If you’ve ever come home from the beach looking like a lobster, you’re aware of the damage the sun can do to your skin. But did you know that hours of exposure to bright sunlight can burn the surface of the eye and lead to permanent damage? Although most everyone wears sunglasses at the beach, the snow actually reflects 65 percent more of the sun’s rays than dry sand at the beach. Whether you’re cruising the beach, hitting the slopes, or heading out for a walk, proper eye protection is crucial. Here’s some tips for choosing the best pair of UV protection sunglasses on the market.
Read the Fine Print
Prolonged exposure to UV radiation damages the surface tissues of the eyes as well as the retina and lens. While the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) considers sunglasses to be medical devices, they don’t stipulate that they provide any minimum level of UV protection. Unfortunately, this means the sunglasses at your average sunglasses store could range from fully-protected to completely ineffective. When shopping for a pair of UV protection sunglasses, look for labels or tags that claim the glasses provide at least “98 percent UV protection” or block “98 percent of UVA and UVB rays.” If there’s no label or if the label says something vague like “blocks most UV light”, keep shopping.
Pay Attention to Size
Not only are larger frames ultra-chic, but they provide extra protection as well. Choosing a style with big lenses ensures that your entire eye area is shielded from the harmful rays of the sun – if the top of the sunglass frame reaches your brow bone and the bottom reaches the top of your cheek bone, you’re covered. For those interested in full protection, wrap-around designs can keep glare and damaging UV rays from finding their way into your eyes through the sides of your sunglasses. Don’t worry about the color or thickness of the lens: extremely dark or think sunglasses don’t provide any extra protection.
Wear Sunglasses Year Round
Though the weather may change from season to season, the amount of harmful UV rays does not. Wearing UV protection sunglasses is especially important in the winter months, as fresh snow can nearly double your overall exposure to UV radiation. If you ski or snowboard and are concerned about your sunglasses falling off, certain ski goggles come with UV protection. Removing your sunglasses while in the shade may seem like a natural instinct, but remember to keep them on as your eyes will still be exposed to rays reflected from buildings, roadways, and other surfaces. Even if your contacts offer UV protection, you’ll still need sunglasses: they’ll protect the areas of your eyes your contacts miss.
Don’t Forget About the Kids
Your kid might look cute in those Dora the Explorer shades, but the fact of the matter is they don’t provide protection from the sun. Although children with lighter eyes are especially vulnerable to sun damage, it’s recommended that all children get into the habit of wearing UV protection sunglasses. If your child is especially active or plays sports regularly, consider purchasing sport-specific goggles. Not only will these protect their eyes from the sun, but they could also prevent sports-related eye injuries – some which can cause blindness in children. According to the National Eye Institute, protective eyewear could prevent 90- percent of sports-related eye injuries in children.