*by MacKenzie Ryan

Most eye-seeing people can try on a pair of sunnies and decide if that style looks aesthetically pleasing or not. You turn around, ask a friend or the retailer, and you get confirmation.

What the explanations online, at the retailer, and from your friends' mouths aren't identifying, are how your facial features are affected and how distinct sunglass shapes help accentuate them.

We break down the lenses to search for, and how certain kinds of frames not only fit your face, but how to balance and emphasize certain facial features.

6 General Rules of Sunglass Shopping

Rule #1-The frames of your sunglasses should balance or counteract the distinct shape of your face. In other words, they should be in direct contrast. Rounder faces need angular glasses to create shape, whereas angular faces need round glasses to soften shape.

Rule #2-The size of your face or head should be in direct parallel, meaning big heads need to avoid teeny, tiny glasses, as small heads should stay away from giant, Jackie-O's. Also, more prominent mouths and noses demand bigger frames.

Rule #3-Polarized lenses have been developed to reduce glare and increase definition of contours. Look for polarized lenses to comfortably take your vision to a higher level of definition.

Rule #4-Look for shockproof and scratch-resistant frames which prevent wear and tear, and provide a longer-lasting sunglass frame, meaning more bang for your buck.

Rule #5-Always double-check that the lenses supply 100% UV protection. This is the most important reason to buy sunglasses, so if you’re thinking of wearing those cheap, $5 sunglasses, they will harm you more than help you.

Rule #6-Lens tints and colors, whether light or dark, are completely independent of UV protection. As long as the lenses are certified 100% UV protection, the lens tint and color is totally up to your own aesthetics and how comfortable your eyes feel whether looking thru a brighter or darker lens color. In fact, a clear lens with 100% UV protection is 100% better for your vision than a dark grey lens without UV protection. (Don’t Be Fooled: wearing a dark lens with zero UV protection causes the eyes to dilate, which in turn exposes the eyes to more UV damage)

Face Shapes

People's faces are categorized in the following shapes: square, oval, heart (also known as triangle), oblong, and round. Below we'll identify the key facial features of those face shapes and recommend how to compliment them with the right pair of shades. Be aware that some people have hybrid shapes.

Determine your face shape by pulling your hair back or looking in the mirror post-shower. Notice the width of your forehead, cheekbones, jaw line and chin.


Your face has a proportional length and width. Jaw line and forehead are the same width, which is more or less the same length of your face. You need rounder frames to de-emphasize the angularity of your jaw line. Glasses with high temples, taller frames and aviator styles are recommended. Cat-eye, butterfly, round and oval shapes are best. Square-faced women with shorter hair can rock the big oversized diva glasses. Ladies with flowing locks can pick something a little wider, like a butterfly.

(If you're face is more rectangular than square, be aware of getting too small a frame, which will accentuate your face length. Avoid anything with an obvious horizontal line).

Try this Church and State Optics style:


The easiest face shape to shop for, oval-faced people should look to their hair for guidelines. Shorter cuts compliment rectangular or square frames. Longer hair works best with aviators and over-sized lenses.

Try this Church and State Optics style:


This is the most difficult face to shop fro sunglasses. The heart-shaped face has a broad forehead, high cheekbones and a narrow jaw line to a smaller chin. Bottom-heavy frames with lower temples help balance your narrow jaw line. Rimless and semi-rimless styles are also a plus. Don't get top-heavy rectangular frames that highlight a broad forehead. Pick butterfly styles, which feature rounded upper corners with wide arms that make your forehead look narrower. 

Try this Church and State Optics style:


The biggest obstacle for oblong faces is the size height of the sunglass frame. Make sure they aren't too small for your face! Go tall and go broad, the bigger the better! Angular frames like oversized wayfarer or cat-eyes look spectacular on oblong face shapes.

Try this Church and State Optics style:


Cheeks are full and everything is more or less in proportion. The goal here is to create the appearance of lengthening. Rectangular frames like wayfarer styles make the face look longer and thinner. 

Try this Church and State Optics style:

 *MacKenzie Ryan is a freelance journalist whose writing experience is based in the outdoor, adventure, and action sports arena. Her works have been published in BackpackerWomen’s Adventure MagazineBicyclingThe Denver Post, and Mountain Bike. Follow more of her adventures at http://mackenzieryan.tumblr.com/