4 Myths About Sunglasses

BY Katie Waldeck TIMEJuly 30, 2014 PRINT

By now, it’s probably been drilled into your head that you always, always need to wear sunscreen when you’re spending time outdoors. But your skin isn’t the only thing that needs protecting from the glare of the sun — your eyes need some coverage, too. And that is, of course, what sunglasses are for. Sunglasses are no mere fashion statement; they can actually help save your vision. As simple as it might seem to cover your eyes from the sun, there are plenty of misconceptions about why we need them, when we need them, and what kinds of sunglasses we need to look for. Read on for some of the biggest myths about summer eye health.

Myth 1: Not Wearing Sunglasses Really Isn’t a Big Deal. The sun can cause serious damage to your eyes, and sunglasses are your single best defensive mechanism. Sunglasses — or rather, the right kind of sunglasses — can protect your eyes from 99-100% of harmful UVA and UVB rays. The outer layer of your eye can burn much like your skin. A few hours in the sun sans sunglasses can make it more difficult for the eyes to adapt to darkness, and can impair your ability to drive at night hours after you left the beach. Eventually, prolonged sun damage can lead to cataracts, benign growths, and even skin cancer on the eyelids. People with fair skin and light eyes are more at risk of developing cancer and other eye diseases. For more on the effect of sunlight on your eye health, click here. Another reason to wear sunglasses? They’ll help delay the development of wrinkles around your eyes!

Myth 2: All Sunglasses Are Created Equal. Not by a long shot. For one thing, there are currently no standards in place for manufacturing or labeling sunglasses in the United States. Neither price nor the color of the lenses say anything about their effectiveness, either. So what can you do? Well, doing your homework and reading the fine print will certainly help. Look for sunglasses that offer 99-100% UVA/UVB protection. Polarized lenses are a great option for most people, and polycarbonate lenses are great for sports enthusiasts. Your best bet is to consult with your optometrist on what sunglasses best suit your needs and lifestyle.

Myth 3: You Only Really Need Sunglasses When It’s Sunny. Just like you’re supposed to wear sunscreen on cloudy days, you should be wearing sunglasses even when the sun isn’t shining. Whatever the weather, whatever the season, wear a pair of sunglasses whenever you’re spending time outside.

Myth 4: Sunglasses Are the Only Way to Protect Your Eyes From the Sun. Though you can’t apply sunscreen directly on your eyes, you can put some on your eyelids and the area directly around your eyes. Wide-brimmed hats will help keep the sun out of your eyes, too. And, of course, getting out of the sun from time to time doesn’t hurt. If you can, try to avoid going outside during peak sun hours — between 10AM and 2PM.

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