health

“I just found out my 50+ sunscreen is not enough.”

Crizal UV
Thanks to our brand partner, Crizal UV

I have always prided myself on my dedication to sun protection.

My skin is so pale my features basically disappear if you use a flash camera. My friends joke I have a “moon tan”.  I’m so white the snowflakes are jealous.

So it’s always been necessary to take measures to avoid sun damage, especially here in Australia where the sun is diabolical. I could probably get sunburnt on a rainy day in midwinter – this is the kind of skin I’m dealing with.

Sun safety was drilled into me as a child by my mother, who’d smother my pale limbs and face in 15+ (that’s all there was at the time!), and ensure I’d put on my cap with a flap that covered my neck before I left for school in the mornings.

eye damage from the sun
See? My friend looks normal. I barely exist. Image: supplied.

In the playground, the rule was initially “No Hat, No Play”. The shady areas would be crowded with kids who’d forgotten their hats and weren’t allowed to play in the sun. The rule was extended to “No Hat, No Play; No Flap, No Way,” to thwart any kids who thought they’d eschew the dorky flap.

Now as an adult, I have a cabinet full of various different 50+ sunscreen formulations, and a number of sun hats with brims of varying widths. My lip balm has an SPF, and I wear a tinted moisturiser with SPF 30 everyday over another layer of sunscreen. I have this covered, right?

Actually, wrong. It turns out I’ve been missing a trick.

I never stopped to consider the damage that the sun’s UV rays do to my eyes.

I wear glasses for my terrible eyesight, and occasionally contact lenses. However, my glasses are not fitted with any special type of lens.

eye damage from the sun
The ‘Squint.’ Image: supplied.
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Here’s the problem: the sun is just as damaging to my eyes as it is to my skin. I spoke to optometrist Tim Thurn about the need for greater awareness of the damage UV can do to our eyes, and what we can do about it.

“Australia is the UV capital of the world,” he told me. Preachin’ to the choir, Thurn!

“You’re probably not aware, though, that the eye area is subjected to UV in a similar fashion to your skin. Skin cancers can often occur above the neck,” he said. The scary thing? Five to 10 per cent of skin cancers grow on the soft tissue of the eyes — your eyelids and the skin around your eyes.

It’s not just the threat of skin cancers that’s the problem, though.

“The lens behind the coloured iris of your eye also absorbs UV,” Thurn told me. “That UV damage helps cataracts form, which causes the eyesight to become cloudy.”

How can we protect ourselves from these dastardly rays? Well, Crizal UV clear lenses made by Essilor have been endorsed by the Cancer Council.

eye damage from the sun
I should probably be wearing a rashie, but hey, it was the ’80s. Plus look at my snazzy sunnies! Image: supplied.

They’re kind of amazing. They protect the eyes from 100 per cent of UV rays coming from the front, but they also protect your eyes from UV rays that can enter from different angles.

“If you wear spectacles or some styles of sunglasses, UV can reflect off the back of the lenses and into your eyes,” says Thurn.

Which is why I plan to have the next pair of glasses I buy fitted with Crizal lenses. They’ll work with virtually any prescription and any frame and look exactly the same, only they’ll protect my eyes from UV at all angles, like little invisible karate fighters.

Any purchase of Crizal UV lenses will result in a contribution to the Cancer Council, too, so its experts can keep researching and educating people about skin cancer.

I do think that had my school known the dangers of UV to the eyes, and had Crizal lenses existed, they most certainly would have revised their play policy: “No Hat, No Play; No Flap, No Way; No Lens, No Friends!”

How do you protect yourself from UV rays?

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