Fashion sunglasses with nonprescription lenses are called "plano" sunglasses in the eyewear industry. This category of sunglasses is huge and offers many choices in styling, designer names and frame materials.
Part of the popularity of nonprescription sunglasses is due the fact that over 30 million Americans wear contact lenses. Anyone who wears contacts needs plano sunglasses to protect their eyes from the sun’s harmful UV rays. Sunglasses help keep contacts from drying out when outdoors, and shield the eyes from windblown debris.
And, of course, sunglasses just look cool!
Shapes and styles of plano sunglasses for men and women for the past few seasons have run the gamut: sporty wraparounds, glamorous cat-eyes and "Jackie Os," sleek futuristic styles that hug the face, small retro-looking shapes, large and sometimes bulbous "bubble" wraps, rectangular and angular styles, and even styles embellished with jewels.
Modern styles that have been popular recently, such as sleek wraps and Jackie O shapes, are given fresh energy with details like rhinestones and faux diamonds made of cubic zirconium. Lenses are tinted in a variety of colors, including blue, yellow, rose, orange, purple, black and coral.
Rimless and semi-rimless plano sunglasses (which have lenses held in place by a wire or plastic thread) are carrying some very unique lens shapes, cut in unusual angles. Additionally, some plastic sunglass frames are featuring cut-outs and other details to give them a more distinctive look.
Options for frame materials used in nonprescription sunglasses include plastic (often called “zyl”), and premium metals such as titanium, stainless steel, aluminum and beryllium. These metals are strong yet very lightweight for comfort, and are also hypoallergenic and corrosion-resistant.
Many sunwear styles today incorporate both metal and plastic into the frame design, giving them a unique look.
Shopping for sunglasses
When you shop for sunglasses, first make sure the frame fits comfortably on your face. Just like when buying prescription eyeglasses, follow these tips to make sure you have a good fit:
- Choose frames that are wide enough for your face. The edge of the frames should protrude slightly beyond your face so the temples don't put pressure on your head as they extend back to your ears.
- Are the temples long enough? The curve at the end of the temple should extend over your ear without pressing down upon it. (Some styles have straight temples that don’t curve around the ear.)
- Check the nosepiece for comfort and fit. The frame should fit securely without pinching the bridge of your nose.
- While wearing the sunglasses, move your head up and down, and bend over (as if to pick up something up from the floor). If they’re fitting properly, the sunglasses should stay comfortably in place.
The color and shape of the frame you choose depends on your personal style and preference. Don’t be afraid to go bold – plano sunglasses are as much a fashion statement as they are a form of eye protection.
Choosing the right lenses
Make sure the lenses block 100 percent of the sun’s harmful UV rays. Sunglasses don’t have to be expensive to provide this level of protection.
If you plan on wearing the sunglasses for sports, choose styles with lightweight, impact-resistant polycarbonate lenses for an extra margin of safety.
The boom in outdoor sports activities like mountain biking, snowboarding, rock climbing, kayaking, skiing, golfing and in-line skating has also created a demand for sports- and performance-oriented sunglasses.
These special-purpose sunglasses are designed to be exceptionally light and comfortable, able to withstand extreme conditions and stay comfortably in place during any activity.
Perhaps the most important aspect of effective sports sunwear is the optical quality and visual enhancement properties of the lenses. In particular, sports and performance lenses are available in a wide variety of tints to modify light in certain ways to enhance contrast. This allows you to see certain objects (a tennis ball, for example) with greater clarity to enhance your reaction time.
Polycarbonate lenses are the lens of choice for most sport sunglasses because they are lightweight, super strong and more impact-resistant than lenses made of other materials.
Polarized lenses are also in demand, because they reduce glare from light reflecting off flat surfaces such as water or a field of snow. There is, however, some debate about the advisability of polarized lenses for sports like downhill and mogul skiing, since seeing sunlight reflecting from icy patches on the slopes is often beneficial.
The frames for performance and sport sunglasses are made of lightweight and durable materials such as polyamide, which keeps its shape even under stress. Styles are typically aerodynamic, with sleek lines. No-slip temple grips and nose pads are popular features to help keep the eyewear in place despite wearer perspiration during the heat of competition.
What's your sport?
Each sport has its own unique visual requirements, which has led to the development of sport-specific sunglasses. Frames and lenses are now available that are targeted specifically to the golfer, the cyclist, the boater, the rock climber and so on.
