Ahh, New York City in springtime. I attended the eye care professionals’ conference and trade show there last month.
I sloshed through cats-and-dogs rain to learn the industry’s latest wisdom about eye health, frame fashion, lens technology and more. I tried on exquisite new frames and added the dreamiest among them to the On Your Face Glasses collection.
I can’t wait to share it all with you! Since the rain is giving way to some spring sunshine, I’ll start with this imperative info about UV light and your eyes’ health.
A UV primer
First, very simply, what is ultraviolet (UV) light? For starters, it’s a misnomer, since it is the part of the electromagnetic spectrum that we cannot see. More accurately, it’s ultraviolet radiation. Ultraviolet means “beyond violet” and refers to the span of the electromagnetic spectrum just beyond the colors we can see.
When outdoors during the day, even when cloudy, we are exposed to UV radiation from the sun. It penetrates and damages our unprotected skin and eyes. Short-term damage—both skin and eyes sunburn, regardless of original, natural color. And long-term, repeated exposure to UV radiation is linked to early cataracts, macular degeneration and skin cancer, among other conditions that bring blindness and threaten life itself.
How? Slather the skin, hide the eyes
So we need to protect all exposed skin by applying broad-spectrum (blocking both UVA and UVB rays) sunscreen. Slather it, rub it in, and repeat every two hours. The closest we can get to slathering the eyes, and eyelids, is to cover them with protective materials. Whether we need a prescription to correct our vision or not, we must wear sunglasses that filter out damaging UV radiation.
Not just any frame with dark lenses delivers the required protection. So, which glasses keep skin and eyes safe from the sun? Happily, we have choices.
Many styles do the deed. Just choose according to these guidelines.
Whether we need a prescription to correct our vision or not, we must wear sunglasses that filter out damaging UV radiation.
When in the sun, wear specs that cover your eyes, of course, plus ample margins around them, to minimize the sunlight’s access to them and to the surrounding, delicate skin. Thicker temples (arms) on a frame shield more of the side of your face than thinner temples.
Fit for (healthy) royalty
Close and comfy saves the day. A fit that curves the frame along your face’s contour (called “frame wrap”), leaving minimal space between it and you, will block more UV radiation than a fashion frame shaped straight across the face and sitting farther from the eyes.
Lenses—you’ve got options
Photochromics, aka Transitions
Perhaps the easiest solution to manage, especially if you already need your vision corrected, are photochromic lenses, commonly known by the brand name Transitions. Clear indoors, UV rays activate them to darken outdoors. This brilliant two-in-one technology makes changing glasses to step out and back in unnecessary. Photochromics contain 100% UV protection. They’re a no-brainer.
This handy, slim, high-quality accessory is cut and colored to perfectly fit and match your specific frame. It looks oh-so-cool and transforms the glasses you already own and love into sunglasses that effectively protect your eyes from the sun. Lenses come in various colors, contain 100% UV protection and are polarized for crisp vision and reduced glare.
A note about polarization
Polarized lenses reduce glare and make seeing in bright conditions comfortable. They contain a filter that blocks light coming from all except one direction. As a result, whether you’re on the road, on the water or navigating other pesky bright places, polarized lenses give you crisp outdoor vision, with vibrant color and strong contrast. They may or may not provide 100% UV protection.
The bummer about polarized lenses: their filter blocks much or all the light that displays the images on electronic devices. What to do? You can rotate your mobile device to align the filters so they let the light through. Or, more practically, get a pair of sunglasses for outdoor work, without polarization, and a polarized pair for outdoor activity when you won’t be viewing screens. Incidentally, Transitions are not polarized.
Polarized or not, make sure your lenses contain … you guessed it: 100% UV protection.
Clear lenses and UV protection
All polycarbonate and high-index lenses contain 100% UV protection, built right into the material. So even if you don’t have those materials treated for comfort in the sun—with polarization or photochromics—your eyes and skin behind the lenses will be protected from the sun’s harmful UV rays.
A myth debunked
Lenses, polarized or not, even if tinted very dark, but without 100% UV protection, do not protect from the sun’s harmful rays. In fact, darkly tinted lenses cause the pupils to dilate, letting in more UV radiation than a lighter tint would. Without proper protection, the eyes risk damage. If you buy sunglasses at the store, make sure they are labeled “100% UV protection,” or “UV400.”
Visions worth protecting
Following my return from NYC, my first morning run in Denver delivered this delicious sight: the season’s first blooming crocuses.
I think I post one of these photos every spring. The early blossoms promise—just around the corner—the freedom of summer road trips, al fresco happy hours with precious friends, backcountry camping beside rushing streams … the antici…pppation makes my heart sing.
What’s your favorite sight to behold?
What’s your reason to protect your eyes from vision loss? A particular ocean at sunset, or mountaintop, or cherished child? Share it with us here, and help us share the joy of vision.
Electromagnetic spectrum https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cfXzwh3KadE
Skin cancer prevention https://www.skincancer.org/prevention/uva-and-uvb
Protection from sun damage to the eyes https://www.allaboutvision.com/sunglasses/spf.htm
Polarized light: a video https://www.khanacademy.org/science/physics/light-waves/introduction-to-light-waves/v/polarization-of-light-linear-and-circular