Grab some shades this summer

Hotter weather means more days in the sun are ahead. But before you ditch your jacket and head outside, remember to grab your sunglasses.

Long-term sun exposure increases your chance for cataracts and retina damage, and small amounts of exposure add up. If you work, drive, play sports, take walks or run errands while the sun shines, you can irreversibly damage your baby blues -; and your baby's baby blues. Even young children need sunglasses.

The right sunglasses should block 99 percent to 100 percent of both UV-A and UV-B radiation and 75 percent to 90 percent of visible light. They should keep you comfortable, fashionable and able to distinguish traffic signals. Using neutral gray lenses will help you appreciate all the colors in that summer sunset.

Different lenses suit different activities. Polarized lenses work well by the water but can provide distracting glare on the golf course. If you play contact sports, look for polycarbonate lenses, which protect against impact. Wrap-around frames add protection, too.

When it comes to evaluating sunglasses, labels and price tags mean nothing. The government does not regulate UV protection or lens quality, so every sunglass brand creates its own claims. In studies, some expensive lenses proved less protective than cheaper pairs, and dark lenses can actually block less UV radiation than lighter shades.

Looking to buy? The American Optometric Association (AOA) provides these sunglass-shopping guidelines:

- Make sure the tint looks uniform across each lens. If you're considering gradient lenses, make sure that the lens color changes gradually from light to dark.

- Hold the glasses at arm's length and look through them at a straight line. If the line distorts, buy another pair.

- Try on the glasses in front of a mirror. If you can easily see your eyes, look for darker lenses. This does not apply to light-sensitive or photochromatic lenses.

If buying a new pair of sunglasses suddenly sounds complex, just look for the American Optometric Association's Seal of Certification and Acceptance, which guarantees vision products. For a list of approved products, check out