Ditch those $5 glasses. Here’s how to find the best pair for your peepers.

I like to think of myself as a penny-pinching fashionista. I almost always get my clothes on the clearance rack, and my biggest hauls come from raiding my boyfriend’s closet. This means I am no stranger to the clearance bins at stores in the mall.

Every summer, I go to one of these bins, pick up shades that are “in style” and move on to my next find. Unfortunately, this practice has done me more harm than good.

Sunglasses do much more than make for a great summer accessory?—?they also protect your eyes from harmful sun rays. Just like your skin, your eyes are susceptible to damage from too much exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays. Your cornea can become sunburned, causing serious pain and temporary blindness. Excessive UV light can lead to macular degeneration, a leading cause of blindness. And at least 10% of cataract cases are directly attributable to UV exposure. Let’s not even get started on the dangers of skin cancer.

Modeling a cheap pair of sunglasses I found at the bottom of my purse. Antonio Manaligod?—?dose.

But when it comes to keeping your eyes safe, not all sunglasses are created equal. For example, I bought a pair two years ago that look stylish, but offer no true UV protection. They only shade my eyes and make my pupils dilate?—?which actually allows more UV rays to pass through the eyes. This is why your optician gives you those uber-cool, wrap-around black shades after you get your pupils dilated.

Long story short, those sunglasses you bought while waiting in the checkout line aren’t going to cut it when it comes to protecting your eyes. And because I’m a firm believer in practicing what you preach, I decided it was time to stop being cheap and finally invest in my eye health. So, I set out to find the perfect pair of sunglasses.

Trying out my new pairs of sunglasses. Sweatshirt found during a haul of my boyfriend’s closet. Antonio Manaligod?—?dose.

Since I prefer wearing glasses over contacts, I wanted a pair that could complement my prescription. Additionally, the glasses had to have 100% UV protection and, of course, be stylish.

I ended up choosing two different pairs of Maui Jim sunglasses, Koko Head and Cliff House. While priced above my usual $5 spending limit, they seemed like the biggest bang for my buck. I have to admit, I didn’t realize the difference quality sunglasses could actually make. But when I tried them on, they far surpassed my expectations. The lenses, when paired with my prescription, made my vision SUPER clear.

What my old lenses look like (left) What my new lenses look like (right) Diamond Brown?—?dose.

As you can see from my DIY experiment above, the Maui Jim sunglasses on the right aren’t just acting as shades for my eyes—they give me the clarity I want and the protection I need.

After spotting the differences between my old glasses and my new Maui Jims, I realized that my penny-pinching days were over. Now when I’m on the hunt for new shades, I keep my eye health top of mind by following a few simple rules. A high-quality pair should have a label that says 99-100% UV absorption or UV 400 (which means they block all UV rays). You don’t have to pick the darkest pair in the store to get the best sun protection. And don’t mistake polarized for added sun protection?—?they don’t have any advantage in terms of absorbing UV.

I guess what they say is true—you really do get what you pay for.