Look out for your eyes - A professional’s insight into sun protection

Despite their ability to make a huge fashion statement, sunglasses are an important accessory to help look after our eyes and protect from harmful UV rays.

But how do we know our glasses are protecting us effectively?

To help customers understand the important of sun protection as we enter these brighter months, lead dispensing optician and practice manager, Gemma Rae, shares her insight into which key features help block harmful rays.

Out of sight, out of mind

Most of us are inclined to put on our glasses when it’s a sunny day, however Gemma advises that just because the sun isn’t shining, it doesn’t mean we should avoid protection.

“Sunglasses are an important form of protective eyewear,” she says. “People are often prompted to first wear their sunglasses when they feel the sky is too bright, causing them to squint in an attempt to see properly.

“However, it’s not just a clear blue sky that can impact our eyes. Light or thin cloud coverage can cause scatter to UV rays which may enhance UV levels. Surfaces can also reflect UV rays, for example; soil, water, sand and snow, so we really should consider wearing them even on days where the sun isn’t out.

“We often associate sunglasses with summer holidays and while it’s certainly required in a sunnier climate, even in the UK we should wear them more than we do. UV rays are there all the time, and many take it for granted that it only exists abroad.”

What should you look out for?

As consumers, we often pick sunglasses based on the style and tint of the lens – and it’s a common misconception that the darker the lens tint, the more it blocks out UV rays.

When buying your next pair of shades, Gemma explains there’s a few different things to choose from, such as standard tints or polarised tints.

“Both types will offer UV protection, in Britain we adhere to a certain standard to make sure there is no transfer of UV rays. The main difference is that a polarised lens helps to reduce glare as well as block sunlight.

“Due to its advanced technology over a standard tint, polarised lenses tend to be more expensive, however from a driving perspective this would be a preferred option, enhancing contrast and safety.“

Often us Brits buy our sunglasses abroad last minute or to get that designer look for less, but Gemma advises that unless purchased from a brand or well-respected retail chain, these sunglasses are mostly unsuitable for protection, so we could be doing our eyes more harm than good.

“There are hundreds of carbon copies of designer brands, which are often sold in markets abroad. Some attempt to mimic authenticity, right down to safety marks by placing a CE logo (typically a sign of conformity to British Standards which would include UV protection) on the lens, however there is no guarantee there is any protection against the transfer of UV rays.”

Where possible we should always buy our sunglasses in the UK, so we can be assured they’re effective in protecting our eyes.

A frame that fits

While frames are often selected based off personal preference, it’s more important a frame actually fits (and suits!) the face properly.

“Customers often go for a large frame as a fashion statement, but from an optical point of view, we want customers to have good coverage of the eye. This may mean a larger frame to an extent, but it should be close cutting as opposed to being too wide at the sides, and allowing harmful rays in.

“A neat, wrapped frame is ideal for protecting eyes against the sun. Typically, this offers a sporty look and the close fitting wrapped appearance helps stop UV rays come in through the side of the lens.

“For those who are looking for a more fashionable frame, it’s still vital for every individual that the frame fits the facial proportions correctly, to avoid rays coming through the top and side of the frame. Something to look for here would be an appropriate width, close fitting, yet still comfortable.”