For example, a certain lens tint might help a golfer notice subtle changes in the direction of the blades of grass on a green that could affect the line of their putt, while a completely different tint might be better to help a hunter see the contrast of a flying bird against an overcast sky.
If you prefer to be a Jack (or Jill) of all sports, there are also multipurpose sports sunglasses that feature interchangeable lenses with different tints for different sports and lighting conditions.
If you currently wear eyeglasses for nearsightedness, farsightedness or astigmatism, you should strongly consider purchasing a second pair of glasses: prescription sunglasses.
Why? Because prescription sunglasses are often the best solution when you want clear, comfortable vision outdoors or when you’re driving on a sunny day. They eliminate glare and the need for squinting in bright conditions, which can reduce vision and cause eye strain.
Even if you normally wear contact lenses and nonprescription (plano) sunglasses, there will be times when your contacts dry out or become uncomfortable – especially on the beach, where you battle the effects of sand, sun, wind and water. Prescription sunglasses enable you to be outdoors all day without these discomfort problems or the hassle of dealing with your contacts.
A better solution for driving
If you normally wear prescription eyeglasses, you face a dilemma when driving on sunny days. You can purchase “clip-on” sunglasses (or a modern magnetic version of them) for your eyeglasses. But these can sometimes scratch your lenses or can be difficult to put on without taking off your glasses – which can be dangerous when driving.
Another solution is to purchase one pair of prescription eyeglasses that have photochromic lenses – the kind that darken automatically outdoors. The problem here is that these lenses often won’t darken properly inside a vehicle because some of the sun’s UV rays are blocked by your car or truck’s windshield glass.
For convenience and comfort, the best solution for seeing in the sun is prescription sunglasses. For easy access and so you don’t forget them, store them in your car or boat so they’re always there when you need them.
Many lens styles available
Prescription sunglasses are available in a wide variety of lens materials and designs, including high index plastic and progressive (“no-line bifocal”) lenses. For boating, fishing and driving, polarized lenses offer superior glare protection from light reflecting off water and roadways.
If you plan on wearing your prescription sunglasses when playing sports, working with power tools or engaging in other activities that have the potential of causing eye injuries, choose lightweight lenses made of polycarbonate or Trivex. Lenses made of these materials are far more impact-resistant than glass or plastic sunglass lenses.
As with regular prescription eyeglasses, frame styles for prescription sunglasses are nearly unlimited. The only exception is that prescription sunglasses cannot be made in the same severe wraparound styles that some nonprescription sunglasses have. However, models with a lesser-curved wraparound style are available.
Children may not be as interested as adults are in wearing sunglasses as a fashion accessory. But because kids spend so much time outdoors in direct sunlight, they need sun protection even more than adults.
In fact, some experts say we get up to 80 percent of our lifetime exposure to solar ultraviolet (UV) radiation by the time we’re 18 years old.
Many styles available
You should have no trouble finding sunglasses your child will enjoy wearing. Children’s sunglasses are available in a wide variety of styles and sizes. And virtually any children’s frame can be transformed into sunglasses by adding prescription or non-prescription sun lenses.
Metal frames are very popular for children’s sunglasses because of their durability. Wraparound styles like those worn by adults are also popular in scaled-down versions for kids. Because they fit closer to the face than traditional frame styles, wraparound sunglasses provide superior UV protection for not only for your child’s eyes, but for the delicate skin around their eyes as well.
Choose lenses with 100% UV protection
The most important thing when choosing children’s sunglasses is to make sure the lenses block 100% of the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays. The harmful effects of UV radiation are cumulative over our lifetime. By limiting your youngster’s exposure to UV rays during childhood, you may be decreasing their risk of cataracts and other eye problems when they become adults.
Polycarbonate lenses are great for kids’ sunglasses because they have 100% UV protection built-in, and they are lighter and much more impact-resistant than lenses made of other materials. And they can be tinted to nearly any shade.
Photochromic polycarbonate lenses are a good choice for kids who need prescription eyewear. These lenses darken automatically when exposed to the sun’s UV rays, and then quickly return to a clear state indoors – so one pair of eyeglasses does the job of two! They also provide 100% UV protection.
Don't forget the accessories!
To protect your investment in your child’s sunglasses, purchase a durable, hard-shell carry case for them. Also, make sure your son or daughter knows how to clean and care for their eyewear. Getting sunglass cords (commonly called “retainers”) is also a good idea. These are attached to the temples of the frame so your child can remove their sunglasses and the eyewear will stay with them – hanging from their neck instead of getting misplaced.
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