Going Skiing – Remember Your Polarized Sunglasses

Dr. Russel Lazarus, June 16, 2021

About to buy a new pair of sunglasses before hitting the ski slopes? You may want to read this first!

Did you know that snow reflects almost 100% of sunlight and is a major source of UV radiation?

Overexposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation can cause permanent damage to the eyes. Without proper eyewear, not only are you increasing your risk of getting an eye sunburn (photokeratitis), but you are also exposing your eyes to the long term side effects of UV radiation, such as cataracts and age-related macular degeneration.

Isn’t UV rays only a problem at the beach?

This is a common misconception. Polarized sunglasses are essential at snow too.

Ultraviolet rays are actually a potential threat whenever you are in close proximity to a surface that reflects light.

The light from the sun is called unpolarized light, mainly because the light rays point in different directions, instead of shining in just one direction.

When unpolarized light hits a reflective surface, such as a mirror, car window, water or even snow, the reflected light causes the light rays to point in ONE direction, transforming the light into polarized light.

This reflected polarized light can be quite dangerous for your skin if you’re sunbathing at the beach without any sunscreen, but can also be harmful for your eyes if you are skiing without the right sunglasses.

Before purchasing your next pair of sunglasses, contact an eye doctor near you to make sure they are right for you and your overall eye health.

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How do polarized lenses help protect my eyes?

Polarized lenses are created differently than regular lenses, due to their ‘sandwich’ design. 

A polarized lens contains three layers. The middle layer consists of the polarized material which is stretched into long strands and then laminated between two layers of glass or plastic.

This ‘sandwich’ design allows the polarized lens to absorb the reflected light and prevent the harmful UV rays from reaching your eyes.

Polarized vs regular sunglasses

Regular non-polarized sunglasses rely on the dark tint of the lens alone to reduce glare. Therefore, many people opt for darker lenses with the mistaken belief that they will offer greater protection.

However, the opposite is actually true— a darker lens will cause the pupils to dilate wider, exposing the eyes to an even greater amount of UV light.

Polarized lenses have the ability to reduce light energy by half without increasing the density of the lens color, and therefore are available in a variety of lighter shades.

One of the first things you will notice about polarized lenses, is that they are comfortable to wear over an extended period of time and they are not too dark— both great features for a long day on the ski slopes.

If you are heading to mountains for a day of skiing, protect your eyes from the sun’s harmful UV rays by wearing polarized sunglasses. Polarized lenses will not only provide the much needed UV protection, but will also limit glare — enhancing your vision and performance.

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Before purchasing your next pair of sunglasses, contact an eye doctor near you to make sure they are right for you and your overall eye health.