colorAccording to The Vision Council, it’s National Sunglasses Day–a day to promote the use of sunglasses to protect your eyes from sun-related damage.

Naturally, this made me wonder if there was research that examined how women’s vision might change according to where we are in our monthly cycles. And, I found one study that was really interesting. But, before I get into it, I have to share a funny story about something that happened to my husband in a clothing store:

One day, Douglas walked into a men’s clothing store looking for a white collared shirt. But, all he could see were blue shirts. Blue to the left, blue to the right, blue straight ahead. So, he calls over a saleswoman and says, “I came in here looking for a white shirt, but all you have are blue. Why aren’t there any white shirts?” And the saleswoman says, “Sir, the entire store is full of white shirts. You just need to take off your sunglasses.” Which were blue.

I bring this story up because it turns out your perception of color changes according to where you are in your cycle.

According to this 2007 study in the journal Ophthalmologica, you can see more colors during ovulation than you can during the beginning of your cycle (your period days) and end of your cycle (your premenstrual days).

The researchers speculate that high estrogen during ovulation may prompt improvements in certain brain circuits involved in helping you perceive colors. This enables you to see more hues mid-cycle than on cycle days when the level of his hormone is low.

Knowing about this little vision quirk can come in handy if you’re a graphic designer, interior designer, auto body painter or in another field where matching an exact hue is important. It’s also good to keep in mind when another internet color meme (like the infamous dress) pops up and you see one color while your friend sees another.

You can gauge just how much your color sensitivity fluctuates across your cycle by taking the same color test that the study participants were given–the Farnsworth-Munsell 100 HueColor Vision Test–which is offered free here.

By the way, in addition to increased color sensitivity at ovulation, you’re also able to see more clearly in dark conditions during this cycle phase, according this study and this study. Which means a few less stubbed toes when getting up for water in the middle of the night.

[Photo: Nicolas Buffler]