When it comes to sun protection, your skin is usually top priority. And while that should remain true, another part of your body needs protection from the sun's harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays: your eyes.

Protecting your eyes from the sun is relatively simple, but developing any sun-protection habit relies on understanding the risks. So, read on to learn how UV light can harm both your eyes and the sensitive skin around them and how to protect your eyes from the sun to maintain top-notch eye health.

How UV Light Can Harm Your Eyes

Overexposure to the sun can lead to eye disease and other eye-related concerns, such as vision damage. According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO), your risk of the following conditions increases when you don't adequately protect your eyes from harmful UV rays:

Beautiful woman in sunglasses and hat with wide brim on nature in summer


Cataracts are the leading cause of blindness in the United States. They occur when the proteins in your eye's lens unravel, causing pigment to accumulate and cloud the lens.

Eye Cancers

Melanoma can occur in the eyeball, while basal cell carcinoma can occur on the eyelid.


A fleshy, triangular-shaped blemish called a pterygium, also known as "surfer's eye," can occur on the surface of your eye from excessive exposure to sunlight. In some cases, this condition can cause irritation and eventually lead to vision loss.

Snow Blindness

Snow blindness is an extreme form of eye sunburn that occurs in response to UV reflections off of snow, ice, sand, or water.

Macular Degeneration

UV rays may increase your risk of age-related macular degeneration, which is the leading cause of vision loss and blindness for people over 65 years old in the United States.


Photokeratitis is a form of eye sunburn. While it doesn't seem to cause long-term eye or vision damage, it can be painful.

Caring for the Skin around Your Eyes

The skin around your eyes is especially sensitive, so consider your upper and lower eyelids when thinking about eye sun care holistically. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, the most common skin cancers around the eyes are basal cell carcinomas, which are unlikely to spread to the lymph nodes or beyond but can cause disfigurement around the eyes. Squamous cell carcinomas have a higher chance of spreading, but they're rare. Melanoma can occur in and around the eye, but this form of skin cancer is also rare.

Unprotected sun exposure can also deepen wrinkles and fine lines around the edges of your eyes (crow's feet) and exacerbate dark under-eye circles. These concerns are obviously lower stakes, but they're all the more reason to prioritize eye sun care.

As always, wearing sunscreen daily is key to keeping your sun care game strong—and protecting the areas around your eyes is no exception. When choosing sunscreen for your delicate eye area, look for gentle products designed for sensitive skin (ophthalmologist-tested formulas are a plus!).

How to Prevent Vision Damage from the Sun

You have many options when it comes to how to protect your eyes from the sun, and combining them can offer the best protection. The AAO suggests the following:

Protecting Yourself from Head to Toe

At the end of the day, shielding your eyes from the sun's harmful UV rays is simple, and the benefits far outweigh the minimal extra effort. So, cheers to clear skin and to clear vision!


  • Audrey Noble

    Audrey Noble is a New York City-based reporter specializing in features, celebrity profiles, and beauty topics. Her work has appeared in Vogue, Harper's BAZAAR, Allure, Vanity Fair, Refinery29, and more. She is a University of Southern California alumna with bachelor's degrees in print journalism and creative writing.

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