Sun Protective Clothing
and hats are among the simplest and most effective ways to guard your skin from
the sun’s harmful rays. They provide a physical block between your skin and the
sunlight. Unlike sunscreen, you won’t have to worry about reapplying!
recent years, clothing manufacturers have begun adding chemicals and additives
to clothing during the production process to further boost the sun-protective
and more clothing and outdoor companies are carrying garments promoting an ultraviolet
protection factor (UPF). These clothes are treated with colorless dyes or
chemical UV absorbers that block both ultraviolet-A (UVA) and ultraviolet-B
(UVB) rays. UPF is similar to the sun protection factor (SPF) that is used on
cosmetics and sunscreens. SPF measures only how much ultraviolet-B (UVB) is
blocked and doesn’t measure UVA.
Society for Testing and Materials developed standards for labeling garments as sun-protective. A UPF of 30
or higher is necessary for the product to be given the Skin Cancer Foundation’s seal of recommendation.
UPF ratings break down as follows:
- Good: indicates
clothes with a UPF of 15 to 24
- Very Good: indicates
clothes with a UPF of 25 to 39
- Excellent: indicates
clothes with a UPF of 40 to 50
rating of 50 indicates the fabric will allow 1/50th — or about 2 percent
— of the ultraviolet radiation from the sun to pass through to your skin. The
higher the UPF number, the less light reaches your skin.
Determine Sun Protection
clothing disrupts UV radiation, even if only in small amounts. When determining
a piece of clothing’s UPF, several factors are taken into consideration. The
same factors can be used by anyone to determine if a regular piece of clothing
is efficient at blocking UV rays.
clothing is better than lighter shades, but the real blocking power comes from
the type of dye used to color the fabric. The higher the concentration of
certain premium UV-blocking dyes, the more rays they disrupt.
that aren’t very effective at blocking UV rays unless treated with an added
that are better at blocking the sun include:
that stretches may have less UV protection than clothing that doesn't stretch.
manufacturers may add chemicals that absorb UV light to clothing during the
manufacturing process. Laundry additives, such as “optical brightening agents”
and UV-disrupting compounds, can increase a garment’s UPF rating.
woven fabrics provide less protection than tightly woven fabrics. To see how
tight the weave on a piece of clothing is, hold it up to a light. If you can
see light through it, the weave may be too loose to be effective at blocking
the sun’s rays.
heavier the fabric, the better it is at blocking UV rays.
fabric provides more protection than wet fabric. Wetting a fabric reduces its
effectiveness by as much as 50 percent.
the need for a variety of sun-protective clothing options, retailers are
carrying greater numbers of clothing styles with high UPFs.
companies use a trademarked name to denote their sun-protective clothing. For
example, Columbia’s high-UPF clothing is called “Omni-Shade.” The company North
Face simply notes the UPF in each garment’s description. Parasol is a brand
that specializes in 50+ UPF resort wear for women and girls.
regular white cotton T-shirt has UPF between 5 and 8. It allows almost
one-fifth of UV radiation to pass through to your skin. Better T-shirt options
boost air circulation and help you stay cool, some tightly constructed UPF garments
use vents or holes. Others may be constructed with moisture-wicking fabric that
helps pull sweat away from the body.
Pants or Shorts
with a high UPF are a great way to protect your skin while you work, play, or
relax. If you wear these shorts you still should apply sunscreen to the
uncovered portion of your legs. Options include:
made with UV-protective, chlorine-resistant material block at least 98 percent
of UV rays. High-UPF swimsuit retailers include:
with a wide brim or a piece of fabric that drapes over the neck reduce the
amount of exposure that delicate facial and neck skin must endure. Wearing one
while outside will help reduce your UV exposure. Options include:
adding sun-protective clothing to your wardrobe is too expensive, or your
children are growing too quickly to invest in clothes they won’t be able to
wear in a few months, a sun-protective colorless additive may be a great
alternative to buying new clothes. For example, SunGuard
UV-blocking additive that is added to your laundry during a wash cycle, gives
clothing an SPF factor of 30. The additive lasts up to 20 washes.
detergents contain OBAs (or “optical brightening agents”). Repeated laundering
with these detergents will boost a garment’s UV protection.