How To Protect Your Eyes From the Cold Elements

Posted by Paul Kim on

Baby, it’s cold outside, and if you’re struggling to keep clear vision because of the cold, we feel you. Stoggles understands that cold weather can mean itchy, uncomfortable, watery eyes. We also know it can be a recipe for even bigger issues: like corneal freezing and burning. 

Before you head outside to frolic in winter’s majesty, read up on what your eyes are up against and what you can do to help protect them from Jack Frost.

Why Your Eyes Are Uncomfortable

Finally, you made it through the summer and all the pollinating oak and ragweed. Your poor eyes barely survived, and boom: winter hits. While your eyes might get a break from outdoor allergens, colder temperatures, chilling winds, and UV exposure can create the perfect storm for an eye-related injury you don’t want to deal with. 

Here’s a rundown of how colder temperatures can affect your eyes.

Extreme Temperatures

If you’ve ever ridden a road bike or gone for a run against the wind, you probably noticed something: your eyes water. If you aren’t wearing glasses, the wind resistance dries out your eyes, which causes them to produce more tears. 

On average, you blink 15-20 times per minute. Those blinks help distribute your natural tears over the surface of your eyes, keeping them lubricated. However, when you’re in extremely dry, cold air or in windy conditions, the tears that you produce evaporate faster. 

When your tears evaporate, your eyes naturally begin making more… excessively more. This leads to eyes that water, making it hard to see and even harder to concentrate on your task or activity. 

Corneal Frostbite

Frostbite is a serious condition that can cost you a toe or a finger, but it can also affect your eyes. Even though it seems your eyes are floating around in water, they don’t freeze when you’re in subzero temps. Why? 

First off, your body heat warms the fluid in your eyes, making them resistant to freezing. Secondly, the fluid in your eyes is salty. Saltwater freezes at a lower temperature than plain water, usually at 28 degrees.

Even though your eyes won’t freeze in your head when you step outdoors, you can develop corneal freezing if you don’t protect your eyes. Corneal freezing occurs when your eyes have been exposed to extremely cold temperatures without proper protection. 

The cornea is a structure in your eye that acts like a window. It protects the iris (the colored part of your eye) and the pupil, and the structures that lay behind it, like your retina. The blood vessels in the cornea can constrict when exposed to cold temperatures for long periods of time and freeze. 

Ultra-marathon runners who run in extreme conditions have developed this condition, as well as skiers and snowboarders who don’t use proper eyewear. Although the eye isn’t actually frozen, the frozen cornea will cause pain, redness, irritation, and blurry or double vision. 

Normally, your cornea will heal from frostbite on its own, but if your symptoms persist longer than 48 hours, you should see your optometrist. 

The Sun

We tend to put sun protection on the back burner during the winter months. The cooler temps make it easy for us to forget about the blistering sunburn we had just a few months before. The sun, however, makes no exceptions for UV damage in the winter. The same rays that can make your skin red can harm your eyes. 

The sun releases three types of UV rays: UVA, UVB, and UVC. 

  • UVC rays are the most dangerous UV rays to humans. Thankfully, the atmosphere filters those out before they hit the surface of the earth (or, you know, our dainty skin).
  • UVB rays are the rays that cause the skin to burn and are also most likely to give you cancerous skin spots.
  • UVA rays can also burn the skin, but they’re most damaging to your eyes. UVA rays can penetrate your eyes and cause retinal damage, but before that happens, you’ll probably get a sunburn in your eye. 

Simply looking down, wearing a hat, or grabbing a pair of shades doesn’t ensure your eyes are protected against UV rays. The only way to keep your eyes safe is by wearing a pair of UV protection safety glasses. In winter, the most dangerous source of UV damage is from rays reflected from snow and ice. 

Snow Blindness

Snow blindness, a form of photokeratitis, is a painful eye condition that occurs when your eyes are exposed to reflected UV rays from the snow. After exposure, the conjunctiva (the protective membrane that covers the whites of your eyes) and the cornea become inflamed and irritated. This is how your eye gets a sunburn. 

Symptoms of snow blindness can include:

  • Pain
  • Swelling
  • Itching and irritation 
  • Excessive tearing
  • Feeling like something is inside your eye or having a gritty sensation in your eye
  • Headache
  • Blurry or double vision
  • Flashes of light or floaters
  • In rare cases, temporary vision loss

Even though the name “snow blindness” is a little scary, you won’t actually go blind. As with corneal freeing, your eyes will likely heal on their own in about 48 hours. However, if you’re on a ski trip, this means sitting in the lodge sipping hot chocolate in anger instead of shredding the gnar.

Dry Eyes

Cold weather doesn’t just attack your eyes when you’re outdoors. Indoors, heaters are on full blast, which can cause you to experience dryness. If you find yourself hooked on artificial tears, it could mean that the places you spend the most time indoors are extremely dry. 

