Health & Beauty

Sunnies to Save Your Eyes

May 19, 2017

Summer is just around the corner (fingers crossed!), meaning we’ll soon be able to accessorize with our favourite sunglasses once again. This season though, we’ll be holding our shades to higher standards. We recently chatted with Sharyn Laughlin, dermatologist and medical director of Laserderm and co-founder of CyberDerm—The Sunscreen Company, about the benefits of protective eyewear. The takeaway: UV rays won’t stand a chance! —Johnnie Smart


How do sunglasses help prevent fine lines and sun spots?

The proper sunglasses block both UVB and UVA rays in damaging UV radiation (UVR). They can physically prevent these wavelengths from causing sun damage, which would show up as pigmentation (sun spots) and fine lines in the skin of the eyelids and the area around the eye. They also work by minimizing the amount of squinting or frowning in the glare of sunlight. They prevent expression lines that appear around the eyes or lower forehead—“crow’s feet and frown lines”—from developing, or getting worse as they get “etched” into your skin over time.

If I’m wearing sunglasses do I still have to wear sunscreen?

Yes! Ideally people should wear sunglasses with large wrap around shades and thick armbands. However, many people do not because of personal style preferences or esthetics. It is a lifetime best practice to always wear a balanced UVB/UVA sunscreen to protect the exposed areas like your face every single day. Up to 90 per cent of visible aging, particularly of the face, is sun damage or photoaging. I advise patients that the single best anti-aging measure for the face (and neck) is to wear a good sunscreen each and every day. You can apply it first thing in the morning as a part of your routine. A good sunscreen with 20 to 25 per cent of clear or invisible zinc oxide alone, or 15 to 20 per cent combined with another particle—encapsulated octinoxate (available in North America) or bemotrizinol and biscotrizole (available in Europe and Australia)—so use them if you are travelling there. These particle-based sunscreens should be OK to apply on even sensitive areas around the eyes and eyelids, and should also not drip and sting the eye if you sweat.


Is there a certain type of sunglasses one should wear with a certain type of protection built into the lenses, or will any pair do the trick?

The best lenses are ones that say UV 400—that means that regardless of the colour of the lens itself, you are getting adequate protection against UVB and UVA light that spans the 290 to 400 nm portion of sunlight. Sunglasses in a wide range of prices offer lenses with UV 400 protection, so everyone can afford to protect their eyes adequately.

Does size matter? And if so, what size or style of sunglasses should we be wearing in order to protect the skin around our eyes?

Ideally, the bigger the better for more coverage, with thicker arm bands or wrap around lenses to protect your eyes from sun coming in at a side angle. Sunglasses also do more than protect the skin of the eyelids and the skin around the eyes or peri-orbital area. The UV 400 label is the first important consideration but size also plays a role in protecting vital structures in the eye itself from the damage that UVR may produce. The structures in the eye, particularly the cornea and retina, resemble skin in structure, and respond in similar ways to UVR. Chronic UVR damage to the eye—like skin—is related to the more superficial penetration achieved by UVB, versus the deeper penetration of UVA into the eye. A corneal sunburn or photokeratitis can occur from acute high intensity damage just like a sunburn of skin, from long exposure at the beach or outdoors without proper eye protection. UVB rays that are absorbed mostly in the front of the eye play a primary role in the development of cataracts or clouding of the lens. UVA rays reach the structures at the back of the eye and can cause macular degeneration, a common cause of visual loss in older people. Both conditions are age-related but sun damage can accelerate the problem, just as it does to the skin. Of course, skin cancer in the peri-orbital skin can also be due to chronic UVR exposure and is prevented by effective sunscreens used with UV protective sunglasses.


What if I’m just getting around to protecting the skin around my eyes and I already have signs of fine lines and sunspots? What can I do to repair the damage?

There are several good options to repair sun damage and expression lines from squinting and frowning. You can always start with topical treatments like a retinoic acid or ester. Most people can tolerate using these globally over the face including in the delicate eye area, but you may have to use a graduated approach and increase exposure time and frequency as you build up your tolerance. Otherwise, you can look for anti-aging skin care with other actives like turmeric, peptides, AHAs, etc. These remedies achieve results more slowly and require diligence and persistence. For a faster effect, expert dermatologists use Botox to relax or diminish expression lines in the orbital area and frown lines on the forehead. For those with deeper lines, even when the face is at rest, you can elect to have fractional or fully ablative laser resurfacing of facial skin- even on eyelids and adjacent skin. There are different “down times” involved, depending on the type of laser and the specific procedure you have. For fully ablative resurfacing with lasers, wrinkles for the most part will diminish significantly or be completely erased.


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