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Top tips for choosing your sunnies this summer

When we think of sun safety, hats, layers and the famous ‘slip, slop, slap!’ usually comes to mind. But when it comes to sunglasses, a lot of us are guilty of thinking of them solely as fashion accessories.

And though we all love a pair of fabulous statement sunnies, it’s important to remember that the first priority of sunglasses is to protect your eyes from sun damage.

Just like skin, our eyes are susceptible to sunburn, which is why it’s vital that Aussies wear UV protective sunglasses at all times when outdoors to shield the eyes against short and long-term exposure to UV light – and not just during the peak hours of 10am to 2pm when it’s brightest.

Protection for your eyes

Optometrist Gary Rodney, based at the Eyes InDesign Smart Vision Optometry Mosman clinic in NSW, recently told Digest Express that sunglasses are more than just a fashion trend.

“[They] protect the eyes from sun damage and UV radiation. Always look at the tag to see if it offers 100% blockage from UVA and UVB radiation,” he says. “People of all ages should wear sunglasses whenever they are outside.”

In Australia especially, we are exposed to some of the highest levels of UV in the world. Repeated UV radiation exposure to the eyes can cause significant damage, as well as lead to serious eye conditions later in life. Some of the more common side effects of excessive UV exposure include:

To avoid developing these conditions, it’s vital to always put on a pair of UV protective sunglasses when you step outdoors.

Pick the right pair of sunnies

Rodney reminds Australians that, “poor quality plastic lenses can distort vision and cause headaches.” He further adds that just because a pair is more expensive, it doesn’t mean it offers more protection.

To maximise protection for your eyes, we recommend purchasing UV lenses that meet the Australian standard – meaning they are a category 2, 3 or 4 lens. These categories indicate the darkness of the lens tint.

Category 2 and 3 sunglasses can easily be found in your local optical store, and they provide medium and high protection against sun glare respectively, while category 4 sunglasses have very dark lenses that are reserved for extreme exposure scenarios – such as mountain climbing.

You might also see a tiny ‘p’ etched into some sunglass lenses – this usually means they are polarised. These types of lenses have a chemical coating that filters horizontal light and cuts through the glare that bounces off reflective surfaces such as water (the ultimate fisherman’s friend!).

Notably, some fashion spectacles (that aren’t sourced from optical stores) usually sit in lens category 0 or 1 – these are not proper sunglasses and do not provide adequate UV protection.

There is an abundance of choice when it comes to sunglasses, with most optometrists stocking quality styles that not only protect against UV but are also very fashionable. If you’re unsure of which sunnies will most suit your lifestyle, it’s best to ask your optometrist!

Tips to protect your eyes against UV damage this summer

Follow these practical tips to protect your eyes against UV damage:

  • Make a habit of wearing sunglasses outdoors, even on cloudy and overcast days.
  • When purchasing a pair of sunnies for general use, remember to look for a category 2 or 3 lens – this means they meet the Australian standard.
  • Wraparound style sunglasses that are close-fitting provide better protection against UV damage.
  • You can further protect your eyes by wearing a broad-brimmed, bucket or legionnaire style hat.
  • Visit your optometrist regularly for an eye examination.

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