By Samantha Ramcharan, LO

Winter is creeping up on us this year and it’s the perfect time to shop for sunglasses. Throughout my career, it’s deeply disappointing when someone’s quick to dismiss the subject of sun protection. Some have never worn sunglasses or shy away because lenses are dark, heavy, or bothersome, the list is lengthy. There are patients in disbelief when they learn that wearing sunglasses throughout winter is just as important as during other seasons. At this point, I’m typically well into my sunglass speech and picking out a pair of sunglasses for a patient. Wearing sunglasses is important for UV blocking and can help prevent future eye problems, and winter is known for being dry and brisk, which affects the eyes.

Protection for the very delicate skin around the eyes is important, too. Sunglasses provide a  barrier from everyday winter elements. Wind, dust, and debris will find their way into the eyes without sunglasses, resulting in either immediate discomfort or worse. Rubbing the eyes can result in corneal scratches, but they can be prevented by wearing proper sunglasses. Since sunglasses help protect against wind and particles, there’s a lower chance of eye irritation or infection.

During this chilling season, it gets dry and frosty outside, which can result in watery eyes. When I discuss dry eye relief as a possible outcome of consistent sunglass use, patients are immediately responsive and engaged in discussion. Essentially, wearing sunglasses reduces the amount of air coming into direct contact with the corneal tissue. Patients with watery and dry eyes can experience relief and improvement with consistent sunglass wear. 

Winter glare is like no other, especially for those who love snowy outdoor, mountain activities. Reflected and direct sunlight scatter light everywhere, creating glare. But we have solutions for this even in the winter…Sunglasses! Glare exists in the fall and winter more intensely than the spring and summer. During the fall and winter months, the sun is naturally lower in the sky, so when light hits a surface, it will also reflect at a lower angle. This is why anti-glare coatings and UV protection are key to blocking dangerous light year-round. With UV rays reflected from ice and snow in winter, we need all the anti-glare we can get. Along with inevitable winter glare, winter sports like skiing and snowboarding can put one at higher altitudes, creating greater risk of UV exposure. Higher altitudes equal thinner atmosphere resulting in elevated UV exposure, regardless of temperature. UVB rays can be weaker in the winter than the summer. However, UVA rays, which can cause wrinkles, skin damage, and premature aging, are just as strong in the winter. Sunny days come and go in the winter, but cloudy days shouldn’t defer your sun routine. UV rays can penetrate cloud cover at high levels. 

Many are under the impression that the darkest lenses provide more protection than lighter-colored lenses. It’s such a relief to put on a dark pair of sunglasses on a bright, sunny day and it’s an instant calming effect. My recommendation is adding polarization and anti-glare to help  cut glare on glistening, snowy days. However, frames with light colored lenses, tints, gradient lenses, and photochromics are exceptional “cloudy day go-to”s. Photochromics adjust to lighting conditions, while lighter tints still provide the perfect amount of shade for brightness and 100% UV protection.

Take the opportunity to present winter sunglasses to your patients. Discussing a mix of style, protection and enhancements adds value to the customer’s investment. Opticianry is a career that carries into the fundamentals of life and self-care methodology because we can encourage patients to continuously practice good sun protection habits on a daily basis. Sunglasses are acceptable, highly useful and helpful all year round. Ask your patients specific questions such as, “How are you currently protecting your eyes throughout the year, weekly, and daily this season?” They may end up realizing how many pairs of sunglasses they really need! 

Learn more about the need for light protection with our CE, Defy the Bright - Transitions® XTRActive® New Generation Lenses at