Try using a humidifier or relocating your space heater. If you can adjust your vent, move it away from your body so that it isn’t directly blowing in your face. Working in a commercially heated building can make it impossible to avoid the heat, so your best bet is to wear a pair of protective glasses to keep your eyes from drying out. 

Blue-light blocking glasses are an excellent option for keeping your eyes protected from blowing heaters and blue-light emitting devices, like your television or tablet. They work perfectly to keep you comfortable at your desk, no matter the conditions.

Winter Allergens

In the dead of winter, your eyes get a break from all the pollination and blooming that can torture them over the spring and summer. If you suffer from perennial allergies, those will still be lurking indoors. Mold, pet dander, and insect droppings can all be sources of perennial allergens. 

Winter months also offer the benefit of cozying up next to a fire or wood-burning stove. This can cause your eyes to water and feel irritated or even feel dry. If your eyes are irritated by an open flame, sit a safe distance away, or grab a pair of glasses to keep your eyes from encountering a direct hit of smoke.

How To Protect Your Eyes in Winter

It’s safe to say your eyes need protection no matter what the weather, but winter can be especially important. You can protect your eyes from winter woes by simply grabbing a pair of protective safety glasses before you hit the slopes, sitting down by the fire with a good book, or heading to work in your commercially heated hi-rise.

Not sure how to buy a pair of safety glasses? You know the team at Stoggles has you covered. 

Here’s what to look for to keep your eyes winter-ready:

Side and Top Shields

One of the biggest advantages of wearing safety glasses is the protection they offer around the top and sides of your eyes. Unlike regular glasses or sunglasses, safety glasses have side and top shields, which protect your eyes in areas that regular glasses leave them vulnerable. 

Side and top shields are also important in protecting the delicate skin around your eyes, which can burn easily and become injured if impacted. 

Impact Resistance

Speaking of impact, consider buying a pair of glasses with solid impact resistance. Even though you likely feel like you don’t need the extra protection, impact resistance is important. It can mean the reason you keep your eyesight if you’re involved in a sports-related accident or just come in contact with debris.

Stoggles glasses are all ANSI Z87.1 certified. This means our glasses are tested to withstand impact from weighted objects with varying force without cracking or breaking. No matter where you are outside in the winter, debris is always a risk. 

UV Protection

To protect your eyes from snow blindness and ensure you don’t have to miss any of the action, you’ve got to have UV protective lenses. 

Stoggles are powered by polycarbonate, which makes them naturally UV-blocking. Polycarbonate is inherently super lightweight, strong, and protects us from the sun. Now that’s a Venn diagram we can get behind.

With polycarbonate, you’ll be safe from snow blindness and protected from wind and snow at the same time. That’s a win/win.

Anti-Fog Lenses

Your glasses aren’t worth much if you constantly have to take them off to clean away fog. Removing your safety glasses exposes your eyes to the elements and places them at risk. Having to remove your glasses also forces you to take time out from your activities. 

Blue-Light Blocking

One of the most important features you can shop for in a pair of safety glasses is blue-light blocking technology. Blue light is a form of non-visible light that is emitted from sources like the sun, fluorescent lights, LED televisions, smartphones, tablets, and computers.

Blue light can cause your eyes to feel strained, fatigued, and even result in headaches and blurry vision. Even more frightening, blue light can’t be filtered by your eyes. This means it’s able to travel directly through the cornea and lens to the retina. 

The retina is where your eyesight happens. Millions of retinal cells collect the light captured by the lens and send the data to your brain, which interprets it into vision. Damage to the retina is usually permanent.

Researchers aren’t sure how much damage blue light does to your retina, but the fact that it can reach it is reason enough to wear blue-light blocking glasses to protect your vision. 

Style and Comfort

You’re not going to wear a pair of glasses if they’re uncomfortable, especially if you’re wearing them while you’re skiing or snowboarding. Stoggles are made from lightweight polycarbonate that literally feels like it floats on your face.

As with all glasses, make sure yours fit properly; they should only touch your face on the nose and temples for the most comfortable fit. 

In terms of style, Stoggles can’t be beat. We created our brand to meet the need for stylish PPE in a market that just didn’t have it available. Our belief is that you should never have to choose style or safety. You deserve both, and with Stoggles, you have it. 

Stay Cool With Hot Shades

The winter winds are blowing, but before you head outdoors, remember: your eyes need protection so you can keep doing the activities you love to do. 

You’ve got choices in terms of eye safety, but if it’s a superior level of comfort, protection, and style you want, Stoggles is the solution. We have the glasses to keep you looking good and keep your eyes safe during the lower temperatures and reflected sun you experience in the winter. 

When you’re bundling up, grab your glasses and level up your eye protection game. 


Caring for Your Eyes During Extremely Cold Temperatures | Beaumont Health 

Case Report: Eye injuries in the extreme environment ultra-marathon runner | NCBI 

What is Photokeratitis — Including Snow Blindness? | American Academy of Ophthalmology 

UV Radiation | NCEH | CDC

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