extremely cheap sunglasses may or may not be verified as protective.

On the other hand, there can be big differences in optical clarity between more expensive and cheaper sunglasses, and some people will be more sensitive to these differences than others.

Other features such as polarization can also make a difference in reducing glare and can increase the price of sunglasses. Finally, there are fashion and frame features such as sport-style wraparound sunglasses that can improve wind and dust protection, but can also add cost.

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Bottom Line: It’s safe to wear dollar store sunglasses as long as they carry a UVA/UVB protection label, but more expensive sunglasses may offer better optics and other features, including more of fashion choices that some shoppers are looking for.

What to buy: our picks

Unisex Tifosi Swick ($35.99): These offer 100% UVA/UVB protection. They are lightweight with shatterproof and scratch resistant lenses. The hydrophilic rubber nose piece ensures a slip-free fit, even on sweaty days.

Tifosi gets great reviews and Shopping Essentials has pulled out a pair for a test drive. They’re super durable (left them in the driver’s seat in the car where I sat in them and they survived) and are a comfortable, secure fit that doesn’t shift when we train. The fans, of course.

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Goodr OG Sunglasses ($49.99): Gord Hobbins, owner of Gord’s Race Store in Calgary, says people love these polarized yet affordable shades that offer UV/UVB protection. They’re notorious for not slipping even on sweaty faces and are affordable enough for some to buy a spare pair.

MEC Unisex Larkin Sunglasses ($59.95): These have a bit of wrap for those who want a tighter fit. They offer all the protection and would be ideal for everything from mountain biking to daily urban commuting. The makers say they protect your eyes from driving rain and trail gravel and are treated with military-grade anti-fog material. Scratch-resistant lenses and a curvature designed to protect you from light entering from all angles.

Want us to look at something? Email us at [email protected]

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