En español | Buying sunglasses at 50 can be challenging. While there are plenty of ready-made shades under $20, we want low-cost styles that are not flimsy or cheesy, look cool on our grownup faces and protect our aging eyes. We know that even reasonably priced sunglasses turn costly with extra add-ons like prescription lenses and coatings. But here's the good news: This year there are more affordable sunglasses than ever and believe fashion-editor me when I say they rival big-name designer-brand frames in quality and style — all with that crucial UV protection. Here are 12 thrifty ways to find your best sunglasses now.
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PHOTO BY: Walmart; Privé Revaux Eyewear; HSN
1. Insist on frames with UV protection
Sunglasses are a practical and essential fashion accessory. They not only make us feel glam, but also protect our eyes from macular degeneration and the lids and skin around the eyes from cancer and wrinkles. Some shopping websites don't indicate whether pairs of sunglasses are UV protected — or if they are, to what degree. Be sure to look for frames with a description that says the lenses block 99 to 100 percent of both UVA and UVB rays — like the Privé Revaux The Audrey in Midnight Blue ($40, priverevaux.com) or the Bethenny Medium Square Sunglasses with Case in black or tortoise/brown ($48, hsn.com) — or for sunglasses with a UV400 or higher rating (another way to indicate the highest-level protection), such as the Spencer Retro Aviator Sunglasses UV400 Mirrored ($9, walmart.com). Know that some low-cost sunglasses do look fabulous but are really no more than decorative frames and tinted lenses — the equivalent of eye makeup. Don't cheat.
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PHOTO BY: HSN; Walmart (2)
2. A little bigger is better
Larger frames that cover a broader area are sexier than small or narrow ones, and are also a smarter choice since they provide more sun protection. Big frames add structure to balance mature faces that have softened, sagged or expanded with age, gravity and weight ups and downs. However, there's a difference between large, oversize sunglasses and those that are too big. Keep the frame proportions in synch with your face size and features. When is big too big? The right size sunglasses will not feel annoying at the bridge or cheeks when you smile, and they won't slide down your nose and squash your nostrils or extend too far past the borders of your face. Otherwise enjoy the extra allure.
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PHOTO BY: Foster Grant (4)
3. Select a thin or bold frame to suit your style
Once you select a general frame shape, decide between a thick frame or a thin one. Thick, bold frames are gutsy — like false lashes or a black leather jacket, while thin ones are more discreet — like smoky brown shadow or a cashmere sweater. There are no real rules anymore, but keep your facial proportions, features and personality in mind. If your goal is a pair of black cat-eye sunglasses, a statement frame, such as the Foster Grant Aimee Jet Set 2 in black ($21, fostergrant.com), has more attitude and drama; while a lighter frame — like the Foster Grant Gia in black ($21, fostergrant.com) — is more refined. Both have the look you're after but differ in intensity. Follow your instincts and heart.
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PHOTO BY: Foster Grant; Privé Revaux Eyewear; Walmart
4. Choose frame color strategically
The two most popular choices are black and tortoise, which do flatter everyone. Matte black has a hipster attitude, while shiny black adds a touch of glow to your skin. Tortoise (often referred to as “tort") is brown but comes in a range of shades. Warm tortoise has golden or red undertones and flatters warmer skin tones. Cooler tortoise has cool undertones with subtle hints of gray, navy or purple and flatters cooler skin tones. Think again in makeup terms here — just like selecting foundation or lipstick. For even more of a statement try frames in blue, green or violet; or for a blushlike healthy boost of color try coral, melon or pink frames. These can be transparent, metal or opaque plastic.
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PHOTO BY: Walmart (2); Kohl's
5. Let angular frames give you bone structure
Our faces at 50 aren't perfect geometric shapes — the squares, circles and ovals usually used to match the ideal eyeglasses for a particular face. However, squarish frames like the Privé Revaux The Chosen 58mm Polarized Sunglasses ($35, kohls.com) or even softened squares with rounded edges — such as the Circus by Sam Edelman Women's CC447 Cat-Eye Sunglasses with 100% UV Protection in brown or black ($40, walmart.com) and Jessica Simpson Women's Oversized Butterfly Sunglasses with 100% UV Protection — can give the illusion of chiseled cheekbones and stronger brows. They contour round, full faces and counteract extra width or sag around the jawline. Don't let the terms cat-eye or butterfly fool you — look at the shape, not the words.
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PHOTO BY: Kohl's; Target; Foster Grant
6. Let cat-eye or topline frames provide an eye lift
Any pair of sunglasses redirects attention to your eyes, but some go one step further. For a true uplift choose cat-eyes that extend and swoop gently up — like the Privé Revaux The Hepburn 57mm Cat-Eye Polarized Sunglasses in black or purple tort ($30, kohls.com) or Wild Fable Women's Cateye Tort Sunglasses in brown ($13, target.com). For a more conservative look with a similar effect (or if you simply don't like a cat-eye style) try a topline frame with a darker color on top — such as the Foster Grant Afia in black ($21, fostergrant.com), which also brings the focus up and out.
