Skiing in the mountains: watch out for the sun!

Mountain Sunglasses

Protecting your eyelids and even the skin around your eyes is very important, all the more so if you are at high altitude

Protecting the eyelids and even the skin around the eyes is very important, even more so if you are planning to go skiing or snowboarding. With winter approaching, doctors at the University of Liverpool cannot help but draw attention to an often underestimated fact: the possible side effects of excessive exposure to the sun during typical mountain activities.

A study published in the journal PlosOne, conducted precisely by British researchers, wanted to focus on the effect that the sun has on people who spend a vacation in the mountains. The researchers were equipped with a camera capable of detecting the variations of ultraviolet rays on the skin, and used it to photograph the faces of a series of people who had spent days in the mountains. Before the photos were taken, however, the researchers invited the participants to smear protective cream on their faces.

In the photos, the cream appeared black, so the white-colored areas were those areas of the face that had not been reached by the cream. And often these unprotected areas coincided with the eyes and nasal bridge.

This shows that we still do not take very seriously the effect that the sun can have on our skin, and that we tend to underestimate the risk associated with eyelid cancer: not everyone knows this, yet the data tells us that between 5 and 10% of all skin cancers affect the eyelids, while 9 out of 10 basal cell carcinomas are concentrated in the head and neck area.

Experts have always been convinced that the eyelid’s high vulnerability to cancer is due to the thinness of the skin in that particular spot. In short, it’s worth remembering that the eyes should always be protected. And not just in the summer! Even during the winter, especially if in high mountains where the sun is closer to us, UV rays can penetrate the thin skin barrier and cause even very serious effects.

“The eyes and the skin surrounding the eyes are vulnerable to ultraviolet radiation and cancer, so skiers and snowboaders who are at risk of UV exposure should be on guard. You need to bring cream or spray on the slopes and have snow goggles and sunglasses, even better if they are wrap-around so they can protect the entire eye.”

UV protection: why it is important to use sunglasses

Sunglasses are a personal protective equipment intended to safeguard the visual apparatus of a person from possible risks caused by intense solar radiation, although they are increasingly used for purely aesthetic purposes.

Since prehistoric times, the Inuit wore ivory masks to block the sun’s rays reflected by the snow, while under the Roman Empire, Pliny recounts that Emperor Nero observed gladiators fighting in arenas through pieces of emerald. In China, smoked quartz glasses were used as early as the 12th century to protect the eyes against sunlight, as well as to hide expressions from the eyes of judges during interrogation.

The first pair of glasses with lenses to filter UVA rays were instead produced in the glassworks of Murano, in Venice, during the eighteenth century. These glasses, also called “gondola glasses”, “gondola glasses” or “dama glasses”, were used by the Venetian nobility to preserve their sight from the constant glare of light on the water of the lagoon.

Why wear sunglasses?

Today the use of sunglasses is important not only to follow the dictates of fashion, but especially because they are an indispensable protection for our eyes. Exposure of the latter to too strong a light, especially ultraviolet rays, can lead to inflammation of the cornea (and therefore even snow ophthalmia) or cataracts.

Especially in places with intense light reflections such as in the water, on a beach or in the snow, the use of glasses is essential to protect our eyes from the effects of ultraviolet rays.

A pair of sunglasses usually consists of two lenses, which may have different characteristics. It is possible to fit lenses that, in addition to repairing from solar radiation, also have the effect of correcting visual defects. This treatment does not entail any loss of luminosity: it is possible to have lenses with almost total UV protection, even with a transparency for visible light close to 100%.

Ultraviolet light: definition

The light spectrum of visible light extends from blue to red, between 400 and 800 nanometers. Beyond red, infrared rays warm us, while beyond blue, ultraviolet puts our eyes at risk. Ultraviolet, also called UV, are light rays with a short wavelength, emitted by the sun and partly absorbed by the atmosphere before reaching the Earth.

UVB are between 280 and 315 nm, while UVA are between 315 and 380 nm. They are, in both cases, invisible rays but not less dangerous for the eyes. Violet and blue rays are also harmful, which is why blue sunglass lenses are not recommended.

The level of filtering is indicated by the abbreviation “UV” followed by the maximum frequency of the filtered light, expressed in nanometers. For example, the indication UV400 means that the lens has been made to cut all ultraviolet frequencies up to 400 nm, therefore both UV-A and UV-B rays.

Therefore, we can say that the level of protection of these lenses is 99-100%.

Filtering power

Since 1995, all sunglass lenses have been required to carry on the label an indication of the filtering power, from zero to 4, and the CE mark. An absolute must is to avoid the purchase of glasses without the safety mark, whose absence could indicate harmful lenses.

Here is a legend to better clarify this issue:

  • 0 almost no filtering power, the lens slightly attenuates the brightness
  • 1 glare protection
  • 2 – 3 lenses recommended for medium and high brightness
  • 4 reserved for extreme conditions with exceptional solar brightness (for example: glaciers).


Wearing sunglasses, in addition to enriching our figure from an aesthetic point of view, helps us to preserve the health of our eyes.

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