During the summer months, most of us love to spend as much time in the sun as we can. We all know that the sun is not always a friend to our skin, but what we might not know is that the sun can be harmful to our eyes as well (even if we aren’t staring directly at it). But don’t worry; this doesn’t mean we are destined to spend all of our warm days inside. There are many strategies available to help us to protect our eyes and enjoy the sun.
“Just as UV radiation (UVA and UVB) from the sun and tanning beds can damage our skin, unprotected exposure to UV rays can also damage our eyes,” confirms Sphere Optometry’s Dr. Danielle Gordon.
She says that UV radiation can not only lead to multiple forms of skin cancer and premature aging to the skin around our eyes, it can also hasten cataract development, increase risk of macular degeneration and conjunctival cancer, and also solar keratitis (effectively a sunburn of the cornea).
The key to ensuring your eyes aren’t being damaged by the sun is as simple as wearing the proper sunglasses year-round.
“It’s a common misconception to think that the sun’s rays are less damaging when it’s cold out, but the converse can actually be true, especially if dealing with reflections off the snow,” says Dr. Danielle. “Reflections off sand and water can also pose increased risk.”
So, what are considered the “proper” sunglasses? Unfortunately, the sunglasses you find at your typical apparel retailers or the gas station are not doing the job of fully protecting your eyes from the sun.
“Some good news: in Canada, all sunglasses must meet UV400 level protection; however, only opticals or sunglasses stores can guarantee this level of protection,” says Bethany Thompson, frame stylist and manager at Sphere. “But UV400 is where you’d like your lenses to be to properly protect your eyes from sun damage.”
Wearing sunglasses offers many benefits and the tint of lens you choose could benefit you in different ways. For example, green lenses are beneficial to golfers because they improve the contrast on grass as well as against blue sky; or grey lenses darken more than other colours, helping those with light sensitivity. Polarization on top of the colour is great for reducing glare.
“But the number one thing is style, let’s be honest!” says Bethany. “Find a style you love, and you’ll never leave them behind! You’ll always want to have them on and love being in them.”
Secondary in importance to style is fit.
“Make sure they fit you well. If they are always falling off or have huge gap areas where the sun is still bothering you, then the sunglasses aren’t doing their job.”
Some independent brands that Bethany recommends that ensure they cover all of your sun protection needs are: “Raen, a company that does effortlessly cool styles for anyone and everyone; Moscot, great for vintage styles and is commonly worn by celebs all the time; and if you love funky styles that people will spot from a mile away you can’t beat Kaleos!”
And, remember, “Be sure to choose a sunscreen that is at least SPF 15 to wear daily and take special care to apply on the skin around the eyes,” say Dr. Danielle.