The Eyes Have It
When it comes time to pick a new pair of sunglasses, an optometrist who’s done a leg or two offshore can help us cut through the glare. "Gear Roundup" from our June 2012 issue.
Q: How much does lens color matter?
A: The color of a lens is often one of personal preference. Gray is considered a neutral density filter that preserves all colors, just toning down the brightness, whereas the ambers, greens, and roses will filter certain wavelengths of light, causing others to appear brighter. Light amber or yellow lenses improve contrast in dim light.
Q: Do you think prescription-sunglass versions are worth the investment?
A: If a person wears glasses for driving, it’s definitely beneficial to have a prescription sunglass to allow for better sighting of navigational marks. Offshore, personal preference would dictate. Most sailors in the over-40 crowd like to leave a pair of reading glasses at the nav station, and if there’s a significant distance and near correction, then a prescription multifocal would be appropriate. Certain higher powers of prescription lenses aren’t available in wraparound styles because of the peripheral distortions that may be generated.
Q: What about combining contact lenses and a pair of glasses that you won’t be devastated to lose overboard?
A: Absolutely. Some contact lenses have an ultraviolet radiation blocker for added eye protection, but because the contact lens rests primarily on the cornea, it’s still necessary to wear ultraviolet-absorbing sunglasses to protect those structures around the eye itself.
Q: Let’s talk about fit. What’s important here?
A: Any sunglass frame should fit as well as prescription spectacles for maximum comfort. Temples should follow the contour of the head and not form a 90-degree angle behind the ears. Plastic frames tend to slip when in contact with skin oils and sweat, so makers often incorporate a rubber/silicone nose pad of some type. Most metal frames have nose pads, and they need to contour to the sides of the nose so that the frame fits fairly close. I’m a big fan of the pads that have siping, much like the soles of boat shoes. They really seem to stay put. Unisex styles can work quite well.
On the water, a larger frame style or wraparound style may be preferred for better protection from peripheral glare and protection of the more sensitive skin around the eyes.