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!
In recent years, clothing manufacturers have
begun adding chemicals and additives to clothing during the production process
to further boost the sun protective factor.
The ultraviolet protection factor
More and more clothing and outdoor companies
are carrying garments promoting an ultraviolet protection factor (UPF). These
clothes are sometimes 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.
Broad-spectrum sunscreens protect against both UVB and UVA rays.
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:
indicates clothes with a UPF of 15 to 24
indicates clothes with a UPF of 25 to 39
indicates clothes with a UPF of 40 to 50
A UPF 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
Factors that determine sun protection
All clothing disrupts UV radiation, even if
only in small amounts. When determining a piece of clothing’s UPF, several
factors are taken into consideration. You can use the same factors to determine
if a regular piece of clothing is efficient at blocking UV rays.
Dark-colored 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.
Fabrics that aren’t very effective at
blocking UV rays unless treated with an added chemical include:
Fabrics that are better at blocking the sun
Clothing that stretches may have less UV
protection than clothing that doesn't stretch.
Clothing 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. The kinds of UV-blocking dyes and laundry
additives can easily be found at retailers such as Target and Amazon.
Loosely 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.
The heavier the fabric, the better it is at
blocking UV rays.
Dry fabric provides more protection than wet
fabric. Wetting a fabric reduces its effectiveness by as much as 50 percent.
High UPF clothing
Recognizing the need for a variety of sun protective
clothing options, retailers are carrying greater numbers of clothing styles
with high UPFs.
Some 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.
A regular white cotton T-shirt has a UPF
between 5 and 8. It allows almost one-fifth of UV radiation to pass through to
your skin. Better T-shirt options include:
- Marmot Hobson Flannel Long Sleeve Top
(UPF 50) or Columbia Women’s Anytime Short Sleeve
Top (UPF 50)
- L.L. Bean Men’s Tropicwear Short Sleeve
Top (UPF 50+) or Exofficio Women’s Camina Trek’r Short
Sleeve Shirt (UPF 50+)
To 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
Pants or shorts
Pants 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
Swimsuits made with UV-protective,
chlorine-resistant material (UPF 50+) block at least 98 percent of UV rays.
High-UPF swimsuit retailers include:
Hats with a wide brim (at least 3 inches) 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:
your clothes high UPF
If 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 Detergent, a 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.
Many detergents contain OBAs, or optical
brightening agents. Repeated laundering with these detergents will boost a
garment’s UV protection.