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Seven sacrifices you could make when buying cheap sunglasses

When it comes to eyewear, the inescapable fact is that you get what you pay for. High end brands may cost more, but in the long run they usually deliver greater return on investment in robustness, quality, visual clarity and eye health.

“Built into the cost of high end branded eyewear are the costs associated with research and development, the use of new generation materials, a high standard of production and marketing. Companies for which product development is at the core of their business invest substantially in innovation to deliver superior lenses and frames that not only reflect the latest trends, but also consider the comfort of the wearer and above all else the protection of the eyes. When it comes to your eyes, buy the very best you can afford,” says Ruahan Naude, CEO at Dynamic Vision.

He points out however, that there is very small differentiation in quality between luxury brands as many are developed and produced in the same factories. Interestingly, there are two main companies which produce most of the luxury brands we see in the market.

Although there is little difference in the quality between such brands, there is a large gap in quality between them and cheaper makes. Naude lists seven sacrifices that consumers can expect to make when opting for cheap, high street glasses:

  • ·         UV Protection – this will not be of the high standard expected with luxury brands. Cheaper makes tend to have the tint placed on the lenses as a shield which will eventually peel or fade unlike luxury brands where the UV protection is actually embedded into the lenses.
  • ·         Polarisation – Polarised lenses provide additional protection as they are coated with a chemical film that reduces glare that is caused when light from the sun reflects off water and other surfaces. Polarised lenses neutralize glare and also help to filter out the harmful effects of UV light. Cheaper may not offer polarization filters at all. Those that do have the polarizing filter applied as an external film coating which is not effective or durable. Premium sunglasses integrate the polarizing filter between the layers of the lens.
  • ·         Construction materials – these are generally inferior materials in comparison to the lightweight yet sturdy plastic or metal used in luxury-made frames.
  • ·         Eye protection – when it comes to safety, glasses should block 100% of UV light (UVA and UVB light). Cheaper brands don’t always offer this degree of protection against both types of harmful UV rays. Premium brands will have the UV protection capabilities printed on the frames. If the glasses you are eyeing do not detail the level of protection, you can almost guarantee that they will not deliver. Cheaper sunglasses may block some of the light, causing your iris to open to allow more light in. This also allows in more UV light which can damage your retina more than if you weren’t wearing sunglasses at all.
  • ·         Lens coatings – More expensive glasses have several layers of coatings to repel water, protect against scratches, improve durability of the lenses and reduce fog in humid conditions or high-energy activities. Cheaper makes tend to be less durable and weaker on these aspects so will not last as long.
  • ·         Lens construction – premium brands are typically produced via an injection process that is more expensive but is optimal for optical clarity. Lower cost makes use a simplified process that yields less clarity.
  • ·         Consistency of lenses – due to production processes and standards, cheaper makes of sunglasses may lack consistency in their lenses. There may be small distortions in the lens or a difference in colour between lenses. These inconsistencies can cause problems such as headaches, nausea or itchy eyes.


“Certainly, buying the most expensive pair does not mean you are getting the best quality. There are indeed designer brands that are at the lower end of retail cost but deliver higher quality than more expensive makes. This is where consulting an optometrist works in your favour. They specialise in this field and understand the pros and cons of the various brands, which all have their competitive advantage. They can assist you in making an intelligent decision that will ensure that you get the best frames and lenses to suit your needs, face and budget.”

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