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How to choose the perfect pair of sunglasses

How to Pick the Perfect Pair of Sunglasses

Photo by Ethan Robertson on Unsplash

Sun can make or break a holiday. Too little and you may as well stay home. Too much and you’re in danger of damaging your skin and feeling sore for weeks. 

And even if you are slathering on your sunscreen, there might be one area of your body you’re failing to protect: your eyes. Just as we need to protect our skin from the sun’s harmful UV rays, we also need to make sure our eyes are protected, too. 

Before you head out on your summer holiday, be sure to invest in a solid pair of shades. Here’s a few tips on picking the perfect pair...

What are UV rays?

The sun gives off UV radiation that you can’t see or feel, making it difficult to know how strong it is and what effect it will have. In the summer, UV radiation levels can be up to three times higher than they are in the winter months. Although, don't let a cloudy day lull you into a false sense of security: UV rays can still be damaging on an overcast day. 

The amount and intensity of UV radiation varies depending on the time of day, month, and geographic location. UV radiation is particularly high close to the equator, for instance in Thailand, Central America and Florida. Australia and New Zealand receive the highest levels of UV exposure in the world, due to their location close to the ozone hole – an exceptionally depleted region of the ozone layer in the upper atmosphere. If you’re travelling to any of these destinations, you’ll need to take extra care to protect your skin and your eyes from harmful UV rays. 

How can UV rays can damage your eyes?

Extended exposure to sunlight without eye-protection can cause a condition known as photokeratitis, otherwise known as eye sunburn. Yes, eye sunburn is real, and much like burns on your skin, photokeratitis can be painful and uncomfortable. It can also cause blurred vision, headaches, and even temporary blindness. 

Fortunately, the effects aren’t permanent in most cases and any discomfort can be treated using eye drops. However, prolonged or direct exposure to UV light can have greater consequences and increase the risk of developing eye diseases, including macular degeneration and cataracts. 

It’s not just the eyes themselves that can be damaged by the sun. The thin, sensitive skin around your eyes is highly susceptible to skin cancer so it’s hugely important to protect the tissue surrounding your eyes – including the upper and lower eyelids – from harmful UV rays. 

Use your fingers to carefully apply sun cream to the skin around your eyes and wash and dry your hands after application. Choose a sun cream brand that is gentle on your skin and it won’t be as painful if some accidentally reaches your eyes. 

How to pick a good pair of sunglasses 

There’s a fashion factor at play here, but let's not forget that sunglasses have an important purpose: to protect our eyes from harmful radiation. Here’s a few things you ought to consider when picking out your next pair of sunglasses. 

  • UV Protection: Before you check the price tag, read the label. All sunglasses sold in the UK should carry a CE mark, indicating that they meet the European safety standards. If they don’t block out at least 99% of both UVA and UVB, leave them on the shelf. 

  • Tinted: Just because a lens appears darker, it doesn’t mean its ability to block out harmful radiation is any greater than a lighter lens. In fact, it can mean the opposite. Darker lenses can cause the pupils to dilate, which makes the eyes more vulnerable to UV rays. 

  • Polarised: Polarised sunglasses work to combat glare from reflective surfaces like water, snow and sand, by scattering the light before it reaches your eye. They come with a higher price tag, but they will help reduce strain and squinting by giving you glare-free vision. 

  • The perfect fit: Microshades might be cool, but sun damage to your eyes is definitely not. Look for sunglasses that are large enough to completely cover the eye to prevent sunlight seeping through the sides of the glasses. Sheltering the skin around your eyes will also help ward off wrinkles.  

  • Sunglasses for driving: If you’re taking a road trip this summer, there’s more to consider when purchasing a new pair of sunglasses. Oversized frames may obstruct your peripheral vision, making it harder to identify potential hazards on the road. Shades with skinny arms or wrap around styles are a better option.