Why wear eyewear?
Panda eyes. A phrase that strikes panic into the heart of any avid tanner. These little white patches, supposedly attained around the eye after tanning, cause at least 20% of UK indoor tanners to avoid wearing eye protection; it seems it's more important to achieve an eyelid-to-toe golden glow. However eyewear's essential role in tanning cannot be stressed enough as health implications of neglecting this can have very immediate and grave consequences.
It's time to see the light and keep eyes in the dark.
* This article focuses on both the importance of protecting your eyes when using a sunbed and when wearing sunglasses outdoors. *
Why wear eye protection?
The main excuse for not using eye protection is to avoid tan lines. Many tanners believe that sunbed goggles lead to small, almond-like shapes around their eyes *sigh*. This is also a concern for some when wearing sunglasses - sometimes the specs are substituted by squinting for an all-over sunkiss. However, like your palms and the bottom of your feet, the delicate eye area doesn't tan as it has very little melanin. So avoiding eyewear to get a seamless, even tan really makes no sense.
Alternatively, some tanners believe that by covering their face with a towel when tanning, they protect their face and eyes from UV radiation and therefore don't need protection. However towels and t-shirts only provide SPF5, and do not protect your eyes from overexposure.
Dr Susan Blakeney explains "the skin on the eyelid is very thin and delicate so it's vital to protect this area from UV rays”. In fact, eyelids only block 25% of UV light meaning that simply closing your eyes won't protect your vision whilst tanning. She carries on by attesting that "avoiding wearing goggles [...] whilst using a sunbed can lead to benign eye growths”. A lack of eye protection, both indoors and outdoors can lead to many problems with your vision, such as cataracts, night vision loss, colour vision loss as well as growths, both surrounding and on the eye most of which either require surgery or are incurable. Plus, certain conditions, such as photokeratitis (or snow blindness) which is a result of the cornea being burnt, can occur after a single tanning session if eyes are left unprotected.
Although damage to vision is the main issue regarding a lack of eye protection, tanning without protection can also damage the sensitive eye area. This may lead to premature ageing, such as wrinkles and crow’s feet, as well as more serious skin damage.
So what should you do to truly avoid tan lines?
What a lot of tanners don’t seem to realise is that there are lots of different things that cause the dreaded panda patches. So, to ensure you aren't encouraging an uneven tan,:
Remove all make up and moisturisers from your face prior to indoor tanning.
A lot of these contain an SPF, so cleaning this off of your face before a sunbed will ensure an even tan. Plus, some cosmetics can magnify UV light's effect, leading to burning if left on whilst tanning. Alternatively when outdoors, it's advised that you apply a layer of sun cream over the top of SPF moisturisers. Although some cosmetics provide sun protection, when sunbathing this doesn't cut it.
Be careful with your application of tanning lotions.
As many lotions contain bronzers, if they're not applied carefully to the face, this is setting the delicate eye area up for failure. Just because this skin lacks melanin, does not mean that it is immune to the effects of natural bronzers and DHA! If bronzers are applied here, this will leave you with unnatural-looking dark circles.
Use different types of goggle or sunglasses.
Varying the size of eyewear can be seen as the facial version of changing swimsuits to prevent tan lines.
Adjust goggles or sunglasses during sessions.
Whilst ensuring that eyes remain covered throughout a sunbed or whilst sunbathing, moving these slightly mid-session will avoid nose bridges from causing any lines.
Accept that sunglasses are a major contributor to any tan lines on the face.
Wearing sunglasses is important for protecting eyes from natural sunlight, however the size of glasses will correspond to the tanned and pale areas on your face, as they inhibit UV from reaching the skin covered by glasses. The smaller the sunglasses, the smaller the panda eye area.
Understand that the delicate skin surrounding the eye does not tan like the rest of the face anyway.
It is unrealistic to believe that eyelids will bronze as deeply as cheeks and the nose. The skin is a lot thinner and contains less melanin.
Tanning salons must always provide goggles for their clients during tanning sessions, however it is also your own responsibility to wear the eye protection supplied. It is also your responsibility to wear sunglasses when outdoors. Wearing goggles whilst on a sunbed will protect not only your youthful complexion, but most importantly your vision.