Protecting Your Eyes from UV Exposure, Even in Winter

You might think it's OK to skip the hat or sunscreen on a cloudy day, but did you know that up to 80 percent of the sun's rays can pass through thin clouds, exposing your eyes to harmful radiation?

Whether skiing, snowboarding, mountain climbing, shoveling snow or just strolling outside this winter, it's important you take steps to protect your eyes. In winter, you not only have to worry about light that comes from above, but you have to think about the light that reflects off surfaces like ice and snow. Folks who go skiing or spend time in higher altitudes need to be extra cautious; in higher altitudes, the atmosphere is thinner, so penetrating ultraviolet (UV) rays are much stronger.

Snow reflections can actually double your overall UV exposure. The World Health Organization estimates that fresh snow may reflect as much as 80 percent of UV rays, compared to other surfaces like grass, soil and water, which may reflect less than 10 percent.

Another concern is snow blindness, a temporary condition that causes pain, redness, blur and even loss of vision due to exposure to UV rays reflecting off ice or snow. You don't want to experience this when heading downhill at high rates of speed on skis or a snowboard!

This is what I tell my patients: If it's daytime, you are being exposed to the sun, no matter the time of year. Pay attention to the dangers of UV rays and avoid them using these tips:

  • Choose ski/snowboard goggles that prevent 100 percent of UVA and UVB light from passing through the frames.
  • If not wearing goggles, look for sunglasses that block at least 99 percent of UVA/UVB light, with frames that cover from the eyebrow to the top of the cheek and wrap around the face.
  • If you wear contact lenses, ask your eye care professional about contact lenses that protect against UV rays for an added layer of protection. As I told you in my last post, Acuvue Oasys Brand Contact Lenses, or for those who prefer a daily disposable contact lens, 1-Day Acuvue TruEye Contact Lenses, offer the highest level of UV-blocking available in a contact lens. And, remember, although UV-blocking contact lenses are beneficial in helping to protect against harmful UV rays, clinical studies have not been done to show that they directly reduce the risk of any specific eye disease or condition. That is why they should not be viewed as a stand-alone solution. Remember the "triad of protection"—wear them with a wide-brimmed hat and high-quality sunglasses.

Enjoy the outdoors year-round, but make sure you do it with the proper protection.


Dr. Stephen Cohen is a paid adviser for VISTAKON® Division Johnson & Johnson Vision Care, Inc.
This content was developed with the support of VISTAKON® Division of Johnson & Johnson Vision Care, Inc.

Important information for contact lens wearers: ACUVUE® Brand Contact Lenses are available by prescription only for vision correction. An eye care professional will determine whether contact lenses are right for you. Although rare, serious eye problems can develop while wearing contact lenses. To help avoid these problems, follow the wear and replacement schedule and the lens care instructions provided by your eye doctor. Do not wear contact lenses if you have an eye infection, or experience eye discomfort, excessive tearing, vision changes, redness or other eye problems. If one of these conditions occurs, contact your eye doctor immediately. For more information on proper wear, care and safety, talk to your eye care professional and ask for a Patient Instruction Guide, call 1-800-843-2020 or visit

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