That moment when you realise your 1 year old is cooler than you! As an Optometrist myself, I am very aware of the importance of good sun protection for babies and young children. This not only includes a hat and suncream, but sunglasses as well. I’d been looking for a while to find the perfect sunnies for my Isabella… so many factors are important- the quality of the lenses, the fit and also the material the frame is made of.
Why are sunglasses important for young children?
- Babies and young children have more delicate skin. We don’t apply suncream around the eyes because we all know it’d end in tears, so instead sunglasses provide an excellent protection.
- The lens inside a young child’s eye is clear and thin, so more UV light reaches the back of the eye (the retina) than it does in adults.
- UV radiation can damage cells in the eye;
- At the front of the eye:
UV radiation can cause the cells of the conjunctiva (the clear layer over the white of the eye) to divide abnormally leading to the development of tumors- benign or cancerous. It can also cause the conjunctiva to start growing over the cornea (the clear dome of the eye.) This growth is called a pterygium and is very common in Australia. It starts appearing as a result of cumulative UV exposure from as early as the young teen years, depending on the amount of sun exposure. Pterygiums often need surgery as they are uncomfortable, cause ongoing red eyes and also can affect vision.
- At the back of the eye:
Cumulative UV exposure is linked to cataracts (yellowing of the lens in the eye) and also macular degeneration.
How often should children wear sunglasses?
Ideally, children should wear sunglasses whenever they are playing outside. Even on cloudy days, as UV rays still penetrate through the cloud cover.
What to look for in a pair of sunglasses?
The materials a pair of sunglasses are made out of really matter. Here is why:
- It is important that the lenses have 100% UV protection. The cheap novelty sunglasses that can be bought at $2 shops can actually do more harm than good. A tinted plastic without the UV protection increases the size of the pupil (the pupil dilates in the dark) without giving protection, so inadvertently opens up the hole in the eye for more UV to come in! This means that you can end up getting more UV exposure into the eye wearing cheap sunglasses than if you weren’t wearing them at all!
- Children can be pretty rough on their glasses and unstable on their feet. It is therefore important that the lenses in their glasses are shatterproof so that if they did have a tumble, the lens won’t shatter. Polycarbonate is a shatterproof and lightweight plastic and is recommended for children’s glasses for safety reasons.
- Polarisation of lenses is recommended if the child is going to be around water or snow. Polarised lenses reduce reflected glare. They also improve the quality of vision and make it possible to see through the water and see fish in a pond for example.
For children, a flexible (phthalate – free!) frame is important as otherwise they can be easily broken. A lot of children’s frames however are made using PVC- a flexible plastic of which phthalate plasticisers can make up to 30% of its weight. Phthalates are endocrine disrupting chemicals and are found in many everyday items. There are strong links between phthalates and asthma and also foetal exposure causing lowered testosterone, undescended testes and reduced sperm quality. – Not something you want in a sunglass frame that will probably end up at least a part of the time being chewed on by your child! (Read more about Phthalates here)
By far the best sunglasses for babies and children I’ve come across are Babiators. I’m not sponsored by them or anything to say that, they just tick all of the above boxes plus have so many extra perks! I did contact them when I was writing this post to ask if they could donate a pair of awesome sunnies to a giveaway for us though! And they said yes!!! Click here to enter!
Babiators are what I chose for Isabella. Here’s why:
- Babiators lenses are 100 % UV protective, can be polarised and are made out of polycarbonate All polycarbonate plastic does have BPA in it, however Babiators do regular testing to make sure their lenses do not leach BPA.
- Babiators use a thermoplastic rubber to make their frames which is a flexible, phthalate free non-toxic material – safe to bend and also to suck on!
- Babiators fit amazingly well, the rubber frame sits well on the face and the sizing is one size from 0-3 and one from 3-7- so the same pair of glasses lasts ages! (So if bub takes a while to get used to them, they’ll still have lots of wear time eventually!) They come with a strap so they stay on.
- They have a great range of colours and patterns.
- They also have the most amazing guarantee– if you lose or break the glasses within the first 12 months, they’ll replace it for free if you pay the shipping! – not much can go wrong with that!!
I know all too well it’s not always easy to convince your baby (or especially your toddler!) to wear sunglasses. It is however an extremely worthwhile cause and important step to take in protecting your child’s health. This summer, Isabella will be hitting the beach/ park/ playground with her mirror lens pink polarised Babiators on… I might well have a handful of sultana bribes at the ready, but I’m determined to win this round, it’s too important.
Babiators are giving away a pair of polarised Babiators sunglasses to a lucky My Non-Toxic Baby reader! You will get to choose your colour and size of polarised Babiators (valued at $59.95) and also receive a Ready to Fly accessory pack (valued at $14.95). Click here to enter!