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Many people know the dangers that exposure to sunlight can pose to the skin, but did you know it can also severely damage your eyes?

Here comes the sun! Get outside, but be sure to protect your eyes

Written by Shaista Vally, OD, an optometrist at UK Advanced Eye Care.

Dr. Shaista Vally

Dr. Shaista Vally

The weather is warming up, and sunshine, swimming and the great outdoors are on everyone’s mind. While there is a lot of fun to be had in the summer, we must also consider how to adequately protect our eyes and skin, which can be damaged by prolonged exposure to sunlight.

Wear sunglasses with UV protection

Exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) radiation can cause sunburns and in some cases lead to cancer. UV radiation can also be a catalyst for cataracts, an eye condition marked by blurred vision. The best way to keep your eyes safe in the sun is to wear sunglasses with UV protection that prevent UV rays from entering the eye.

The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) determines the safety of ophthalmic sunglasses and verifies that they can prevent ultraviolet radiation from damaging the eye. Look for the “ANSI” symbol and “UV protection” when purchasing sunglasses. Keep in mind that cheaper shades are more affordable and trendy, but they may not offer you any protection from ultraviolet radiation.

In fact, wearing sunglasses without protection from ultraviolet radiation can actually do more harm than wearing nothing at all. When you wear nothing over your eyes, your tendency is to squint or keep your eyes closed, and the brightness naturally makes your pupils constrict, allowing fewer harmful rays to enter your eye. But your eyes dilate slightly when you wear tinted lenses, which lets more harmful rays enter your eye.

Apply sunscreen around your eyes

Additionally, the eyelid and eyebrow region is especially susceptible to basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma, which make up 5 to 10 percent of all skin cancers. Because the skin around the eye is very thin and contains very little subcutaneous tissue, it makes it easier for tumors to spread to nearby nasal and orbital cavities. Sunscreen with SPF is a simple way to prevent damage to the skin, but people often overlook applying sunscreen to their eyelids and area around their eyes as it often irritates their skin.

Buying facial lotions formulated for sensitive skin and applying a small amount with your eyes closed can prevent it from burning. Some people find that applying their daily facial cream first and allowing it to dry before applying SPF lotion helps prevent sunscreen irritation.

Get out there and enjoy the sunshine, but don’t forget to apply SPF sunscreen around your eyes and wear some UV-protected sunglasses!


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Before you head outside, think about your skin

Race day hat? Check. Bowtie? Check. Sunscreen? Check.

Whether you’re heading out to Keeneland this weekend or just spending time outside enjoying the spring weather, make sure sunscreen is a part of your wardrobe.

Even when temperatures are mild or skies are overcast, a day outside can still result in sunburned skin if you don’t take the proper precautions. Using sunscreen is the first step. It protects you from sunburn and limits suntan by reflecting ultraviolet rays.

Before you go outside, take a look at our tips for protecting your skin:

  • A sunscreen with SPF of 20 to 30 offers substantial protection against sunburns and usually prevents tanning.
  • The phrase “broad spectrum” on a product’s label means the sunscreen filters out ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) radiation exposure. UVA rays penetrate deep into the skin and are mostly responsible for premature aging and skin cancer. UVB rays affect the surface of the skin and cause sunburn. Be sure to pick a sunscreen that protects against both.
  • People with fair skin, especially those with blond or red hair, should be especially cautious. They are at the greatest risk of developing skin cancer, but all people are at some risk.
  • Use sunscreen on all exposed areas of skin. Don’t forget easily overlooked areas such as the rims of the ears, lips, back of the neck and feet. And if you don’t have a full head of hair, don’t forget the top of your head, either.
  • Make sure to use sunscreen liberally and rub it in well. The recommended dose is one ounce per full-body application (about the amount in a shot glass).
  • Apply the sunscreen 30 minutes before going outdoors. It needs time to absorb into the skin.
  • Reapply sunscreen every two hours, especially if you’re sweating.
  • Seek shade if you need to, especially between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when UV rays are at their strongest.
  • Your race day hat and sunglasses aren’t just fashion statements: They can also help protect your face from excessive sun.

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