The sun is in full effect, and now is a good time to consider taking steps to protect your skin from damage. Too much sun exposure can lead to wrinkles, sun spots, and worse, skin cancer. But, could something as simple as wearing sunglasses help to preserve you skin? According to Dr. Sharyn Laughlin, Board Certified Dermatologist, Medical Director at Laserderm, and Co-Founder of Cyberderm – The Sunscreen Company, the answer is yes.
“The proper sunglasses block both UVB and UVA rays in damaging UV radiation (UVR),” the doctor says. “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.”
Additionally, by wearing sunglasses you also minimize squinting or frowning from the glare of sunlight; so in essence, you’re also preventing expression lines, such as frown lines or crow’s feet. However, even when you’re wearing your cutest sunnies, you still have to wear sunscreen, exclaims Dr. Laughlin. That’s the doctor’s order.
“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,” she says. “You can apply it first thing in the morning as a part of your routine. A good sunscreen with 20-25% of clear or invisible zinc oxide alone, or 15-20% 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 okay to apply on even sensitive areas around the eyes and eyelids, and should also not drip and sting the eye if you sweat.”
And, yes, size matters. Dr. Laughlin says that the ideal pair of skin-protecting shades are the wrap around kind, with thick arm bands. She also recommends that the lenses state UV 400 protection, which means that regardless of the color of the lens itself, you are getting adequate protection against UVB and UVA light that spans the 290-400 nm portion of sunlight.
See, sunglasses should be doing more than protecting the skin of your eyelids or around your eyes. They should also be protecting the eyes themselves.
“The structures in the eye, particularly the cornea and retina, resemble skin in structure, and respond in similar ways to UVR,” Dr. Laughlin explains. “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.”
So, not only could not wearing sunglasses lead to unwanted wrinkles, it could also lead to macular degeneration of the eyes, a common cause of visual loss in older people.
It’s not too late to start protecting your eyes by wearing sunglasses now. But if you already suffer from sun damage due to past neglect, Dr. Laughlin recommends certain treatments.
“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,” she says. “Otherwise, you can look for anti-aging skincare with other actives like turmeric, peptides, Alpha Hydroxy Acids 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, Dr. Laughlin suggests fractional or fully ablative laser resurfacing of facial skin- even on eyelids and adjacent skin.
In the end, it’s obvious that sunglasses are more than just a cute accessory for your face. They serve a utilitarian purpose, too. So keep using that sunscreen, but also don a large pair of sunglasses with reliable lenses that protect you from UVB and UVA light. It’s pretty simple: wear sunglasses, prevent wrinkles.