We usually don’t think much about eye protection — until something happens that makes us wish we’d thought about eye protection. It’s an unfortunate fact that, like bicycle helmets, some of us need more convincing that safety glasses are a necessity.
Two of the most important features of safety glasses are their top and side shields. These shields cover areas around your eye that are otherwise vulnerable. We know what you might be thinking: “Safety glasses are uncomfortable…and lame.”
Honestly, we thought so, too. That’s why we created Stoggles, glasses you can wear to keep your eyes safe (and stylish), no matter what you’re up to with work or play.
Let’s discuss the safety features of side shields, why you need them, and how winter can be especially damaging to your vision. We’ll also give you the best features to look for in side shield glasses so that you know how to shop.
Why Are Side Shields Important?
Erase the images of your middle school chemistry lab from your mind (even though it’s burned in there along with its fragrant aroma of formaldehyde).
Today, safety glasses are available in much less bulky frames with all the same (if not better) safety features. There’s a broad spectrum of safety frames—and lenses—to choose between, from prescription safety glasses to frames with detachable side protectors.
Side shields are a crucial component of safety glasses. If your activity doesn’t require goggles, you’ll want glasses. Glasses differ from goggles in that they don’t form a seal around your eyes.
The side and top shields of safety glasses extend from the side rims of your glasses and attach to the temples. If you aren’t an expert on eyeglass anatomy, click here for a quick refresher course.
Some of us are die-hard anti-safety daredevils. Blame our upbringing or chalk it up to generational differences, but some people just don’t like the idea of protective equipment.
If you’re a true Gen X’er, for instance, you probably never wore a helmet when you rode your bike, and you rode comfortably in the middle seat of your parent’s station wagon without a car seat or a shoulder belt. There’s no way you’re wearing safety glasses while you cut grass or hike in the snow.
We hear you, friends, and we raise you the following statistics for your consideration. Each day, more than 2,000 people experience an eye-related injury, and about one-third of those end up requiring emergency hospital treatment.
Nearly 100 of those daily injuries sideline workers from their jobs and result in temporary or permanent vision loss. However, the most sobering fact is that of the approximately 800,000 eye injuries sustained each year, it’s estimated that almost 90% of them are preventable with proper safety eyewear.
If occupational safety isn't convincing enough, consider this: Retinal cells (the cells that give you vision) don’t regenerate. Although research is ongoing and progress has been made in regrowing the retinal cells in fish, there’s still no solid proof that we’ll be able to duplicate that with human retinal cells. Long story short: We’re a long way from being able to reclaim lost vision.
The Takeaway: If you lose your vision because you didn’t want to wear safety frames, there’s no getting it back.
The Protection Plan
It’s worth it to play it safe. Your vision is just that important. Side shields help protect you from an impressive list of eye hazards, including:
- Debris. You never expect a piece of ice to penetrate the side of your eye, but as the famous movie quote goes, “Those icicles have been known to kill people.” And it’s not just ice—it’s snow, rocks, dust, grass, and anything else that has the potential to make contact with and injure your eye.
- Liquids. Safety glasses with side shields don’t just protect you while you’re in the lab. They keep snow and sleet out of your eyes while you’re flying down a double black diamond with nothing between you and a massive accident but your perfect vision and concentration.
- Wind. The wind can wreak havoc on the eyes, and it can also carry debris. Side shields make sure that the sides of your eyes aren’t vulnerable to a continual breeze or the occasional gust.
- Perfect for sports. Staying focused while you’re playing a sport or taking a hike is important, and safety glasses ensure that a rogue ball to the temple won’t cause orbital socket damage, like a blowout fracture.
- UV protection. UV rays are invisible and damaging. You need protection from UV rays even if it isn’t sunny outside. Side shields coated with UV protective film or made from naturally UV protective material keep your eyes and skin protected in areas that would normally be exposed.
Side shields and top shields work to protect your eyes all around, and that protection is particularly beneficial in winter.
Why Side Shields Help in Winter
Most of us take a break from sun protection in the winter months. Even though the sun is still shining, the autumnal equinox places the sun at a much less intrusive angle, helping us enjoy cooler weather and letting us put away the sunblock, sunglasses, and hat we’ve been donning daily since April.
