Handy tips for protecting your eyes outdoors

Surprise, surprise, I lost another pair of polarized sunglasses.

I’m a flake when it comes to keeping track of my accessories, but protecting my eyes is no joke.

protect your eyes outdoors

Protecting your eyes outdoors is more than a matter of fashion. Photo: Courtesy of Brandon Scherzberg

Exposing your peepers to the sun can lead to nasty conditions such as photokeratitis (sunburn of the eye), cataracts and something particularly disgusting-looking called pterygium. Look them up; you’ll double check that UV sticker next time you wear shades, I promise you that.

But a good pair of frames isn’t all you need to remember when you’re trying to protect your pupils outdoors. Here’s the short list of how to keep your sight safe.

Wear sunglasses with UV protection

dog sunglasses

Protect your eyes with a good pair of sunglasses. Photo: mttypowell/Twenty20

The ideal pair should offer UV protection, not just a dark tint, so make sure your contact lenses, prescription glasses and polarized sunnies all offer that promise.

RELATED: Sun protection tips for the winter months

Your eye naturally shrinks the size of its pupil for protection against the sun, but when you’re wearing sunglasses, your pupils widen under the darkness, and if your sunglasses don’t offer UV protection, an inordinate amount of UV rays will penetrate your eyes, which can potentially cause problems.

Wear a hat

hat

Hats are both fashionable and great for sun protection. Photo: jinnkisss/Twenty20

To double up your protection factor, wear sunglasses and a wide-brimmed or baseball hat.

This will protect the extremely delicate skin around your eyes, preventing wrinkles. And it will help get rid of any light leaks that may be slipping by your sunnies.

Wear sports sunglasses or goggles

goggles

Goggles are great for eye protection under and above water. Photo: Princewor/Twenty20

UV rays bounce right off the water, so your eyes are especially prone to damage while you’re sailing, surfing or kayaking.

If you can, wear a pair of ocean-specific sunglasses, which usually have a strap you can wrap tightly around your head. At the very least, avoid paddling out between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., when the sun is most intense.

Never look directly at the sun

sun spot

The sun can be harsh on eyes. Photos: jdesteban/Twenty20

Obviously this is never a good idea, but be especially wary of how often you shield your eyes with your hand to look up at the sky. That’s almost like staring right at it.

Don’t apply sunscreen too close to your eyes

sunblock sunscreen

Use sunscreen appropriately and allow sunglasses to take care of the rest. Photo: branne1984/Twenty20

Unless you are using a extremely gentle, all-natural formula, avoid smearing your SPF close to your eyes. It’ll act as an irritant when you start sweating and drip into your peepers.

RELATED: To really save your skin, go beyond sunscreen

Apply to the bridge of the nose, apples of the cheeks and forehead, and use sunglasses to shield the rest.

Avoid opening your eyes underwater

closed eyes underwater

Close your eyes when exploring what lies beneath. Photo: madolyncappy/Twenty20

If you’ve ever seen the movie “Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken,” you know how dangerous it can be when water meets the eye.

Even if you aren’t free-falling into a pool on a horse, there’s always a chance that chlorine and salt, as well as the force of a wave, could permanently damage your eyes. Wear goggles or keep your eyelids shut tight during your duck dives.