The Ultimate Guide to Shopping for Children's Sunglasses.
Shopping for sunglasses for your child can feel like a nightmare sometimes!
With limited options for kids and quality that runs the gamut, it is important to be educated about what to look for when shopping for sunglasses to protect their precious eyes.
While the general criteria people use when shopping for sunglasses like style, fit and price, apply for both adults and children, there are some fundamental differences.
1. Kids’ eyes, unlike adults, are still developing so are more susceptible to the damaging effects of the sun. Therefore, the quality of protection the sunglasses offer should be a major consideration.
2. Kids, unlike adults, are rougher with their things so durability of the sunglasses is important.
3. Kids, unlike adults, are not used to wearing sunglasses for long period of time, so to ensure their eyes get the proper protection it is important to make sure the sunnies are comfortable and easy on their eyes so they will keep it on.
By knowing what to look for when shopping for sunglasses you will be better equipped to find the best sunglasses that protects your little ones while making them look awfully stylish at the same time!
PROTECT THEIR EYES:
Sunglasses, at its core, is to protect your child’s eyes from the damaging effects of the sun. When shopping for sunglasses, the most important thing to look for is the level of UV protection offered by the lens.
First and foremost, you should always buy sunglasses that provide 100% UV protection or UV400 protection.
What does 100% UV Protection or UV400 mean?
Light is made of waves that goes from 200 to 700 nanometer (nm)
Visible light that we see are in the range of 400 – 700nm
But beyond those are the harmful UV rays that we want to keep out of our eyes and our skin.
UVA: 320 – 400nm
UVB: 290 – 320nm
UVC: 200 – 290nm
Essentially any lens that is UV400 certified means that it will keep out all UV waves that are shorter or equal to 400nm which is the cut off between the harmful UV waves and the visible waves that we see with our eyes!
When you see 100% UV protection, it is pretty much synonymous with the UV400 classification.
Did you know that sunglasses are considered a medical device in the eyes of the FDA?
In order for sunglasses to be brought into the country, it has to go through several stringent requirements. In categories such as
- Impact Resistance
- Optical Properties
One such requirement is that FDA requires all sunglasses lens to be shatterproof.
However; sometimes consumers and parents confuse 'novelty' glasses - which are essentially toys eyewear made to look like sunglasses. Those typically do not have proper UV protection.
So the challenge lies in the fact that there is normally no clear designation that separates real protective sunglasses from ‘novelty’ sunglasses that you may get from giveaways or receive as party favors.
If you are concerned or unsure about the level of UV protection of your or your child’s sunglasses, bring them in to an optical store and tested with a photometer to see if UV light passes through or not.
DURABILITY IS KEY!
Durability is another key consideration when picking out sunglasses for kids, because let’s be honest kids can be a little wild and rough when they play and run around!
Starting with the hinges, why are they so important, especially among children’s sunglasses?
For most of the poorly made sunglasses, these are the weakest points and most prone to breakage. Hinges are typically an area most overlooked by parents but this should be a key consideration point when shopping for sunglasses.
Type of Hinges can be primarily classified into two families:
What are the differences between standard and spring hinges?
Standard (Barrel) hinges – have been around pretty much since sunglasses were invented. They behave much like door hinges which allow the temple to flip open or close.
The best way to explain how barrel hinges work is to think of it like 2 interlocking fingers that slide into each other that keep the hands tight. As you can imagine, the more barrels, the stronger the hold between the temple and the frame. This will ensure the temple is firmly attached to the frame.
Because standard hinges are less complex and require less hardware, they are found on the majority of the sunglasses in the market.
Even though they are more commonplace, the quality of the hinges can span the spectrum. Typically found on the more poorly made plastic ‘bendable’ sunglasses, the barrels are made of plastic and generally held together with a single tiny screw. What most parents experience with these type of sunglasses is that over time either the plastic hinge actually breaks or the screw pops out making the sunglasses unusable.
Average sunglasses will typically have 3 barrels, while the premium ones will have 5 barrels and the super premium ones will have a whopping 7 barrels. The 7 barrel hinges are stronger than the vault at Fort Knox!
Next up, Spring Hinges (aka Flex Hinges) are the second most common type of hinges. The biggest difference between these and the standard barrel hinges is that they offer a little give providing a wider range of movement.
These are great for kids as kids have such a wide range of head sizes. The flex on these type of hinges allow the temples to comfortably hug their head, keeping the sunglasses on their face, without pinching the side of their heads.
Like the barrel hinges, most spring hinges in the market are constructed with 3 barrels. Our toucca kids sunglasses are made with 5 barrel German OBE stainless steel spring hinges, which are tested to withstand 50 thousand iterations of open and closing!
A key benefit of spring hinges is that they are more functional for kid’s physical lifestyle. The snug hold that the temples have on your child’s head is more likely to keep the sunglasses on their face while they are playing.
Another reason to go with spring hinges is that the arms have a greater range of motion, they can extend beyond the 90 degrees that is typically found on most barrel hinges. This higher level of flexibility ensures that when your child overextends the temple (which they will inevitably do) it will not break – but just snap back in place.
Next, let’s explore the importance of frame materials and how this can contribute to durability, comfort, and longevity.
Sunglasses are primarily made from these materials:
Acetate is a plant-based plastic that’s strong, lightweight, flexible and hypoallergenic. It is made from cutting, forming, and polishing sheets of plastic. This layered construction allows for great depth of color that will never fade. This is why we opted to use this material for our sunglasses. Also another great benefit is that since each acetate sheet is unique, each sunglasses made is as unique as your child!
