How to Avoid Getting Your Eyes Sunburn?

We all know about putting sunscreen on our skin to protect it from the sun. But did you know your eyes need protection too? Just like your skin, your eyes can get “sunburned” from too much sun. 

Sun Safety for Your Eyes: Protecting Against Eye Sunburn

This article will teach you all about eye sunburn, how to prevent it, and what to do if it happens to you. We also took help from the experts of Health Care Decoded.

Key Takeaways

  • Your eyes can get sunburned from too much UV light.
  • Eye sunburn is also called photokeratitis.
  • Wear sunglasses and hats to protect your eyes.
  • If your eyes hurt after being in the sun, see a doctor.
  • Eye sunburn usually gets better in 2-3 days with treatment.

What is Eye Sunburn?

Eye sunburn is when the front part of your eye gets hurt by too much sunlight. The medical name for this is photokeratitis. It’s like getting a sunburn on your skin, but it happens to your eyes instead.

Can Your Eyes Really Get Sunburned?

Yes, your eyes can get sunburned! Just like your skin, the front of your eye can be damaged by too much ultraviolet (UV) light. This light comes from the sun, but it can also come from other places like tanning beds or some types of bright lights.

Causes of Eye Sunburn

Eye sunburn happens when your eyes get too much UV light. Here are some common ways this can happen:

  • Being out in the sun too long without eye protection
  • Spending time in very bright places, like snowy mountains or beaches
  • Using tanning beds
  • Being around very bright lights, like those used for welding
  • Using UV lamps for disinfection (which some people did during the COVID-19 pandemic)

How to Prevent Eye Sunburn

Luckily, there are lots of easy ways to protect your eyes from getting sunburned. Here are some simple things you can do:

1. Wear UV-blocking glasses

  • Get sunglasses that block UV rays
  • Make sure they fit well and cover your whole eye area
  • Look for sunglasses that meet safety standards

2. Avoid direct sun

  • Use umbrellas or shade when you’re outside
  • Stay in the shade when you can
  • Use umbrellas or canopies to protect babies and small children

3. Wear a hat

  • Choose a hat with a wide brim (at least 3 inches)
  • Look for hats made with sun-protective fabric

4. Limit sun exposure during peak hours

  • Try to stay out of the sun between 10 AM and 4 PM
  • Do outdoor activities early in the morning or late in the afternoon

5. Check the UV index

  • Look up the daily UV index in your area
  • The higher the number, the more careful you need to be
  • Use the “shadow rule”: If your shadow is shorter than you are, the UV is strong

Signs Your Eyes Are Sunburned

If your eyes get sunburned, you might notice these things:

  • Your eyes hurt or feel uncomfortable
  • Your eyes look red
  • Your eyes are swollen
  • Your vision is blurry
  • Your eyes are watery
  • You have a headache
  • Your eyes feel gritty or sandy
  • Your eyelids twitch

Usually, both eyes will be affected. You might also notice that your face looks sunburned too.

How Long Does Eye Sunburn Last?

Eye sunburn usually gets better in 2-3 days if you take care of it properly. The outer layer of your eye heals itself pretty quickly.

How to Heal Sunburned Eyes

If you think your eyes are sunburned, here’s what you should do:

First Aid Treatment

  1. Take out your contact lenses if you wear them
  2. Don’t rub your eyes, even if they itch
  3. Stay away from bright light
  4. Put a cool, damp cloth over your eyes
  5. Use eye drops if your doctor has given you some before

Medical Treatment

It’s important to see a doctor if you think your eyes are sunburned. They might:

  • Give you medicine for pain
  • Prescribe special eye drops
  • Give you antibiotic ointment to prevent infection

Potential Complications

If your eyes get too much sun over a long time, it can cause other problems:

  • Growths on your eye
  • Redness that doesn’t go away
  • In rare cases, it might even lead to eye cancer

That’s why it’s so important to protect your eyes and see a doctor regularly if you spend a lot of time in the sun.


Q: Can you get eye sunburn on cloudy days? A: Yes, you can. UV rays can pass through clouds, so your eyes can still get damaged even when it’s not sunny.

Q: How long does eye sunburn last? A: With proper treatment, eye sunburn usually gets better in about 3 days.

Q: How long does it take for symptoms of eye sunburn to appear? A: You might notice symptoms as soon as 30 minutes after being in the sun, but usually, it takes about 12 hours.


Eye sunburn is a real thing, and it can be pretty uncomfortable. But the good news is that it’s easy to prevent. Just remember to wear sunglasses, use hats and umbrellas, and be careful about how much time you spend in the sun. If you think your eyes might be sunburned, don’t wait – see a doctor right away. With the right care, your eyes will be back to normal in no time!


  1. American Academy of Ophthalmology EyeWiki: Photokeratitis
  2. US Environmental Protection Agency: UV Index Scale
  3. US Environmental Protection Agency: Ultraviolet (UV) Radiation and Sun Exposure
  4. Skin Cancer Foundation: Seal of Recommendation
  5. American National Standards Institute: ANSI/ISEA Z87.1-2020: Current Standard for Safety Glasses

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