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Can sunglasses protect against wrinkles and other signs of aging?

woman in sunglasses smiling at the beach

The sun is a life-giving, energizing source, but it also ages you a little every day. You can take preventative measures — such as applying sunscreen and wearing sunglasses — to slow the aging process.

But first it’s important to know how the sun causes aging, how sunglasses protect your eyes and surrounding skin from sun damage.

How the sun causes aging

According to a recent study published in the journal Clinical, Cosmetic and Investigational Dermatology, 80% of visible signs of aging are caused by sun exposure, including wrinkles, skin laxity and eye conditions with visible side effects.

WRINKLES: As you strain your eyes to see in bright sunlight, you deepen the wrinkles around your eyes. Aside from your response to the sun’s brightness, the UV rays themselves slowly cook your skin, baking the wrinkles in place, which can make you look older than you are.

CHANGES IN SKIN TEXTURE: The sun can transform the overall texture of your skin. The longer you spend in the sun without protection, the more leathery and rough your skin will appear.

EYE CONDITIONS: When it comes to sun damage, it’s not just your skin you need to worry about. Your corneas, which could be considered the “skin” covering your eye, can experience sunburn or long-lasting discolorations, distortions and growths as a result of exposure to the sun.

PTOSIS: Another sign of aging is a slackness in the skin around your eyes. This is called ptosis, and while this is a normal sign of aging, it is severely worsened by UV exposure.

PIGMENTATION DISORDERS: Sunbathing can provide a healthy-looking glow, which is why tanning has become so popular. However, laying out in the sun or in a UV-light tanning bed can result in pigmentation abnormalities, particularly around the eyes.

SEE RELATED: UV and sunglasses: How to protect your eyes

How sunglasses protect against wrinkles

When you walk out into the sun on a bright day and you’re not wearing sunglasses, what do you do?

You might raise a hand to block the sun from your eyes. You may lower the sun visor in your car or try to stay in the shade. But your first reaction when confronted by bright light is probably to squint.

The more you squint, the deeper the grooves in your crow’s feet will become and the older you will appear, according to the American Academy of Dermatology Association. And if you try to focus on anything with blinding light in your eyes, your eyebrows will furrow, deepening the wrinkles between your eyebrows as well.

If you wear sunglasses, you won’t need to strain to see while you’re outside on a sunny day. You can avoid squinting (and brow-furrowing in concentration), which will help delay part of the aging process.

How sunglasses protect your eyes from sun damage

It’s not just the signs of aging on your skin that you have to worry about — when you go out in the sunlight without UV protection. Your eyes also can incur sun damage.

From corneal sunburns (photokeratitis) and cataracts to pterygia and pingueculae, the sun can burn your corneas and cause lasting damage that can worsen, or age, your eyesight.

Sunglasses that offer 100% protection from UV rays (called UV 400) can help protect your eyes from sun damage.

If you want to ensure that the sun doesn’t even have peripheral access to your eyes, look for wrap-around sunglasses. The curved frames and lenses of wraparounds are especially popular with athletes because they offer a wider field of vision while providing protection from the sun.

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