On-Trend Eyewear: Fashion Statement or UV Damage?

June 2018
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You’ve seen them around, namely on the world’s trendiest models – the 90’s inspired “micro-shades”. It seems like it doesn’t matter the shape of the lenses, as long as they’re tiny, the “it” crowd are wearing them. They’re having a real moment. But are they everything they’re hyped up to be?

Even though we’re in the full swing of winter, the tempting idea of summer being just around the corner has got us thinking all things sunglasses. And as important as it is to rock the current season’s trends, call us old-fashioned, but we believe that the main purpose of sunglasses is to protect your precious peepers from harmful UV radiation.

We checked out a bit of research from Dr Andrew Iwach, an expert ophthalmologist and clinical spokesperson for the American Academy of Ophthalmology. Turns out, sunglasses with lenses that are one-third the size of regular ones won’t do a good job of protecting your eyes, which is not ideal for summer.

“The diameter of the lenses is so small that it doesn’t even cover the entire eye, so it makes sense that light will come in from around the glasses and hit the eyes,” Iwach warns. “Even if it looks dark when you wear the glasses, light still hits the area around your eyes — especially if you wear the glasses on the bridge of your nose, which seems to be the trend.”

Why is this a problem?

Sunlight is a form of radiation and it can damage the DNA in your eyes or skin. Too much UV exposure is bad for you, no matter your eye or skin colour. UV rays can penetrate clouds, too.

“Under some particular settings the risk is even greater — for example, when you are at the beach or out on a reflective water source like a lake or a pool,” Iwach said. So these are not the glasses you want to wear when spending long hours outside — although that’s when most people are probably wearing them.

Tiny sunglasses have other disadvantages. “The eyes will get drier because the small lenses don’t protect against the wind, so there’s a comfort issue,” Iwach said. Larger wraparound sunglasses can also keep debris, dust, and sand out of your eyes.

“Our bodies do not do well with UV radiation and it raises the risk potential long-term issues with [the] eye, particularly the retina,” Iwach said. The retina, a thin tissue at the back of the eye, is particularly susceptible to long-term sun damage (macular degeneration), which can result in permanent vision loss. UV exposure can also increase the risk of cataracts, a clouding of the eye lens that affects vision.

“It’s also important to protect the skin around your eyes, because it is thin and delicate. Over time, UV radiation can cause skin cancers such as basal and squamous cell carcinomas to develop near the eye”, said Iwach. In rare cases, it’s thought that overexposure to UV radiation may also cause an eye melanoma, which is the deadliest form of skin cancer.

Moral of the story? Perhaps stay away from the “micro-shade” trend, and instead make sure you have a decent pair of sunglasses that are going to protect your eyes. Because vision never goes out of style.


Clare Coventry

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