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PHOTO BY: Walmart; Target; Privé Revaux Eyewear
7. Aviators are a can't-miss classic
The lightweight metal of frames makes fans of anyone with sensitive skin or delicate features, but they really give everyone a sexy, sporty modern look. Choose a classic teardrop-shape aviator — like the A New Day Women's Aviator Sunglasses in bronze ($17, target.com) or Privé Revaux The Commando in antique silver/light blue mirror ($30, priverevaux.com) — or a new softly squared style like the Nanette Nanette Lepore Women's Aviator Sunglasses with 100% UV Protection ($40, walmart.com). If you're into trying mirrored or colored lenses, know that aviators are the one frame that works perfectly for these trendier styles.
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PHOTO BY: JCPenney; Target; HSN
8. Choose rounded frames to fill out a thin, long face
Some women lose volume in their cheeks as they age. This makes our faces appear longer, and downward expression lines around the mouth appear deeper. To compensate we muse about trying filler or keep adding width and volume to our hair. Roundish sunglasses are a good, quick fix … though not round sunglasses (the ones that look like circles), which are too trendy for most of us. Instead look for hybrid frames with a roundish shape — like the Foster Grant Round Combo Women's Sunglasses ($32, jcpenney.com); Simplify Clark Polarized Sunglasses, in tortoise frames and brown lenses ($63, hsn.com); or Wild Fable Women's Tortoise Shell Print Round Sunglasses in brown ($12, target.com). They combine the essential roundness on the bottom with a straighter top that gently curves along the brow line. They're a good choice for adding width at midface — right where you need it.
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PHOTO BY: Foster Grant; Walmart; Kohl's
9. Choose lenses for vision and style
Most ready-made sunglasses have lenses with a green, gray or brown tint, which is ideal since they decrease glare and don't distort colors. This is why airline pilots and pro drivers wear them. Classic color lenses — unlike pastels — also let your frames take the spotlight. You can vary the look with gradient lenses that start out dark on top and get lighter toward the bottom. However, pastel lenses are having a fashion moment and their own beauty benefits. Pink, lavender or blue lenses minimize eyestrain and camouflage puffy eyes, under-eye bags and lines.
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PHOTO BY: Ann Taylor; Old Navy; Target
10. Check out low-cost mall fashion sites for frames
Mass market retailers and chain stores usually stock lookalikes of the more expensive sunglasses you see around. These nonprescription sunnies are a good option if you wear contact lenses all the time or have had Lasik surgery. Often the frames will be having current features or specific colors for an upscale look. Look for a modern, soft cat-eye frame like the Ann Taylor Rounded Cateye Sunglasses in black ($48, anntaylor.com); an angular frame in beige (great for those with gray or blond hair!) like the Old Navy Round Cat-Eye Sunglasses in taupe ($13, oldnavy.gap.com); or a pair of chunky squares like the A New Day Women's Square Sunglasses in black ($15, target.com).
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PHOTO BY: EyeBuyDirect; Zenni (2)
11. Customized online Rx sunglasses
Here's where the price gets sticky. For prescription sunglasses your best bet is to comparison shop online for deals-of-the-day, promo codes and discounts at top eyeglass chain sites like EyeBuyDirect, Zenni Optical, LensCrafters and GlassesUSA. They have a wider selection than any actual store or optometrist and offer virtual try-ons. You get to quickly and efficiently sort by style, shape and color. Though the basic frames are fairly affordable (in the $35–$40 range), the price escalates quickly if you add special or progressive lenses and coatings. Your best bet might be to choose a simple single-vision prescription and limit the number of fancy extras to one. Be sure you have an accurate and current prescription on hand before you shop online, too.
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PHOTO BY: Peepers; Walmart; readers.com
12. Sun readers may be your extra sunglass option
Women who don't need prescription glasses full time but have problems reading the small print in books and on labels, documents or menus or doing tasks like journaling or sewing on a button are no strangers to readers. These magnification glasses — sold in strengths from +1.00 to +4.00 — come in all kinds of stylish shapes and colors and are easy to whip out and on as needed. Sunglass readers like the Azalea Reading Sunglasses in tortoise/pink with smoke ($24, readers.com), Peepers To the Max Reading Sunglasses in amber or green ($25, peepers.com) or proSPORT Gypsy Reading Sunglass CatEye Tortoise ($22, for two pairs, walmart.com) carry on the benefits. Just choose a pair with the right magnification and tuck your e-reader, real book or journal in your tote bag and enjoy the summer.
Lois Joy Johnson is a beauty and style editor who focuses on women 50 and older. She was the beauty and style editor at Ladies’ Home Journal and a founding editor of More magazine. She has written three books: The Makeup Wakeup, The Wardrobe Wakeup and The Woman's Wakeup.