Sunglasses on infants and toddlers might look like an adorable fashion trend but, in fact, they're serious business.
The right shades early on can save a baby's eyes and skin later in life.
Children under age 10 are at a high risk for skin and eye damage from ultraviolet radiation (UVR). The skin on their eyelids and around their eyes is more delicate and vulnerable than adult skin. UVR exposure causes 90 percent of all skin cancers, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation.
"Babies' eyes are more susceptible to irreversible UV damage than adults' eyes, yet only 30 percent of parents currently protect their kids with sunglasses," says Molly Fienning, co-founder of the Atlanta-based Babiators, which produces a line of sunglasses for children.
Retinal exposure to UVR is associated with cataracts and macular degeneration; both causes of vision impairment.
"Babiators is on a mission to keep kids' eyes safe in the sun because we know that sunglasses are more than a stylish accessory – they're a health necessity," she says.
If you get babies used to wearing sunglasses as soon as you begin taking them outdoors, you'll start a healthy life-long habit that will be as important as teaching them to brush their teeth and wash their hands.
Here are some tips on what to look for when shopping for baby's sunglasses.
- While you don't have to spend a fortune on sunglasses, you should buy them from a reliable source, and read the labels. Look for sunglasses that block no less than 99 to 100 percent of UVA and UVB rays, and check that they comply with the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA). Also, make sure that the glasses don't contain any harmful components.
- Darker lenses don't necessarily mean added protection. UV protection doesn't come from a dark tint, but rather from a chemical application on the lenses. So, your baby can wear rose-colored glasses and still get full protection.
- Go big. You want coverage on that tiny face, so look for larger, wraparound glasses, but make sure that they fit snugly.