Article from Essilor of America
Did you know that skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States? In fact, over the last three decades, more people have had skin cancer than all other cancers combined. What’s even more surprising is that about 10% of skin cancer occurs on the eyelids; yet, not even half the population takes the one simple precaution to avoid damage to the delicate skin around the eyes – wearing sunglasses with UV protection.
Sunglasses that block dangerous ultraviolet light can protect the skin around your eyes and also keep eyes healthy. Read on for details on how UV light affects our eyes and skin and how to prevent damage from these harmful rays.
How UV Light Affects the Eyes
There are three types of UV radiation emitted by the sun, although none can be seen or felt by humans:
- UVA rays – pass through the Earth’s atmosphere and reach the surface
- UVB rays – partially absorbed by the Earth’s atmosphere
- UVC rays – completely absorbed by the Earth’s atmosphere
UVA rays account for the majority of UV exposure and can penetrate the outer and middle layers of the skin and cause damage to the retina of the eye. UVB rays damage the skin’s outer layer and are usually to blame for sunburns, pterygium (an abnormal growth on the surface of the eye) and photokeratitis (sunburn of the eye). UVB rays may also lead to cataract development and age-related macular degeneration and can cause certain forms of eye cancer.
UV Light and the Skin around Our Eyes
Proper protection from UV light is also important when it comes to the skin around our eyes. This delicate skin is very thin and therefore an easy target for damage from UV light, which can lead to cancer, burns, and even alter our appearance. In fact, 90% of visible signs of premature aging around the eyes are caused by UV damage. Dermatologist Ava Shamban points out changes in the skin that can happen with UV exposure.
“Changes you may notice include brown sun spots, mottling and discoloration, loss of elasticity and collagen from sun radiation,wrinkles around the eyes from squinting in the sun, and dehydration that can leave skin leathery and more prone to wrinkling,” said Ava Shamban, M.D., and author of Heal Your Skin.
But there are things you can do to prevent damage from UV light and keep your eyes and skin protected.
How to Protect Your Eyes from UV Light
While the eyelids are designed to limit the amount of UV radiation that enters the eyes, the skin is too thin to effectively protect them. With that in mind, it’s important that we take steps to keep our eyes and the skin around them healthy. And we shouldn’t just be shading our eyes in the summer sun. UV light is present rain or shine and in cloudy weather and can even reflect off surfaces such as water, sand, snow, and even buildings.
When it comes to shielding our eyes from UV light, simply wearing sunglasses can make a huge difference. Look for sunglasses that fit the following criteria:
- 100% protection from UVA and UVB rays – Look for sunglasses that provide UV protection on both the front and backside of the lens and offer an Eye-Sun Protection Factor (E-SPF) of 50+, which is the maximum level of UV protection available and means the lenses provide 50 times more protection from dangerous UV radiation compared to wearing no lenses at all.
- Large, close-fitting wraparound frames – Make sure you purchase larger frames that cover a wider area of skin to further limit UV exposure. Wraparound sunglasses that come down to your cheekbones are a great option as they block more light from above and beyond the lenses. Be sure the frames fit snugly to your nose and ears without pinching, for a close fit that keeps your eyes and skin shielded.
- Sunglasses with polarized lenses – For an added layer of protection from dangerous glare, look for polarized sunglasses. These lenses minimize glare from reflective surfaces such as water, asphalt, windows, and snow.
Here are a few other tips to stay protected from UV light:
- Wear a hat – A broad-brimmed hat helps limit the UV rays that reach the eyes from above or around sunglasses.
- Check the time – Between the hours of 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. UV rays are at their peak, so it’s best to avoid the outdoors at this time or be sure you are wearing sunglasses and protective clothing. Keep in mind, that if you live near the equator or at a high altitude, UV light is even more intense.
- Lather on the sunscreen – Sunglasses and hats can’t cover your entire face, so wearing sunscreen is another good way to protect your skin. According to SkinCancer.org, most sunscreens with an SPF of 15 or higher do a good job of protecting against UVB rays. The site explains that if it takes 20 minutes for unprotected skin to start burning, then using an SPF 15 sunscreen will prevent you from turning red 15 times longer, or for about five hours.