The false assurance that we’re safe because we aren’t hot or in direct sunlight is convincing…but it’s false.
Not only is this untrue because UV rays still penetrate our skin and eyes in the winter, but it also doesn’t take into consideration reflected light, which can result in snow blindness. Here are three ways winter is brutal on your eyes.
Photokeratitis is caused by an inflammation of the cornea (the covering of the colored part of your eye) and the conjunctiva (the membrane that covers the whites of your eyes). There are numerous causes of photokeratitis, including exposure to welding equipment and tanning lamps. In the winter, the most common type of photokeratitis is snow blindness.
This painful eye condition happens when your eyes are exposed to invisible UV rays, usually reflected from the surface of snow. You won’t get snow blindness simply by walking out in the snow for a few minutes. Snowblind photokeratitis happens after long-term exposure (more than a few minutes) to UV light reflected off of snow.
This can happen with any light-reflecting surface, but snow is the worst. Snow reflects 80% of the sun’s rays, unlike sand which only reflects about 15%. If you live closer to the poles or live at higher elevations where the air is thinner, you’re more likely to experience photokeratitis.
It’s important to note that you can experience snow blindness even if the sun is behind the clouds. UV light still passes through, damaging your eyes without you even knowing.
Symptoms of snow blindness include:
- Feeling like something is stuck in your eye, or feeling like there is grit or sand in your eye
- Excessive tearing
- Swelling in and around your eye
- Constricted pupils
- Pain in the eye
- Twitching eyelids
- Occasionally, temporary vision loss
What you probably thought was your eyes adjusting to the light after being outside in the snow is actually a serious condition with damaging effects. Side shields made from polycarbonate help protect you against photokeratitis by blocking UV rays and keeping your eyes safe.
2. Extreme Cold
It’s normal to experience vision changes if you live in an area where temperatures drop below freezing on a regular basis. Extreme weather changes like cold can cause your eyes to become dry, and in some cases, may even freeze your cornea.
You’ll likely only experience pain or irritation due to extreme cold if you’re outdoors for a winter activity like skiing, hiking, tubing, or snowmobiling. If you decide to participate in your favorite winter hobby without side-shield safety glasses, you could be in for some serious eye discomfort.
Eye pain, dryness, excessive tearing, redness, and swelling are all characteristics of eyes that have been exposed to cold temperatures for too long without proper protection.
3. High Winds
Wind can be rough on your eyes in any climate, but when the temps are cooler, high winds can blow any vestiges of moisture right out of your eyes. Combine high winds with snow or sleet, and your eyes don’t stand a chance—which means you don’t stand a chance of enjoying your favorite outdoor activities.
It’s more than just dry eyes. Dry eyes can be a temporary problem, but long-term exposure to extreme conditions can cause them to become so perpetually dry that you need medicated eye drops to blink comfortably.
If you already have dry eyes, the wind will make matters worse. Side shields help protect your eyes from damaging, drying wind so that you can stay comfortable all season.
Safety Glasses With Side Shields: Six Must-Haves
Outside in the cold wind and snow isn’t a safe place for your eyes, but you can protect them and save your vision by wearing safety glasses with side shields.
Unlike some safety glasses, which are only shatter-resistant and don’t provide side and top shields, safety glasses with shields provide a larger area of protection on each side of your eyes to make sure they’re safe.
Shopping for safety glasses with side shields can be a chore, especially if you aren’t familiar with all things safety glasses-related. That’s why we’re here. The team at Stoggles knows protective eyewear, and we know what safety glasses with side shields need to be effective, comfortable, and wearable while you participate in winter activities.
Here’s our list of six must-have features every pair of safety glasses side shields should have.
1. UV Protection
UV protection has nothing to do with the darkness of your glasses. UV rays are short, high-energy waves of light that fall in the “invisible” range of the light spectrum. Although most sunglasses have UV protection, the level of shade they provide is simply for your comfort.
UV protection is available on clear safety glasses with a specialized coating or polycarbonate lenses. Polycarbonate is a type of material that is naturally UV blocking. If you want UV blocking protection and shade, look for safety glasses that offer both features.
SunStoggles, for instance, has side and top shields made from polycarbonate to block 100% of UV rays, and they’re available with a dark tint to help keep you comfortable and prevent squinting when you’re outside.
