Sunglasses Protection 101: Why Your Sunglasses Should Have UVA & UVB Protection
As the weather gets warmer, you may be eager to go outside and soak up the sunshine. Before you do, it’s important to safeguard yourself against the sun’s harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays and understand how to protect your eyes. Sunscreen and hats are two popular forms of sun protection that can help prevent painful sunburns, dangerous skin cancers, and premature aging caused by ultraviolet rays.
Sunglasses can also swoop in to save the day to protect your eyes from the sun’s rays.
But, how do sunglasses protect your eyes from the sun exactly? And do all sunglasses offer this essential UV protection? Below, we’ll answer all of your burning questions about sunglasses protection and eye health.
How Do Sunglasses Protect Your Eyes?
Anytime you’re outside, your skin and eyes are exposed to the sun’s UV rays. While sunscreen can protect your skin from these rays, sunglasses are required to protect your eyes from UV light.
So, how do sunglasses provide this protection?
Sunglass lenses often feature a protective UV coating. This special eye protection coating blocks harmful UV rays, including UVA and UVB rays, from reaching your eyes and causing damage or eye disease.
UVA vs UVB Rays
There are three types of UV rays: UVA, UVB, and UVC. But only two of these UV rays can make it past the ozone layer.
Let’s take a look at how these three UV rays differ from each other:
- UVA – UVA rays are the longest type of UV ray. They can infiltrate deep into your skin and eyes. Since UVA rays can penetrate so deeply, they often make it past your eye’s cornea (the clear, outer layer of your eye) all the way to its macula (the part of your retina that helps you see clearly).
High levels of exposure to UV rays may cause your eyes to develop cataracts or macular degeneration. It may also lead to premature aging, wrinkles, sun spots, and skin cancer.
UVB – UVB rays are less common than UVA rays. While UVA rays are always present outside, UVB rays peak during spring and fall, especially between the sunny hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
With light exposure, UVB rays can give you a tan. That’s because they stimulate your skin to produce more melanin. With extended exposure, UVB rays can lead to sunburns, skin cancer, skin discoloration, and the development of wrinkles.
Since UVB rays can’t penetrate as deeply as UVA rays, your eye’s cornea absorbs nearly 100% of them. As a result, the damage UVB rays can inflict on your eyes is largely confined to the corneas, resulting in eye diseases like pinguecula, pterygium, and photokeratitis.
- UVC – UVC rays are the most potent of the UV rays. Luckily, you don’t need to worry about them. The Earth’s atmosphere blocks all UVC rays, so they can’t reach you or your eyes—even if you stare directly into the sun. However, as the ozone layer gets depleted, UVC rays could become a concern in the future.
As you can see, UVA and UVB rays can put your skin and eyes in harm's way. Wearing sunscreen, sunglasses, and wide-brimmed hats are a few ways to safeguard your body from their damage.
What Eye Diseases Can Sunglasses Prevent?
By shielding your eyes from these damaging UV rays, sunglasses lenses can help prevent the following eye diseases:
Photokeratitis – After extended exposure to UV rays, your eyes’ corneas can become inflamed, leading to a temporary condition known as photokeratitis. You can think of photokeratitis as an eye sunburn. It’s also referred to as “snow blindness.”
Some symptoms of photokeratitis include burning, redness, blurriness, tearing, a gritty sensation, swelling, sensitivity to light, and occasionally, temporary vision loss. Fortunately, this condition usually heals on its own within a few days.
- Cataracts – A cataract is a clouding of the eye’s lenses. It can lead to blurry vision. Cataracts usually occur as a result of aging, but exposure to UV rays can increase your risk of developing them. According to the World Health Organization, around 20% of cataracts are caused by UV exposure. The only way to remove cataracts is through surgery.
Macular degeneration – The macula is the part of your retina that’s responsible for your central vision. It helps you process sharp images, like text and facial expressions. Unfortunately, UV exposure can cause your macula to deteriorate over time. When this happens, your vision may become warped and you may lose the ability to see fine details.
