Athleisure Wear

Here’s How To Pick Sunglasses That Fit Your Face, According to an Optometrist

Francesca Krempa

Photo: Stocksy/Lucas Ottone
Few summer accessories are more iconic—and necessary—than sunglasses. And finding a pair that actually fits your face properly is easy if you follow a few basic guidelines.

Generally, "sunglasses should fit snugly and comfortably on the face without too much pressure," says Lilan Le, OD, NYC-based optometrist at walk-in optical studio Heywear. "The frames should not dig into the cheeks when you smile or leave indentations where it rests on the nose."

Some wire sunglasses stretch out and slide down your nose. Plastic frames can be unforgiving to sensitive temples. And the arms (if not properly adjusted) might put too much pressure on your ears.

"The arms of the glasses should wrap gently over the top of your eyes without the temples digging into the back or side of your head," says Dr. Le. "A quick check for snugness is to wear sunglasses and look down towards the ground while shaking your head side to side. If it slides off then it is too loose."

Style, UV protection, and frame size all matter, too. Keep reading for Dr. Le's tips to picking sunglasses that actually fit your face and protect your eyes all summer long.

How to pick sunglasses that fit your face, according to an optometrist

1. Pick sunglasses with strong UV and light protection

The primary purpose of sunglasses is protecting your eyes from the sun's harmful UV rays. That means, it's important to prioritize UV protection in your lenses.

Look for lenses with a label that says "100% protection against UVA and UVB" or "UV 400," which Dr. Le says blocks out all ultraviolet light. "The UV level tells us what range of frequency the glasses have the ability to block out," she says. "LT (visible light transmission) categories tell us now much light is blocked out by the sunglasses on a scale of 0-4. The higher the category the more light is blocked out."

Some things to keep in mind when picking sunglasses with UV protection:  

  • Darker lenses don't automatically mean you're protected. Be on the lookout for that UV level label, preferably one of UV 400.
  • As for light reduction, Dr. Le says to choose lenses with a category 3 and lower: "You can drive with up to a category 3 but a 4 should never be used for driving because it blocks out too much light."
  • And for glare reduction on ultra-bright beach and lake days, invest in some polarized sunglasses. These reduce light reflection making it easier to see in bright, shiny environments.  For an affordable option, we love these GreenTree Polarized Sunglasses ($19). Or, invest in some serious, sustainable protection, like Amavii Philip Frames ($255), which plant a tree for every pair purchased.

2. Determine your face shape

Your face shape is created by the lines and angles of your key features, like your forehead, cheeks, and chin. Dr. Le says this overall shape can play into how your sunglasses fit and look, so take this into account before purchasing.

If you don't know your face shape, no worries—there are some simple ways to figure it out. "Looking at your hairline, is it more rounded or straight? Does your chin come to a more pointy or rounded shape? To determine if your face is more oval or round we need to compare the width and the height," says Dr. Le. "Is your cheek wider than your jawline? Is the distance from your forehead to jaw longer or similar to the width of your face? Putting all of that together will help guide you towards what is your closest face shape."

Once you've determined your face shape, here's how to choose a frame:

  • Round face: Dr. Le recommends adding some contrast with a frame that has clear, defined angles, like square-shaped sunglasses or a vintage cat-eye frame.
  • Square face: Dr. Le suggests picking sunglass frames that soften your face's angles, like a '90s-inspired round shape or a classic aviator.
  • Heart-shaped face: Choose a frame that mimics the shape of your face with a wider top and a narrower bottom. Dr. Le suggests cat-eye sunglasses or frames with a thick, prominent brow.
  • Oval face: You're in luck. Dr. Le an oval shaped face gets along with just about any frame, so take your pick.

3. Trends are fun, but invest in a pair you'll wear for more than one season

Maybe don't splurge on those itty bitty sunglasses all over TikTok, or the giant, plastic '80s style sunglasses you'll wear once on the slopes. "The more wearable your sunglasses are the more likely you will use them for protection and style," says Dr. Le.

If you want to spend the money, opt for a more classic style. Dr. Le recommends Heywear Donovan ($100), which features a versatile, well-sized metal frame. She also likes Rivers ($125), which fits just about any shaped face, and Penn ($125), which has an over-sized acetate frame for added UV protection.

4. Size matters

When it comes to sunglasses, the larger the frame, the more protection you'll get. "The bigger the better because it offers more protection for the sensitive structures of your eyes as well as on your lids," says Dr. Le. Small, narrow frames don't offer as much protection from the sun's harmful rays as, say, a large aviator. Protect your precious peepers (and eyelids, which can get burnt!), and go a size up.

5. Wear sunglasses early and often

To keep your eyes healthy, it's best to wear sunglasses outdoors as much as possible. Especially on bright, sunny days where glare can cause us squint and strain, sunglasses can prevent us from doing more damage.

If you haven't been an avid sunglass wearer, it's never too late to start. However, the earlier you can get your hands on pair, the better: "We actually absorb the majority of our sun exposure under 18 and see the damages of that overtime cumulatively as we age," says Dr. Le. "Starting to wear sunglasses early is very important." Parents, invest in some kid-friendly frames for your children, like Polarized WeeFarer Sunglasses ($35) from Amazon for everyday wear. For finicky toddlers, the Cocosand Baby Sunglasses ($20) come with a strap to keep them in place.

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