We’re all about sun protection (duh). Keeping your skin shielded from the sun’s harmful rays can help protect against premature aging and skin cancer. Diligent broad-spectrum sun cream application (and reapplication), sun protective clothing, wide-brimmed hats, and big sunglasses are all pretty much non-negotiable. But there’s a little more to know about sunnies than meets the eye.
According to a new study from two researchers at the University of São Paulo in Brazil, your shades might be losing some of their UV-blocking power over time. The scientists tested lenses according to Brazil’s industry standards and found that the current bar for safe glasses isn’t adequate. In other words, your favorite shades you amazingly haven’t lost in the past five years might not be living up to their name today. Although we don’t all use the same standards, the study suggests we, too, may need to revisit the current rules.
One potential way lenses can lose their efficacy over time is general wear and tear, says Michael Ehrlich, an assistant professor of ophthalmology at Yale School of Medicine. Every time you throw your sunnies into your bag sans case, you run the risk of damaging the lenses-even if the scratches aren’t visible to the eye.
And slacking on your shade protection can increase the risk of some serious problems. UV exposure to your eyes has been linked with cataracts and ocular cancer. And then there’s the aging effects. When the delicate skin around your eyes is blasted with UVA and UVB light, it’s a fast track to signs of periocular skin aging like crow’s feet.
Of course, more research is needed to determine how long it takes for sunglasses to become ineffective. But Ehrlich recommends that “patients replace their lenses every two years, assuming they wear sunglasses about two hours a day.” (This also means that if you wear them all day, e’er’ day – Karl Lagerfeld, take note – you may want to think about re-upping them more frequently.
Consider this your excuse to splurge on a chic new pair of shades this season. Come on, you need them.