When it comes to protecting your skin from the sun, your options are limitless. Sunscreen comes in lotion, spray or stick form. UVA and UVB filters. Waterproof, sweat-proof, anti-aging, hypoallergenic. SPF 15 or SPF 50. You name it – the list goes on.
But sunscreen is not designed for your eyes (at least not yet). It’s still just as important to protect your eyes from the sun’s harmful rays as it is to shield your skin.
Ultraviolet rays can lead to numerous health problems — ranging from eye cancer to pink eye. They can also cause cataracts, photokeratitis (a kind of sunburn of the cornea) and pterygium (a white or creamy fleshy growth on the surface of the eye).1
Most of us realize that staring into the sun for long periods of time isn’t good for our long-term vision. But its rays actually reach our eyes in a variety of ways. Fresh snow, for instance, reflects as much as 80% of UV radiation, which means we can damage our eyes even by looking down.2 Sea foam reflects about 25% of UV radiation and dry sand about 15%. Even grass, soil and water reflect UV rays.3
Researchers estimate we receive 80% of our lifetime exposure to UV rays before age 18.4 Why? When compared to their parents, children have larger pupils (allowing more light into their eyes) and clearer lenses — plus they’re outside more frequently and for longer periods of time, and typically without eye protection.4
So what should you do to protect your eyes? Here are 5 tips:
- Know when the sun is strongest. Myth buster: the highest UV radiation exposure for eyes and skin is actually in the morning and mid-afternoon, rather than at noon.5 Sun exposure to the eyes tends to be more continual in fall, winter and spring when the sun is lower in the sky.5
- Wear the right lenses. Don’t skimp when it comes to sunglasses. Choose high-quality sunglasses with adequate UV protection to help reduce glare from protective surfaces. Target Optical® offers stylish and budget-friendly prescription sunglasses for both kids and adults with UV protecting polarized lens options.
- Wear the right frames. While most sunglasses can help block UV rays from entering through the lenses, pick a frame style with ample coverage like wrap around sunglasses.7
- Double up. Wide brimmed hats don’t protect from UV rays that reflect up from pavement, sand, water, etc. — so be sure to also wear UV-blocking shades.
- Wear the right contacts. Contacts that protect against UV rays are classified into two categories: Class I and Class II. Class I UV-blockers provide the greatest measure of UV protection.8 Talk with your eye doctor about the best UV-blocking contact lens options for you, and then ship around for the best deals (tip: some online retailers like TargetOptical.com – will let you apply your vision benefits so you can shop while seeing exactly what you’ll pay after your contact lens allowance. is applied.
So the next time you’re applying sunscreen, make sure you’re following these guidelines as well. Your sight might just depend on it.
- Sasaki H. UV exposure to eyes greater in morning, late afternoon. Proc. 111th Ann. Meeting Japanese Ophthalmologic Soc., Osaka, Japan, April, 2007.
- Dain SJ. Sunglasses and sunglass standards. Clin Exp Optom. 2003 Mar;86(2):77–90. Review.
- Young S, Sands J. Sun and the eye: prevention and detection of light-induced disease. Clin Dermatol. 1998 Jul-Aug;16(4):477–85.