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Friday, January 18 , 2019, 8:49 am | Fair 52º


Santa Barbara Parents Focus on Fun, Function in Developing FunK Shades

Candy Hedrick says the sunglasses are designed to encourage kids to protect their eyes from harmful UV rays

FunK Shades owner Candy Hedrick could always get her daughter to wear sunscreen, but sunglasses posed a problem.

Her daughter, Katherine, has a brown birthmark around her eye, which is more susceptible to the sun’s ultraviolet rays. The 7-year-old loves to collect things and amassed several pairs of shades but wouldn’t wear them consistently, her mother said.

“She needed to wear her glasses, but I had a tough time getting her to wear them,” Hedrick said. “So we thought of a new way to think about glasses.”

Hedrick first tried sticking stickers on the frames, but they would fall off. Her husband, who has a mechanical engineering background, broke out his tools and started tweaking, Hedrick said. The Santa Barbara parents eventually developed 100 percent UVA/UVB polarized sunglasses that feature interchangeable, collectible and tradeable charms that snap on the frame.

“Your eyes have no natural protection and absorb the UV rays,” Hedrick said. “If you do it over and over again, it can create an optical problem. FunK Shades make it fun for them.”

Excessive exposure to the sun can burn the eye’s surface and lead to cataracts, a small growth in the corner of the eye called pterygium and skin cancer around the eyelids. Undeveloped eyes are far more sensitive than skin to UV rays, according to Dr. Mark Silverberg, who specializes in pediatric ophthalmology. He said FunK Shades are a good balance of fun and function.

“In my practice, and in the medical literature, I see that many eye diseases are linked to chronic, cumulative sun exposure,” he said. “It’s important to be proactive and protect kids’ eyes with sunglasses. Just as we put sunblock on children, sunglasses are an equally important tool. As a pediatric ophthalmologist, parents are always asking how to get their kids to wear sunglasses.”

Several independent retailers in Santa Barbara and Goleta, such as Chicken Little, recently began carrying FunK Shades. The “K” stands for Katherine.

Hedrick said there has been a lot more attention on sunscreen, and this is the next step.

“The goal is to protect children’s eyes from harmful UV rays,” she said. “I wanted my daughter to get excited about sunglasses and create a good habit. She got excited, her friends liked the concept and we went from there.”

Noozhawk staff writer Alex Kacik can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @NoozhawkBiz, @noozhawk and @NoozhawkNews. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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