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A GUIDE TO THE UV400 PROTECTION RATING IN SUNGLASSES
Jun 24, 2019 in Eye Care
They might be a fashion must-have in summer, but sunglasses also provide essential protection for your eyesight. Here’s what to look for in your next pair of shades.
Whether it’s aviators, oversized, retro or a classic tortoiseshell design, we all have our favourite style of sunglasses. But while they might look great on the beach, they’re so much more than just a fashion accessory.
We’re all aware of the damage UV (ultraviolet) rays can do to our skin, yet few of us realise the risks our eyes can be exposed to. Our eyes are 10 times more sensitive to UV than our skin, but only 7% of the population are aware of the risks of UV to their eyes.1
What is UV?
The sunlight that reaches us consists of two harmful rays: UVA and UVB. The first is the most common and has been linked to the development of cataracts and macular degeneration, while the second helps boost our vitamin D levels but is the prime cause of sunburn.
Both are harmful to our eyes, which is why sunglasses are essential. As well as considering which shape and lens best suit your face, it’s essential to check the UV rating next time you buy a new pair of shades.
How do I choose the best sunglasses?
When you’re browsing the shelves, look for ones that have the “CE” mark or British Standard BS EN ISO 12312-1:2013 as these are guaranteed to offer a safe level of UV protection. While a dark lens will help you see on a sunny day, if it doesn’t have the British Standard mark there’s no guarantee they’ll actually be protecting your eyes from harmful rays.
If you want to go one step further and block out 99-100% of UV rays, then look for sunglasses with UV400. ‘UV400’ refers to UV rays at the top end of the UV spectrum, up to the 400-nanometre wavelength. Sunglasses with this level of protection block an even wider spectrum than the CE and British Standard models, making them the ultimate protection for your eyes. UV400 sunglasses are available in a wide range of styles to keep you looking – and feeling – great throughout the summer.
When do I need to wear sunglasses?
‘Sunglasses’ seems to be the perfect name, but it’s a little misleading. UV rays aren’t necessarily blocked by cloud cover, so your eyes could be at risk even on overcast days. Having eye protection handy is always helpful, especially if you drive regularly, play outdoor sports or go skiing.
In fact, snow reflects UV light, bouncing as much as 80% of it back into the atmosphere and into your eyes. While you’ve likely got a sharp pair of goggles for the slopes, grabbing your UV sunglasses on a snowy day in the UK might seem foolish but will actually offer the best protection for your eyes.
Book your eye test today
If you’re concerned about the effect UV light has had on your eyes, call us to book an eye test on 0800 40 20 20, book online or pop into your local branch. Our friendly team will also be able to advise you on the best sunglasses to protect your eyes.
UV protection and filter categories for sunglasses (UV400 Filter)
Many people who wear sunglasses believe that the darker the colour of the lenses, the safer it may be for the eyes.
Here’s the truth.
The colour of the lenses does not necessarily correspond to their protective qualities. Dark colours increase the dilation of the pupil, which leads to more harmful UV rays coming into the eye, than without glasses.
For this reason, when buying sunglasses, one should always pay great attention to the so-called filter categories, which indicate the intensity of the tinting.
Better protection thanks to the filter categories
We wear sunglasses to protect our eyes from sunlight and not to have to use our hand as a shield.
The darker the lenses, the higher the protection.
The levels of protection are divided up into so-called filter categories.The EU categories, which are usually indicated in five digits, Roman (I to V) or Arabic (0 to 4), are helpful here:
|Filter category||Weather conditions||Glass shade||Utilisation|
|0||3 – 20%||Offers the least protection. Colourless or very light filter. Typically sport or protective glasses designed to protect against wind, dust or debris, but not against sun.|
|1||20 – 57%||For partly cloudy days. Very lightly coloured lenses, usually yellow or orange, suitable for weaker sun radiation or as wind or dust protection.|
|2||57 – 82%||Suitable for normal summer days. Medium dark filter suitable for medium sun radiation and for casual wear. The tint is slightly lighter than usual. Can be used for spring and autumn walks on sunny days. They also come in handy while driving and frequently moving between shade and sun.|
|3||82 – 92%||Offers intensive protection. Recommended for holidays by the sea, in Southern Europe and for mountain walks. Dark filter suitable for intensive sun radiation on the beach or in the city. This category is typical for most types of sunglasses. It is perfect for summer because it provides a higher degree of protection against sun radiation than the previous category.|
|4||92 – 97%||Particularly strong protection, which is suitable for high mountains and glaciers. Category 4 sunglasses are forbidden in road traffic. These are marked with the symbol of a crossed-out car. Very dark filter for very intensive sun radiation. Sunglasses for mountains or desserts and everywhere where the sunshine is not just extremely strong, but where it also reflects a lot.|
As good as the quality of the lenses is, up to 60% of the UV rays can penetrate from above or through the sides.
Therefore, large lenses and a wide temple can contribute to optimal protection. In addition, wearing a hat or cap can be helpful.
UV 400 meaning
UV 400 is the category which blocks all light rays with wavelengths up to 400 nanometers. This covers all of UVA and UVB rays. Refer to the above table.
UV rays damage the retina
If you get too close to the sun, you will get a sunburn. The ultraviolet rays – the so-called UV rays – increase the risk of skin cancer. Furthermore, frequent sunbathing can accelerate skin aging.
But it’s not only the skin that can be damaged, but the eyes can also be impaired too.
If unprotected eyes are exposed to the sun, a long and intensive irradiation can lead to inflammations of the conjunctiva and cornea.
In the worst case, the visual organ may be damaged in the long term and the lens may become cloudy (cataract).
Therefore always wear sunglasses with guaranteed UV protection!
UV-C rays are basically absorbed by the earth’s atmosphere, but UV-B and UV-A rays penetrate unhindered to the earth’s surface. The designation UV400 with guaranteed UV protection protects against harmful UV-B and UV-A radiation.
Furthermore, the sunglasses reduce visible light, which makes seeing in the sunshine more pleasant.
In short, the term UV400 means that the glasses absorb UV-A, B and C rays, up to a wavelength of 400 nanometers.
Other quality features of sunglasses
- CE mark: The CE mark has been existing since 1 July 1995 and indicates that there is UV protection up to at least 380 nanometres. It is located on the inside of the temples and indicates that the model complies with current EU standards.
- Spectacle frame: As already mentioned in the article, sunlight can also infiltrate from above and laterally. Therefore, in order to ensure optimum protection, slightly larger lenses and wider temples can be used.
- Polarization filters: The polarized lenses have a special coating that increases visibility through filtering during exposure to intense light rays. These lenses are designed to reduce the glare of surfaces such as water, snow or glass. Sunglasses with polarizing lenses are particularly suitable for car drivers.