UV Explained

Ultraviolet (UV) light is a form of electromagnetic radiation the human eye cannot see. The spectrum is comprised of bands of UV-A, UV-B, and UV-C with various potentially damaging effects on skin and tissue. Most of the Earth’s exposure to UV light comes from the Sun. While the ozone layer blocks much of UV radiation, enough passes through to warrant a need for protection.

That’s a sick burn

The eye is particularly susceptible to UV radiation, which can lead to a number of issues. Short term, this form of light can cause a sunburn of the eye, also known as photokeratitis. This condition is usually temporary and should heal over time.

The long game

Prolonged exposure to UV can result in more severe consequences. Macular degeneration, corneal damage, and cataracts are all potential effects of solar radiation. UV is also known to stimulate cancerous growth and age ocular components prematurely. Any one of these ailments can lead to permanent vision problems.

UV protection can look good

Sunglasses are perhaps the best line of defense against the harmful effects of the Sun’s rays. Be sure to pick up a pair that blocks most or all UV-A and UV-B light. Polarized lenses filter more light than other pairs and can reduce glare as well. Many prescription glasses have similar built-in safeguards against UV waves.

Darker isn’t always better

Darker shades can pile on major style points but may not be the best choice for a UV deterrent. Blacker colors open the pupils up more, allowing more rays to enter the eye. This is especially true for cheaper sunglasses without any UV-blocking material. Instead, opt for a gray or smoky color to keep pupils small.

Top it off

A hat can be the perfect complement to a pair of sunglasses and provide another layer of security. Brimmed hats with at least a 3-inch brim and no holes provide a 360-degree shield from UV radiation. Baseball caps have a slightly lesser but usually similar effect.

Timing is everything

The Sun is brightest and most intense from midday into the early afternoon. Try to plan activities outside of this window if at all possible to keep UV radiation at bay. Staying inside or in a shaded area during that time takes those rays out of the equation entirely.

Where, when, why

Location also plays a large role in the strength of UV waves. Folks closer to the equator or at higher altitudes should be extra wary of UV exposure. Spring and summer months also tend to be more intense than cooler months of the year.

Clouds don’t count

Speaking of shade, don’t rely on the clouds for much help. Overcast days give little to no reprieve from UV rays even when the Sun’s not visible. Therefore, take all the same precautions as if the day were sunny even when the clouds are out.

Don’t look

Taking a peek directly at the Sun can also have consequences. Solar UV rays get a free pass to travel into the eye and wreak havoc on ocular tissue. This could result in solar retinopathy, with symptoms ranging from eye discomfort to permanent blind spots.