Five tips to protect your eyes from the sun

couple wearing sunglasses at the beach

When it comes to protecting your skin from the sun, you’ve got a lot of options. You can get SPF protection ranging from 15 to 50 in a lotion, spray or stick. Waterproof, sweat-proof, anti-aging, hypoallergenic — take your pick.

And while 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.

Consider this: ultraviolet rays can lead to numerous health problems ranging from eye cancer to corneal sunburn (photokeratitis). They can also cause cataracts and pterygium (a growth that could eventually block vision).1

Most of us realize that staring into the sun for long periods of time isn’t good for our long-term vision, but did you know the sun’s rays can actually reach your eyes in a variety of ways? Think about fresh snow. Fresh snow 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

To boot, researchers estimate we receive 80% of our lifetime exposure to UV rays before age 18.4 Why? Compared to their parents, children have larger pupils (which allow more light into the eyes) and clearer lenses. Plus, they’re outside more frequently and for longer periods of time, typically without eye protection.4

So, how should you protect your eyes? Follow these 5 tips

  1. 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.6
  2. 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.
  3. Wear the right frames. While most sunglasses can help block UV rays from entering through the lenses, you might consider frame style with ample coverage (think wrap-around sunglasses).7 There are many high quality, stylish frames on the market from top retailers, like Target Optical®, who carry popular brands at a great value for kids and adults.
  4. Double up. Wide brimmed hats may protect from direct sun, but they don’t protect from UV rays that reflect up from pavement, sand, water, etc. — so you’ll also want to wear UV-blocking shades.
  5. Wear the right contacts. Contacts that protect against UV rays are classified into 2 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.

So the next time you’re applying sunscreen, make sure you’re protecting your eyes, too.

This sponsored content was produced in conjunction with Target Optical.

  1. “How can UR rays damage your eyes?” Prevent Blindness, Accessed April 2019.
  2. “How to educate patients about UV protection this winter,” American Optometric Association, “ Accessed April 2019.
  3. “UV radiation,” World Health Organization, Accessed April 2019.
  4. “Protecting children from ultraviolet radiation,” World Health Organization, Archived 11 December 2009. Accessed April 2019.
  5. Sasaki H. UV exposure to eyes greater in morning, late afternoon. Proc. 111th Ann. Meeting Japanese Ophthalmologic Soc., Osaka, Japan, April, 2007.
  6. ”Low Autumn sunshine spells danger for eye health,” Vision Matters, Accessed April 2019.
  7. “Recommended Types of Sunglasses,” American Academy of Ophthalmology, Accessed April 2019.
  8. “UV protection with contact lenses,” American Optometric Association, April 2019.