Tiny sunglasses may be “The Thing” everyone is loving to hate right now, but if you don’t already know, giant sunglasses are for more than just hiding your face when you aren’t feeling your prettiest. They’re also crucially important in protecting the thin, delicate skin around your eyes that’s especially prone to aging. On top of that, eye cancer is a real thing. Seriously — both melanoma and lymphoma can form inside the eye.
The American Cancer Society estimates that in 2018, there will be 3,540 new cancers (mainly melanomas) of the eye — 2,130 in men and 1,410 in women — and 350 deaths from cancers of the eye and orbit — 190 in men and 160 in women.
Cancers on your eyelids and under your eyes are also a serious concern; imagine how painful it is to get a carcinoma or melanoma removed from that delicate skin. In fact, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation, the eyelid region is one of the most common sites for non-melanoma skin cancers. If you want a terrifying statistic, skin cancers of the eyelid, including basal cell carcinoma (BCC), squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), and melanoma, account for 5 to 10 percent of ALL skin cancers.
According to Dr. Jordan Carqueville, board-certified dermatologist at the Skin Care Center in Chicago, and also recently named Make It Better Best of 2018 “Best Chicago Dermatologist,” the head and neck are the highest areas of risk for skin cancer because they’re constantly exposed to the sun.
“Even when you’re driving, UVA rays are passing through the windows,” Dr. Carqueville says. “Even hats don’t necessarily cover everything — you need a 3-inch brim to adequately block sun off of your face, and lenses that have both UVA and UVB protection.”
Dr. Carqueville tells patients that in order to avoid issues on their eyelids, skin, and within their eyes, layers of protection are crucial. So don’t just rely on your shades to protect your eyes — you need to wear a wide-brimmed hat and sunscreen with SPF 30 to really do the job. And while this might seem like overkill, it’s worth it.
“Do you really want cheek skin moved over to your nose to cover up a skin cancer?” Dr. Carqueville asks. “Skin cancers have to be surgically removed and that can be cosmetically disfiguring. You’re investing in your skin by protecting it now.”
So slip on one of these pairs and remember that no tan is worth ending up looking like a paper bag. Bonus: Almost all of these sunglasses are made from sustainable materials, so you’re winning in more ways than one.
Panda Nelson Sunglasses, $120
These sunglasses are a new spin on the old-school aviators we know and love. Made from sustainably harvested bamboo (one of the fastest-growing plants on the planet, bamboo uses less water than traditional woods, puts more oxygen back into the air, and doesn’t require chemical fertilizers, making it safer for both the earth and the farmers growing it), this Washington state-based company also partners with Optometry Giving Sight’s Gift of Vision Project. Every pair of Panda sunglasses you buy means someone in need receives an eye exam and prescription glasses. These donations also help things like optometry schools and vision clinics around the world. FYI, they also make extremely cool watches — and for every watch sold, Panda will make a donation to Pencils of Promise, giving someone in need the Gift of Education. Let’s all make a pact to shop more from Panda.
It’s doubtful that anyone will believe you paid less than a hundred dollars for these ultra-chic cat-eye sunnies, but it’s the truth. This proudly Chicago-based brand features 100 percent UV protection and the giant frames protect basically as much skin as possible without becoming goggles. Plus the price is so right, you might as well get more than one pair.
Another wallet-friendly pick, these sunglasses are also made from bamboo (are you noticing a trend?) and have polarized lenses with 100 percent UV protection. The frames are a chic forest green — a nice change of pace from the classic black — and are named after the country of Guyana where Solo Eyewear has funded eye care. This San Diego-based company donates 10 percent of its profits and goes by the mantra #LiveandGive.
This company, based out of Boise, is basically the pinnacle of conscious fashion. Not only do they use FSC-certified wood, cotton-based acetate, and repurposed skateboard decks in making their truly sick shades (these would make a great present for even the most difficult person), they also partner with The Nature Conservancy in Idaho, Boarding for Breast Cancer, and the anti-poverty organization HELP International. The subtle aviator shape of these sunglasses is flattering on almost every face and the XL lenses will protect that delicate skin around your eyes. PS: There’s a cool motivational quote on the stems inside. Available in three other colors.
These goth-chic shades aren’t just pretty to look at. They’re also made from 63 percent renewable non-food oil and for every frame sold, either a free pair of glasses is given to someone in need or a tree is planted. Based out of SOHO in New York City, MODO prioritizes sustainability and social consciousness with its sleek, modern looks. The rainbow lenses add a pop of color to otherwise traditional frames. Available in three other colors.
Editor’s note: we’re also partial to the hot pink ones.
These plant-based frames feature Ellume Polarized lenses, which contain no petroleum-based bonding products. The lenses will protect your eyes and skin from UVA, B, and C as well as HEV light without relying on polluting products. If that’s not enough for you, the frames are made from a proprietary blend called Z-Resin, which is made from natural castor-bean oil, an ultra-efficient resource that comes from a fast-growing perennial plant that can withstand drought and thrive on marginal lands. The Crowley frames feature a classic shape with a new twist — a creamy opalescent top half and tortoiseshell on the bottom. Available in three other colors.
This Portland, Oregon, company prides itself on using sustainable materials to create truly luxe and fashion-forward sunglasses. Every part of each pair is crafted in the US, making this an ethical pick in more ways than one. Shwood only uses sustainably harvested wood from around the globe — from grade A lumber from forests in the Pacific Northwest to cellulose acetate in Italy. The Powell Acetate frames feature an avant-garde hexagonal shape with ebony-inlaid stems and polarized brown lenses that eliminate glare (this means no more squinting when you’re out on the lake). In three other color combinations.
More from Make It Better:
- Best of 2018 Winners!
- The 11 Best Beaches in Chicago and Beyond
- 7 Critical Sun Safety Tips, Plus the 3 Best Sunscreens on the Market
Jessica Suss is a native Chicagoan residing in Washington, D.C. She is currently getting her master’s degree in secondary English education at the University of Maryland. She enjoys petting other people’s dogs and is faithful to Lou Malnati’s alone. Jessica is also a supporter of MAZON and No Kid Hungry.