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Protecting Your Eyes While You Tan

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Sunglasses are a good idea year-round

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You are probably already aware that eye protection is equally necessary outside of the booth as well. Natural sunlight can burn eyes just as easily as artificial UV can, and it's a concern even when there appears not to be a sun in the sky.

When choosing sunglasses, those that contain UV protection are extremely important and there are many options available. Ideally, as with goggles, you want glasses that fit as snug on your face as possible, but should still avoid looking directly into the sun. Wraparound frames are another smart option.

Most importantly though, make sure your sunglasses block UV rays. According to the American National Standards Institute, sunglasses should block the two components of UV radiation — UVB and UVA — by a respective 99 percent and 95 percent.

Most sunglasses will have a sticker that tells you their UV protection level ... if no sticker is present, do not buy the glasses. You will have no way of verifying they offer any protection at all. Untreated plastic lenses provide no protection, and are putting you at risk for sun-originated eye damage.

Feature Creatures - The Options are Endless!

When you get into specialty sunglasses, jargon may start to overwhelm you ... polarization, blue-blocking, photochromic, polychromic. What do all these terms mean, and how do you know which features you need?

Blue-blocking plastic lenses are often suggested for sun protection, but the problem is aside from blocking blue; they also block red and amber, which sometimes makes it difficult to do such daily tasks as knowing if traffic lights have changed colors. This is dangerous for obvious reasons. However, if mainly worn while sitting out in the sun, they are a fine choice.

Photochromic lenses will protect eyes from glare and do not distort color; polycarbonate do very much the same while also protecting eyes from impact and activity-related dangers. This makes the latter a really good choice for children, athletes, or the accident-prone.

Another buzz word you will see everywhere is polarized sunglasses. These do guard against glare but on their own do not offer UV protection. Polarized sunglasses must also note a UV sticker so that the consumer knows she is getting the best protection for her needs.     

Contact Lenses a No-No While Tanning?

There is no law that dictates contact lenses must be removed before indoor tanning. However, you are required to wear UV-safe tanning eyewear while in a tanning bed. This tanning eyewear is usually known as tanning goggles.

If you are a contact wearer, and you wear contacts while you tan, your eyes may dry out, which will cause itching and irritation. The drying happens because of the dry heat and air from the fans in many tanning beds. Eye drops are a good idea to avoid this dry-eye fate. You should make a point of applying the drops twice, both before and after your session. If you make the decision not to wear tanning eyewear, consider removing your contacts before tanning. The burn you will receive on your unprotected corneas will be much worse with them in, because the contact lenses block airflow necessary for healing. This is still the case even if you own UV-block contacts.

Why the worry?

Are you thinking right now that people are being excessively careful by mandating you wear tanning goggles? Well they're not.

We know that too much exposure to UV rays can permanently harm the retina of our eyes. It can also burn the cornea, and repeated exposure over many years can change the structure of the lens so that it begins to cloud, forming a cataract. Left untreated, cataracts can cause blindness. So, taking care of our eyes by wearing protective goggles while we tan is important.

It's interesting to note that this is not an issue specific to tanning beds. If you still tan the old-fashioned way, you need to be careful as well. Long-term exposure to sunlight can equally result in eye damage. The difference is however that while you are out in the sun, you will feel the heat burning your eyelids, and it will remind you to put on those glasses and avoid the glare.

Under indoor UV lights, exposed skin remains cool to the touch. In addition, the intensity of lights used in tanning devices is much greater and potentially more damaging to the eyes than the intensity of UV rays in natural sunlight. That is why it is so important that tanning goggles be worn at all times in the tanning bed/booth. Your eyelids are not thick enough to protect your eyes on their own, so solely keeping your eyes closed or wearing traditional sunglasses is not going to be enough protection.

Closed Case?

You may not have given this much thought, but even with goggles on, whether your eyes are open or closed while tanning can make a difference.

In short, your eyes are better off staying closed. Do not use this as an excuse to use no additional protection, but this is a necessary barrier. Our eyelids are our thinnest skin, but they can block about 25% of UV rays. This, of course, isn't enough to prevent burning or eye damage, but it's a good extra-safety measure to take advantage of.

There are many people who don their goggles or protective eye stickers and read a magazine while they tan. Obviously they are keeping their eyes open. Don't risk your vision. Keep your eyes closed and wear protective eyewear.

And never use closed eyes as an excuse not to wear goggles. Doing so even one time can cause lasting damage.

Finding Your Ideal Goggle Fit

As you know from wearing clothing and shoes, the right fit is everything. The same holds true when selecting your pair of tanning goggles.

Very often, you will discover your tanning salon has goggles available for use. In that case, be careful to ensure they are the right fit and a quality brand name. If you aren't secure with your options, and plan on tanning at any regular interval, a good idea would be to buy a pair of your own to carry along. The right fit for your face will ensure you are getting the best protection possible. Additionally, by carrying your own tanning goggles, you can avoid the danger of possible contamination that comes with sharing.

The ideal pair of goggles fit snugly (so they cannot slip or slide while tanning), and cover your eyes completely. Often, goggles come with an elastic strap to fit around the face -- this is so that you get a tight fit and UV light can't slip through into your eyes. For this reason, if you see a pair is cracked or bent, do not use it -- you are not getting optimum protection and are likely putting your eyesight in danger.

Protecting Your Eyes While Spray-On Tanning

A lot of eye safety consideration is given to indoor or outdoor UV tanning, but eyes are a concern as well when visiting a spray-on tanning booth.

In short, make sure to keep your eyes closed! The solution is usually safe and non-toxic, but having it sprayed in your face will not be a pleasant experience. This is a reason you should keep your mouth closed and avoid breathing in as the mist passes. In mist intervals, you can open your eyes if you wish; but it's probably easier to keep them closed the whole time. Tanning goggles are not necessary in a spray-on booth, since no UV light is used.

The shower of mist will only be on your face for a few seconds at a time; this extra act of protection can save you a lot of discomfort and irritation -- not to mention avoiding a nasty taste in your mouth! The main idea is to avoid ingesting or absorbing any of the mist into your system, leaving it all to your skin and your gorgeous tan. If you do happen to get mist in your eyes, do not panic. It will be uncomfortable and annoying, but the spray is non-toxic and won't do any harm.

Disposable Eye Wear - Use It Once and Throw It Away!

A new trend in eye protection is disposable eye wear. Tanning eye protection that you can throw out after a single use is more hygienic and has less chance of getting contaminated.

Disposable eye wear is also a favorite of people who are prone to getting "raccoon eyes" from goggles. These cover your eyes, but allow the space around them to tan more evenly. Some popular brands of disposable eye protection are Viewkeepers or Wink Ease. These options are completely adjustable and see-thru, and as an added bonus, will not ruin your makeup or get in the way of long eyelashes.

These items are complete UV blockers, making them a fine, safe option. Ideally, you wear these as stickers, folding them into a cone over your eyes -- this blocks ambient light, and also gives the option of seeing through them if you want to check on the session timer or adjust your music or fans without touching your eye protection. This is also helpful when using a stand-up tanner, since vision is essential to safely exiting the unit.

It is also acceptable to wear these UV blockers flat over your eyes, but that might invite back the dreaded raccoon eye effect by covering more of your eyes than necessary.

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