From shape to function - a guide to picking your perfect pair of sunglasses

By Tiffany Choi

Sunglasses make everyone look cooler, but before you invest in a new pair, here’s some expert advice

By Tiffany Choi |

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With the summer holidays fast approaching, you’ll no doubt be outdoors having picnics, hitting the beach or going hiking or on strolls with friends and family. And while you’re hopefully sensible when it comes to wearing sunscreen (skin cancer is no joke; ask Hugh Jackman), it’s easy to forget how easily the blazing sun can damage your eyes. And we don’t want that, do we? Invest in a pair of decent sunglasses that are both stylish, but more importantly protect your peepers. That HK$20 pair from the market probably doesn’t cut it.

Dr Jeffrey Leung, an optometrist at Hong Kong Polytechnic University, offers some top tips for choosing a pair that’ll keep you safe all summer.

UV protection

It’s very important to keep our eyes safe from ultraviolet (UV) rays. Most of the time, we have no idea that our eyes are being damaged by UV because these waves of electromagnetic radiation are invisible to the naked eye. They are especially strong in sunny weather, and squinting all day isn’t enough to fix the problem. Sunglasses marked “UV400” protect your eyes from wavelengths under 400 nanometres, ie both UVA and UVB rays, the most dangerous ones.

Light transmittance

Light transmittance refers to sunglasses’ ability to shield visible light. If a pair has 20 to 30 per cent transmittance (i.e. blocking 70 to 80 per cent of visible light), it can help prevent your eyes from being overly stimulated by visible lights. A cheap pair of sunnies almost certainly isn’t going to cut it. They often have terrible light transmittance and barely shield your eyes.


Rose-tinted sunglasses may be in this season, but you might want to think before you splash out on a pair. Grey and brown lenses are the best for protecting your eyes. Leung prefers grey, as they cut down light without overly distorting the colour of the objects you’re looking. Remember: the darker the lens, the more protected your eyes are. Pale-coloured lenses, like blue or pink, don’t offer much protection.

Shape and surface area

Sunglasses lenses have more of a curve than ordinary spectacles to shield light rays coming from all angles. Surprisingly, the size of the lenses doesn’t matter as much – as long as they cover your eyes, you’re fine.


For you sports lovers, you might want to pick thicker, stronger lenses to protect your eyes from physical harm, eg a football to the face. But if you’re not wearing your shades to keep fit, the material isn’t a particularly important consideration.

Don't know what style of sunnies to pick for your face shape? We hear you - there's a fine line between looking effortlessly cool and looking like a bug. Irene Yu, merchandising director of the Pedder Group, offers a quick guide on how to pick the ideal sunglasses for the three most common face shapes:


Round faces tend not to have defined angles, so pick a pair that breaks up the structure of your face, making it look better defined. Oversized, rectangle, cat’s eyes or angular frames all work.


Square faces mean strong jawlines, so a soft, rounded frame will help balance things out. Circular, shield and aviator sunglasses will suit you.


Oblong faces normally mean angular features, high cheekbones and a tall forehead. Go for something large to break up the angles. Oversized round lenses, large wayfarers, or rectangular lenses with thick frames are all great options.

Edited by Andrew McNicol