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Tuesday, 16 July, 2002, 11:17 GMT 12:17 UK
How sun-smart are those shades?
Woman in sunglasses with sun umbrella
Britons are learning to protect themselves from UV rays
Our eyes are just as much at risk from the sun's rays as our skin. We quizzed those basking on St Swithuns Day whether they chose style over substance when buying sunglasses.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that when the sun comes out, the Brits will baste their pasty bodies in the heat of the day.

Thus in mini heat waves - the likes of which enjoyed over the weekend - the nation's parks and beaches fill fit to burst.

Sun smart shades
Brown, amber, green or grey lenses
Wrap-around styles
Should block 99% or 100% of UV rays
Although the UK is slowly learning that sunburn equals skin cancer, it seems few take into account the damage the sun's rays can do to unprotected eyes, including an increased risk of cataracts and skin cancer around the eyes.

The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association is urging people to look for the CE mark when buying sunglasses - the best indicator of protection from ultra-violet rays.

What say the sun seekers in London's Hyde Park on Monday?

Ann-Marie and Alvin in the park
Londoner Ann-Marie McKeen prefers designer shades.

"Mine are beige with the Chanel logo picked out in diamantes. Fashion dictated my choice - I'm very shallow. I wear them to keep the sun out of my eyes but not to protect my eyes."

Alvin Charles, having lost his prescription sunglasses with Armani frames the day before, squints into the sunlight - and protects his eyes in the process.

Squinting constricts the pupils and closes the eyelids, blocking out UV rays in the process. Had he picked up a replacement pair without sufficient UV protection, his pupils would have dilated behind the dark lenses thus allowing damaging rays to flood his eyes.

Olaug opts for a hip look
Olaug, on holiday from Norway, opts for fashionable frames, as worn by the US pop singer Anastacia, in a colour she likes.

"I use these because they are the hottest Anastacia sunglasses, but they are no good for the sun. But where I come from, there is not much sun so I don't care."

Juan, with his girlfriend Ana
Brazilian tourist Juan, a self-confessed style junkie, sports a pair of eye-catching orange superfly shades.

"This is a psychedelic way of wearing sunglasses - I like big frames and the colour of the lenses.

"When I'm outside for the whole day, I try to wear sunglasses with better UV protection. But for a short walk in the park, I go fashionable."

Stephanie: "I've got 10 pairs"
Londoners Gareth and Stephanie lounge near the Serpentine Gallery in black wrap-arounds and beige fashion shades.

"I definitely chose my sunglasses for the look," says Stephanie. "But we just got back from three months in Africa, where we were told we had to wear ones with good UV protection. The few times I didn't, my eyes got extremely irritable."

Gareth: "I burn easily"
Gareth, however, wears his shades "for optimism" as the sun disappears behind a cloud. "And for more practical reasons because I burn."

With fair skin and light eyes, he needs more protection from the sun and his wrap-arounds help prevent light leaking in around the side and top of his face.

Nick Jones: "More comfortable"
Nearby, cyclist Nick Jones takes time out from pedalling around the sunny city.

"I really notice the need for sunglasses when I'm on my bike - not only do they prevent insects flying into my eyes, everything is easy to look at."

But price is the first consideration for in-line skater Paul Game.

Paul Game: "Too little sun"
"I got these for a tenner at Marks and Spencer last summer. I tried a few on until I found some that suited my face shape.

"I don't pay much attention to the UV rating. If I lived in a country like Australia I would, but here we're lucky if we get a couple of sunny days on the trot."

It would seem that look and comfort still take precedence over health considerations when choosing sunglasses.

See also:

03 May 02 | Health
05 Jun 00 | Health
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