The roll of sunglasses in the prevention of sundamage is now widely known, and every sensible person includes a pair of sunglasses in his or her anti- sundamage arsenal.
But take care. Sunglasses may seem to be that happiest blend of style and substance—a cool fashion accessory which also protects your health—but the truth may be a little more complex.
Because strangely it seems that sunglasses may actually promote sun-damage!
According to Dr. Sharon Moalem and Jonathan Prince in their book “Survival of the Sickest“, shading your eyes from the sun for a long period of time can actually increase your chance of sun-damage.
The process of tanning is controlled by the pituitary gland, which is responsible for the production of a substance called melanin. When the sun shines the pituitary gland kicks into action and orders up more supplies of melanin. Melanin, which is the body’s natural tanning agent, then pigments the skin to protect it against the harmful UV rays which cause sundamage.
The trouble is that the pituitary gland takes it’s information regarding sunlight from the eyes. Moalem and Prince contend that by artificially shading the eyes with sunglasses for lengthy periods you fool it into thinking that the sun is less strong than it actually is. This in turn inhibits the production of melanin, making sundamage much more likely.
So by trying to prevent sundamage by wearing sunglasses, we are actually encouraging it!
It’s a bit of a Catch-22 position, but the solution seems to be quite simple. Rather than avoiding the sun altogether, or, even worse, discarding the sunglasses, just remove them for two or three minutes every fifteen or twenty minutes or so.
It’s an interesting theory, but it’s not universally accepted. There are many medical professionals who dispute the findings. But in my humble opinion it’s a no-brainer. If the theory is correct, then we are risking major skin sundamage just for the sake of looking like a rock star for an extra two or three minutes every quarter of an hour.
It just doesn’t seem worth taking the chance.