Squinting is not a good look for anyone. But if you are squinting, perhaps it’s time for a vision exam.

Squinting is often a coping mechanism for people who are not seeing objects clearly. Many times you may not even be aware that you’re squinting since this is more of an instinctive gesture.

The reason why squinting helps to improve vision clarity is because it decreases the amount of light that enters your eyes through the lens. A large part of our ability to see is due to the way light rays enter our eyes and focus on the retina.

If you are nearsighted, the light rays would focus in front of the retina and you would have difficulty seeing objects at a distance. The opposite is true for farsightedness; the light converges behind the retina and closer objects are blurry.

However, squinting helps because it decreases the amount of light that passes through the lens. Mostly affected is the peripheral light that enters the lenses from the sides of the eyes. This light, in particular, requires the lenses to straighten it out so it can focus on the retina. But if there is a decreased amount of peripheral light entering the eyes because you are squinting, you have ‘improved’ your vision by giving the eyes less to do. Less peripheral light means less light for the eyes to deal with.

Besides having less light rays to focus on the retina, squinting also slightly changes the shape of the eyes. This small shift may, in fact, help vision acuity by affecting how the light is filtered. If the eyes are compressed in a squint, the light rays are apt to focus more precisely near the center of the retina.

Although squinting may help you see a little better, this small adjustment should not be considered a cure. More likely, it should be viewed as a red flag that means you’re due for a vision exam.

Squinting may be an indication that you need corrective lenses. An exam will show the exact type of prescription that would address your vision problem. This would then determine the type of curvature that should be used to create your own personal eyeglasses.

The type of curve in the lenses of eyeglasses is the main way in which vision can be improved. A vision test provides the data to configure your prescription and to tell whether you would see more clearly with either a convex or concave lens.

For instance, lenses with a convex shape will correct farsightedness by making objects look smaller and closer. Concave lenses will help a nearsightedness condition by doing the opposite. In both of these cases, the objective is to bend the light rays that enter the eyes so they focus on the retina.

So, yes, squinting does help you see better if your eyes are not focusing the light rays correctly. Squinting will minimize the amount of light that enters the eyes while also changing the shape of the eyes which may help direct the focus of the light.

But squinting is not a good look, nor is it something that you want to do all the time.

A vision exam is the first step to stop the squint eye.