According to the CDC, skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the U.S. While many look to sunscreen for protection, there are quite a few other methods to shield your skin from the sun.
Wide-brimmed hats, for example, protect your scalp, neck, and shoulders. Polarized sunglasses protect your eyes from damaging UVA and UVB rays, and certified sun protective clothing shield your limbs and torso. But what exactly is sun protective clothing?
What is Sun Protective Clothing?
The first thought that may cross your mind is that all clothing protects against the sun. That’s true, but most of the clothes we wear don’t provide full protection. Sun protective clothing benefits our skin by carrying a UPF (ultraviolet protection factor) rating that’s designed to give your body more protection. Similar to SPF’s range in protection, there’s a range for UPF as well – ranging from 15 to 50+.
Most clothing already gives you some sort of UPF; a white cotton T-shirt offers about a 5 on the UPF scale, but that doesn’t block enough UV rays to be considered sun protective clothing.
Clothing with a UPF rating of 15 to 24 is considered good, blocking 93.3 to 95.9 percent of the sun’s UV radiation. A UPF of 25-39 is in the very good category, blocking 96 to 97.4 percent of the UV. And a UPF rating of 40 to 50 is considered excellent, and blocks 97.5 to 98 percent of the UV.
A white cotton T-shirt, when held up to a microscope, shows many holes – and the sun penetrates these openings. Fabrics such as denim, polyester, and nylon are more protective than cotton. But it’s difficult to wear these materials when its hot outside because most people want to wear light, breathable clothing. It’s important to give your skin a break with some fabric that will actually protect it.
Sun protective clothing’s benefits anyone, but it can be especially helpful for those who have a high sun sensitivity or live near or at equatorial regions or high elevations. There are clothes that have unique features that are specifically for sun protection – flip-up sun collars, ventilation patches, and more. But, apart from that, just look for tightly woven cloth. Try a tightly woven linen shirt for the beach, or a spandex rash guard or swim shirt. You could even try out SunGuard, which you simply just add to the wash. It transforms existing clothing into UV protective clothing.