2. Anti-Fog Lenses
You can pack three cases of anti-fog wipes, and you still won’t have enough to keep your lenses fog-free if you’re outside in the winter.
Why? Let’s discuss.
Side shields are amazing at keeping suspicious liquids or flying debris out of our eyes, and we appreciate that; we really do. However, sometimes these awesome side shields make it easier for lenses to get foggy.
That’s why all glasses should have an anti-fog coating on the lenses. This anti-fog coat is as critical as a winter coat. With this fog-fighting layer, your safety glasses will ensure that you'll have clear vision no matter how many times you hit the lodge for coffee, cocoa, or cider. You’ll never have to use another anti-fog wipe again; your side shields and anti-fog lenses work together in perfect harmony.
3. ANSI Z87.1 Certification
If you’re going to buy safety glasses with side shields, you should always look for the ANSI Z87.1 certification. This means the glasses have been tested to resist medium to high impact with sharp objects on impact, sometimes at higher velocities. In fact, OSHA requires ANSI-rated safety glasses in many workplaces.
For safety glasses to earn this impact-resistant certification, they must resist impact without fracturing, breaking, or cracking. There must be zero interference with the head form used in the testing. This means that no matter what strikes the side shields of your glasses, they will never break through to your eyes. These high safety standards are important for any new products, especially if you'll be wearing your safety glasses in a real-world workplace.
4. Top Shields
Just like side shields ensure the area on the sides of each eye is protected from injury, top shields ensure that nothing endangers your eyes above the brows where regular eyeglasses leave a gap.
Top shields are especially helpful in precipitation and any situation where wind or flying debris could be a potential hazard. It’s also important to make them of lightweight material, like polycarbonate. Polycarbonate is easy to wear and protects your eyes better than virtually any other material.
5. Blue Light Blocking
Blue light is another form of light that is invisible but harmful to our eyes. Blue light rays are also short and high energy, and they are emitted from numerous different sources. The sun, fluorescent lights, LED lights, and practically every device you can imagine emits blue light.
Blue light could damage your eyes over time, and it also causes eye strain and fatigue. After lengthy exposure, you may even develop headaches, neck and shoulder strain, or blurred vision.
Blue light-blocking glasses prevent blue light rays from reaching your retina because your eyes cannot filter out blue light on their own. Safety glasses with universal side shields or removable side shields that offer blue light protection can help add another layer of safety to protect your vision.
Style and comfort are important. If your side shield glasses don’t make you feel like a rockstar, you aren’t going to wear them. That’s where Stoggles comes in: Stoggles are made to look good while they protect you.
With Stoggles, you’ll get all of the safety features you want and none of the bulk or awkwardness you don’t.
The Stoggles Difference
Stoggles exist so that you never have to choose between form and function. Our glasses have serious aesthetic appeal and feel so comfortable that you’ll want to wear them more than any other pair of specs you own.
Need safety glasses with side shields but wear prescription eyewear? We do that, too. Our Stoggles are available with your prescription lenses, and we handle them in-house, saving you time and money. No more stuffing your eyeglasses under bulky, uncomfortable safety goggles or glasses for hours in the workplace.
If it’s options you want, we’ve got tons of product availability and variety. Select from nine different colors, two different shapes, and two types of lenses to fully customize the pair that best meets your needs (or matches your favorite trends).
We know what you’re thinking — “How will safety glasses keep me safe if I can’t see without my prescription?” Don’t worry; we thought of that too. Stoggles have prescription availability, so you can say goodbye to balancing ordinary safety glasses over your prescription specs. Plus, we handle all our prescriptions in-house so that we can keep an eye on the process the whole time, making sure it’s picture-perfect.
Side shields protect your eyes against extreme temperatures, reflected UV light, precipitation, debris, dirt, sparks, chemicals, wind, and anything else that could cause damage to your eyes and risk your vision. Wearing safety glasses with side shields is especially important during winter months when the risk of weather-related eye injuries is high.
Stoggles is your solution for protecting your eyes in style, whether you're hitting the slopes or working in health administration. With Stoggles, you can protect your eyes on the slopes and still look incredibly polished in the lodge.