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Everyone understands the danger UV rays can pose to our skin and if we want proper protection we (hopefully) apply a strong sunscreen before heading out into bright sunshine, but do you do the same for your eyes?
Sunglasses should provide you with the UV protection that your eyes need. However, you need to be careful when choosing which sunglasses to wear, as they may not be giving the protection you might expect.
Sunglasses may have lenses that are polarised or non-polarised. Light reflected from surfaces such as a roads, water and snow is generally referred to as horizontally polarised. This means that instead of the light being scattered in all directions, reflected light travels in a horizontal direction creating a bright path of light called glare. Polarised sunglasses cut glare by using a special filter to block intense reflected light, making vision more comfortable. Polarised lenses contain chemical molecules that are aligned to reflect the horizontal light waves, while still allowing vertical rays to pass through. Glare is removed and damaging UV light is reduced.
Standard sunglasses lenses will not reflect this damaging, horizontally polarised light. Typically, they are tinted with a single coloured coating. Although these may reduce the brightness of sunlight, they do not remove glare like polarised lenses. Dark tinted lenses will also allow your pupil to dilate, so while they may keep the dreaded squint at bay, they can actually allow more harmful UV radiation to enter your eye , ultimately damaging your lens and retinas.