Sunglasses – why it’s important to wear

Sunglasses are not just a cool fashion accessory – they also protect your eyes from the sun’s damaging rays.

Your eyes and the skin around them are very sensitive and can be easily damaged by ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun.

In Aotearoa New Zealand, UV radiation levels are particularly high from September to April. However, even when it’s cloudy and/or cooler you still have to be careful about your exposure to UV radiation.

And sunglasses aren’t just important for adults – they’re also important for children of all ages to wear. Wearing a wide-brimmed hat also adds another layer of protection for your eyes (and face).

Here are some reasons why you should wear sunglasses:

1. Reduce the risk of eye disease

Too much UV light can cause serious damage including:

  • increased risk of cataracts – clouding of the lens in your eye
  • pterygium – a white or creamy fleshy growth on the surface of the eye
  • macular degeneration
  • rarely, cancer of the cornea or conjunctiva
  • basal cell carcinoma (skin cancer) of the skin surrounding the eye

When buying sunglasses, the colour of the lens doesn’t matter as darker lenses won’t necessarily offer more protection.

What’s important is whether they meet the sunglasses standard for protection against UV radiation (the standard is voluntary in New Zealand but mandatory in Australia). So, make sure your sunglasses:

  • meet the the Australia/New Zealand Standard for sunglasses and fashion spectacles (AS/NZS 1067:2003). Check the label and/or ask the retailer whether the sunglasses meet this standard
  • are comfortable and don’t distort your vision
  • are close-fitting or wrap-around to offer the greatest protection from UV rays entering your eyes from the side of your sunglasses.

2. Prevent headaches and migraines

Bright sunlight, glare and reflected light on surfaces like the ocean can cause headaches and migraines. Sunglasses help reduce the likelihood of this happening. Sunglasses also reduce eye strain and fatigue, resulting in a more enjoyable outdoor experience.

3. Protect against other elements

Sunglasses not only protect against harmful UV rays, but they also protect your eyes against other elements such as wind, dust, dirt and sand, which can cause eye irritation and possible infection.

4. Younger looking skin

Sun damage prematurely ages your skin, especially the delicate skin around your eyes. The sun can cause your skin to lose its elasticity and become thinner due to collagen breaking down. In addition, squinting because of the sun causes fine lines and wrinkles to appear prematurely.

5. Safer driving

Whether it’s a short trip to the shops or a long road trip, be sure to wear your sunglasses to reduce glare and make it more comfortable and safer to drive.

References

  1. Sunglasses Consumer, NZ
  2. Tips for choosing the best sunglasses American Academy of Opthalmology, US, 2021
  3. 7 reasons why you should wear sunglasses Auckland Eye, NZ, 2018
  4. Eye protection in the sun Health Navigator, NZ
  5. What’s the deal with sunglasses? Wellington Eye Centre, NZ, 2020