Pinguecula and pterygium – Pinguecula and pterygium (also known as “surfer’s eye”) are yellow growths that can develop on your eyes’ conjunctiva (the thin membrane that covers the surface of your eye). Over time, these growths may become large enough to impair your vision. They may also cause an uncomfortable, gritty feeling in your eye.
- Skin cancer near the eyes – Just like the rest of your skin, the skin surrounding your eyes is susceptible to cancer. Five to ten percent of skin cancer develops around the eyes. Skin cancer may look like a bump or growth on the skin that bleeds and scabs recurrently. Luckily, sunglasses can help protect the skin around your eyes from the sun’s harmful rays.
Do All Sunglasses Have UV Protection?
Unfortunately, not all sunglasses offer UV protection. If you don’t purchase a pair with the right type of lenses, your eyes may still be at risk of developing these diseases.
Contrary to popular belief, the color of your sunglass lenses has nothing to do with their degree of UV protection. What matters most is their UV protection rating.
According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, sunglasses with a UV 400 rating block 99% to 100% of UVA and UVB radiation. Thus, UV 400 is the gold standard of UV protection.
How to Find Out if Your Favorite Sunglasses Offer UV Protection
Maybe you already own a pair of sunglasses that you adore wearing. If you’re not sure about their UV protection rating, you can:
Check their product details – Most sunglasses manufacturers will let you know the UV protection rating of their products on the label.
- Have them tested – If you no longer have the label for your favorite sunglasses, you can take them to your ophthalmologist’s office or an optical store to have them tested. Most of the time, a UV protection rating test can be conducted for free.
If your sunglasses aren’t adequately protective, there’s no need to toss them out. Simply swap out their lenses for UV 400-rated lens replacements. Here at Revant, we carry replacement lenses for a vast selection of popular sunglass models.
What About Polarization?
Polarized sunglasses are very popular, especially for people who enjoy participating in water and winter sports. That’s because polarized lenses filter out the harsh glare that can arise when looking at bright surfaces, such as water, snow, or pavement. These surfaces can be blinding on a sunny day.
While polarized sunglasses can improve your visibility, they don't impact your sunglasses’ UV protection. As a result, you should still make sure your polarized sunglasses have a UV 400 rating.
How to Choose Sunglasses that Protect Your Vision
If you’re in the market for a new pair of sunglasses, you should shop with a few factors in mind. Of course, you’ll want to choose a pair that suits your style and feels comfortable on your face.
In addition to that, you should:
Choose a pair with UV 400-rated lenses – As you now know, the most important thing to look for if you want comprehensive UV protection is a UV 400 rating. If you find a stylish pair of sunglasses without this level of protection, you can upgrade them with UV-protective lenses.
Don’t assume a high price tag guarantees UV protection – If you’re willing to splurge on a pricey pair of sunglasses, you may assume that 100% UV protection is guaranteed. However, price and UV protection are not always correlated.
You can find affordable sunglasses with excellent UV protection, as well as luxury sunglasses that don’t offer any at all. Rather than assuming a high-end pair of designer sunglasses has UV protection, do your due diligence and check the label.
- Go for larger lenses – Sunglasses with larger lenses protect your eyes and surrounding skin better than smaller sunglass lenses. Wraparound lenses offer the most amount of protection.
Once you’ve purchased a new pair of sunglasses, make sure to wear them regularly. Even the best pair of sunglasses won’t do your eyes any good if you forget to put them on.
Remember, UV rays are always out there lurking, even on cloudy days and during colder months. As a result, you should wear your sunglasses anytime you’re outside during the day.
Upgrade Your UV Protection With Revant Replacement Lenses
If you’re searching for a high-quality set of replacement sunglass lenses with 100% UV protection, Revant has you covered. We carry UV 400 lens replacements for a variety of sunglass brands, including:
- Maui Jim
- Tom Ford
Replacing your favorite pair of sunglasses’ lenses can offer you the UV protection your eyes deserve—affordably and sustainably. We’ll cut your new lenses upon order, so you can receive a custom pair made just for you. Best of all, our lens replacements are easy to install.
Upgrade your shades with UV-protective lenses from Revant today.