“It’s better to look good than to feel good,” Billy Crystal’s Fernando character famously said on Saturday Night Live. But when it comes to sunglasses you don’t have to choose. A growing body of research shows that a great-looking pair of sunglasses can have positive effects on both your mood and appearance.
A study published in 2013 found that sun-induced frowning fostered aggressive feelings. Participants who walked into the sun wearing sunglasses reported lower levels of anger and aggression than those not wearing sunglasses. As anyone who’s ever seen a Clint Eastwood spaghetti western or a Gilbert Gottfried comedy routine knows, squinting makes you angry.
This should come as no surprise, since previous studies have found that making the conscious effort to smile can have the opposite effect of your best Eastwood imitation: Your brain takes note of your facial expression and actually generates positive emotions. Some psychologists have even asserted that wearing sunglasses can boost your sexual self-confidence.
According to psychologist Paul Ekman, an authority on facial expressions, about one-third of the facial expressions relating to human emotion involve the eyes. As a result, sunglasses are also a great option when you’d rather not let people know how you’re feeling. That’s one reason they’ve become increasingly popular among professional poker players.
When it comes to looking better, sunglasses can give you a boost by contributing to the facial symmetry associated with attractiveness. By minimizing squinting, they can help you ward off unsightly crow’s feet. And shades with an Eye Protection Factor of 9 or 10 or a “100% UV (ABC)” label can also help protect the skin around the eyes from the aging effects of sun damage.
Most important, sunglasses do more than keep you looking and feeling good. A quality pair also shields the eyes from the UV overexposure that can contribute to serious eye problems such as cataracts, macular degeneration, and eye growths called pterygiums.
After all, there’s more to life than just looking and feeling good. For independence and quality of life, it helps to see well too.
By contributing writer Chris Gelbach