Pricey Vs. Cheap Shades Put to the UV Test

When it's sunny outside, sunglasses are key to protecting our eyes from dangerous UV rays. But do you really have to pay a lot of money to get good glasses?

A $5 pair off the street or a $200 pair of Versace glasses. Which would you think offers more UV protection?

Consumer Correspondent Susan Koeppen went sunglass shopping -- then had them all tested to find out.

No doubt about it: Sunglasses can make a fashion statement.

But their "function" is to protect our eyes from harmful UV rays.

Koeppen bought 31 pair of sunglasses ranging in price from $5 to $200 -- some from street vendors, some from drugstores and some from expensive establishments -- and all carried claims that they had excellent UV protection.

"UV protection is very, very important. It's like you wouldn't go to the beach without putting sunblock on your body," said Dr. Marc Werner.

Werner runs the Stahl Eye Center, with locations in the New York City area, where Koeppen brought all the glasses to be tested.

According to Werner, if the machine reads zero or one, it that the glasses have 99 or 100 percent UV protection, which is considered excellent.

No surprise: the expensive pair had 100 percent UV protection.

But the same goes for the $5 pair.

Of the 31 that were tested, only one got a failing grade.

"So it seems like it's hard to find bad glasses," Koeppen said.

"It's hard to find glasses that don't give you good UV protection, but it's not impossible, and you don't know until you get them checked," Werner said.

So if you're spending hundreds of dollars on sunglasses -- what are you getting, if not better protection?

"You're buying style, which is fine -- you don't have to spend a lot to get a good pair or sunglasses, but you can't always trust the label," Werner added.

Koeppen points out that the sunglasses that failed the UV test are actually worse for your eyes than wearing no sunglasses at all. That's because the tint will cause your pupils to dilate, letting in more UV light than if you were just squinting.

So, how can you tell if your glasses have adequate UV protection?

"If they are a brand name and come from a trusted store -- chances are very very good they have 100 percent UV protection, Koeppen said. But to really find out -- take your glasses to an eye center and have them tested in photometer. It takes less than 30 seconds," she said.
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