Nylon is inexpensive, lightweight, and durable. Over time, however, it can become brittle from sun exposure. It is often the chosen material for sports/performance wrap-around sunglasses.
Petroleum-based plastic frames are generally found on lower-cost injection-molded sunglasses. They are heavier and do not have a smooth finish as other options.
Grilamid TR90 is a lighter, more flexible plastic/nylon combination that is popular for sunglasses because of its excellent shape retention. Some kids’ sunglasses are made of this material.
Metal is more expensive and durable than other types, but it is not recommended for high-impact activities. Metal frames can be made from stainless steel, aluminum, or titanium.
Wood has also gained some popularity in recent years for it organic and warm look.However, it is not very sturdy and is primarily for casual use.
COMFORT IS KING!
Now that we’ve covered the key considerations of protection and durability when picking out sunglasses, does it really matter if your child won’t keep them on?
Fit and comfort are critical to getting children to keep their sunnies on.
Most standard sunglasses provide 100% UV protection, but is 100% UV protection the same as polarized?
To better understand the benefits of polarized lenses – read 'Benefits of Polarized Sunglasses and Why Your Kids Need Them!'
The short answer is 100% UV protection/UV400 is not the same as polarized.
Polarization is an added benefit and is typically another finish that’s added to the lens to provide greater comfort and clarity for children.
Sun glare can be an issue on very sunny days, (in fact, even on cloudy or snowy days) and can cause significant amount of discomfort for kids.
The polarized layer essentially filters out the sun glare and enhances the overall wearing experience.
Polarized lenses comes standard on all of our toucca kids sunglasses.
Beyond polarization, the tint and finish of the lenses can also impact the comfort of the sunglasses for kids.
Why is determining the tint important?
The lens tint helps by controlling the VLT (visible light transmission), which can cause discomfort with prolonged exposure. Picking the right kind of tint can provide kids with better visibility and increased eye comfort. There are two factors to keep in mind with regards to lens tint: tint effects and tint color.
What are the various kinds of tint effects?
Full/Solid tint lens: These are the typical type of lens finishes that one finds on most sunglasses where the tint is uniform across the entire lens. Some kids might not enjoy wearing sunglasses with this type of tint effect because it makes it seem as if someone just turned down the brightness of their surroundings. It can be slightly jarring if the chosen tint is quite dark.
Gradient lens: These type of lenses are fully tinted on their upper parts and gradually become clearer as it moves towards the bottom section of the lens. They are not only fashionable but provide the perfect combination of form and function.
Gradient lenses are great for kids’ sunglasses because the darker tinted upper section of the lens shield their little eyes from the piercing sunlight bombarding them from overheard while the lower and clearer section of the lens allows enough light to come through so that they can look forward and see the world with greater clarity. All of our toucca kids sunglasses comes with polarized gradient lenses.
Mirrored Lens: Among the adult sunglasses segment, mirrored sunglasses have been one of fashion’s biggest trends and it doesn’t seem to be slowing down. With its head-turning reflecting lenses, it’s a great way to bring some bold colors to your child’s look.
Transitions® Lens: Transition lenses allow the lenses to change color as you go from indoors to outdoors. The changeable lens darkens in response to the bright sunlight when you walk out and changes to clear lenses when you move indoors.
These types of lenses are typically only available with prescription lenses. Our toucca kids sunglasses are prescription ready; bring it to any optician and he/she will be able to properly fit your child with these lenses should you choose.
Finally, does the tint color have any impact on the overall wearing experience?
The short answer is yes. The tint colors filters light in different ways and there are some colors that do a better job at blocking light than other. And more interesting, some tint colors enhance lights while others distort them. Therefore, depending on the tints chosen, they each have different ability to impact the wearer’s overall experience when wearing the sunglasses.
The most common tint colors are:
Gray: One of the most popular tints because of its neutral properties. It allows the eyes to see color in their purest form. Key benefits of gray lenses are that they reduce glare and brightness.
Amber/Brown: Another popular and common tint – much like the gray lens – it reduces glare but also blocks blue light. It is especially beneficial outdoors, as the blue light blocking properties increases contrast especially when looking at green or blue backgrounds like grass or the sky.
Rose/Red: This tint has a wonderful reputation of being very soothing to the eyes. If looking for longer wear times, this is the lens color for you.
Yellow/Orange: These two color tints are perfect for hazy or low-light conditions. They make objects looks sharper in poor lighting but the side effect is that you will get color distortions.
Green: This tint has the ability to reduce eyestrain in bright light. It is able to filter some blue light, reduce glare, and provide higher contrast when looking at objects.
One final tip, are you ready? Once you’ve picked up the best pair of sunglasses for your little one based on the considerations above, if it doesn’t sit on his/her face properly then it won’t matter so you need to make sure it fits properly.
What are some of the key things to look out for when checking for proper fit? This applies to both glasses and sunglasses and for adults and kids as well.
Rule #1: The sunglasses should sit comfortably but snugly on your nose and ears. The temples should not be pinching against the side of your head.
Rule #2: The sunglasses should not be resting on your cheeks – if so, they are too big.
Rule #3: Your eyelashes should not be touching the frame or the lens – otherwise, it is way too close to your face.
We hope this gives you a comprehensive guide on how to choose the best kids sunglasses. Happy shopping and enjoy the summer!