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Be Smarter in the Sun
Sunscreen Bands™ monitor damaging
UVA & UVB rays

Wearing Sun Protective Clothing

Sun protective clothing doesn’t just mean clothes that cover your skin in the sun. UV rays can actually penetrate fabrics to damage skin even if you’re covered up. If you want to keep your skin protected by covering up with clothing, you need sun protective clothing. This type of clothing features UPF ratings for how well the clothing protects you from the sun’s rays.

Understanding UPF Ratings

UPF means “Ultraviolet Protection Factor” or the amount of ultraviolet protection provided by a particular article of clothing. UPF ratings range from 0 (normal clothing with no ultraviolet protection) to 50+ for clothing with the most ultraviolet protection. Sun protective clothing is defined as anything with a UPF rating of 15 or higher.

If you have fair or light skin, you should wear sun protective clothing with a high UPF rating when you’re out in the sun and use sunscreen with a high SPF and UVA star rating to keep any exposed areas of skin protected. The less melanin you have in your skin, the more you need sun protective clothing with high UPF ratings.

In addition, babies and children should also have sun protective clothing. Babies less than six (6) months old should not be exposed to direct sunlight, so they need to be completely protected and covered. Infants over six (6) months still need protection, so you can use sun protective clothing with a high UPF rating in combination with a strong sunscreen for any exposed areas.

What Makes Clothing Sun Protective?

Sun protective clothing is made in a variety of ways to deliver the ultraviolet protection. The weave is usually tighter and denser to minimize any gaps between the threads of the fabric. The fabric also typically has a special type of dye applied which increases the UV protection offered and/or it may be treated with chemicals that block or reflect damaging UV rays.

Different types of fabrics can be used for sun protective clothing. Polyester and nylon fabrics both have naturally higher UPF ratings than other fabrics without any treatments or dyes. Cotton is one of the lowest UPF rated fabrics without treatments or dyes, although unbleached and naturally colored cotton offers more protection than bleached cotton. In any case, cotton fabrics are often treated with UV-blocking chemicals to increase the UPF rating for sun protective clothing since cotton is one of the best breathable fabrics to wear when you’re out in the sun.

Does Normal Wear Make My Clothing Less Protective?

It does, which is why you need to make sure your sun protective clothing is well cared for to ensure it lasts as long as possible. Normal use of clothing wears away the strength of the fabrics and can also cause sun protective dyes to fade. Both of these decrease the UV protection offered by your clothes over time.

In addition, stretching causes the fibers of your fabrics to separate and leave gaps. Any gaps between threads on a sun protective article of clothing will decrease its effectiveness in those areas. Always buy sun protective clothing that fits correctly and doesn’t stretch when you put it on.

As a final note, water actually decreases UV protection as well. Most sun protective clothing will lose some of its effectiveness in blocking UV rays if you get it wet. If you’re outside in sun protective clothing and it gets wet, you should at least get into the shade to allow it to dry if you don’t have other means to dry it by hand.