For thousands of years, people have been told not to stare at the sun, but the Instagram trend of #sungazing is encouraging people to do just that during sunrise or sunset for general wellbeing. Here, optometrist Sima Lal explains the best way to watch a sunset.

If there’s one thing I would like people to remember, it is to never stare directly at the sun. The sun is brutal and if people don’t take measures to protect themselves from its harmful rays, they can cause sight and life-threatening damage.

Firstly, it is possible to enjoy the sunset without staring directly at the sun. If you look at the colours and sky around the sun, you still get the effect of the sunset without damaging your eyes.

Secondly, wear sunglasses even when watching the sunrise or sunset. While UV levels are lower during these times, we always recommend that if your eyes are exposed to sunlight, they should be protected with sunglasses.

Sun damaged eyes are more likely to develop eye conditions such as cataracts, macular degeneration, tumours and even skin cancers on the delicate skin around the eye.

If you haven’t been wearing sun protection and are experiencing a gritty feeling in the eyes, excessive blinking and watering, difficulty looking at bright lights, swelling or blurred vision, book an eye health check with your local optometrist.

Begaj, T. & Schaal, S. (July 2017). ‘Sunlight and ultraviolet radiation – pertinent retinal implications and current management.’ USA: Cambridge Health Alliance. 

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