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What Matters When Buying Sunglasses?

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(credit: CBS) Rachel Slavik
Rachel Slavik joined the WCCO team in October of 2010 and is thrill...
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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Sunglasses are an accessory that almost everyone has spent their money on. With thousands of styles and brands, ranging in price from $5 to $500, it’s easy to buy based on look rather than purpose.

So are the cheap shades just as good as the expensive ones?

On a sunny day, there are always those who opt for a shaded view.

Robert Panning is willing to spend more than $50 on sunglasses.

“Everyone wants to look cool in sunglasses,” said Panning.

The options in eyewear are endless from generic to designer, sporty to everyday wear.

Jessika Scoglund admits to being picky about her sunglasses.

“I like good lenses and I like lighter shades over darker shades, I’m particular about them,” said Scoglund.

Countless choices mean a wide range of prices, anywhere from a few bucks to several hundred.

Monica McVay of Minneapolis has run that spectrum.

“I’ve done both. I’ve gone the very cheap route and have gone the expensive route,” said McVay.

“It’s funny, when you look at sunglasses, there’s such a price range. You can buy a pair for $20 and you can buy a pair for $200 and, really, what’s the difference?” asked Panning.

We brought this fair question to ophthalmologist Dr. Neal Sher of Eye Care Associates. He said the focus needs to be on function, not fashion.

“We need good protection both from regular light and UV. The more we learn about light, it’s not good for the eye,” said Dr. Sher.

These days almost all shades, no matter the price, offer the basic protection from the sun’s intense rays.

“Even cheaper glasses have UV protection, so, you’re pretty good about that,” said Dr. Sher.

Look for the sticker that says 100 percent UVA/UVB lenses. But, cheap sunglasses typically lack polarized lenses. It cuts down on glare, making it easier to see.

The cost is an extra $40 to $50.

“Even if you have to pay a little extra, it’s well worth it,” said Dr. Sher.

For those willing to pay hundreds for a pair of shades, it’ll often buy you a designer brand not offered in the discount bins.

Some argue designer glasses are higher quality with more features.

Grant Lambert, owner of specialty sunglass store Heavyglare, is a proponent.

“When you get into the more expensive sunglasses, they’re obviously brand named, better technology, usually handmade,” said Lambert. “I don’t think you need to pay 500 dollars necessarily but I’d be wary of 10 dollar glasses.”

Personal preference may be the deciding factor, but no matter the price, it is an investment in your eyes.

“The less light that gets into your eye, the better,” said Dr. Sher.

Dr. Sher said it’s also worth investing in a sturdy pair of sunglasses so the frames or lenses don’t shatter. He also recommends buying a darker tint.

His rule of thumb: if you can see your eyes behind your lenses, when looking at the mirror, they probably aren’t dark enough.

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