How Can UPF Clothing Help Protect You from the Sun?
Skin Cancer Care Specialists | July 5, 2018
When the temperature begins to rise, it may be tempting to spend a nice summer day outdoors. However, even when you limit your time in the sun and apply broad spectrum sunscreen daily, it is important to understand the ways in which clothing can protect your skin from the sun’s harmful radiation.
According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, wearing clothing that covers more of your body is one of the best ways to defend your skin from cancer causing UVA and UVB rays. Choose long sleeved shirts over t-shirts or tank tops for better coverage and wear hats, especially those with wide brims, to protect the places people often forget to apply sunscreen — like the ears and the back of the neck. Sunglasses with a UV coating can also help protect the eyes, and the delicate skin around them, from the damage that the sun can cause.
Clothing can block or even absorb UV rays. Similar to the Sun Protection Factor, or SPF number given to sunscreens and cosmetics, UPF, or Ultraviolet Protection Factor, is a standardized system of rating articles of clothing based on how much ultraviolet protection they give. If a shirt has an Ultraviolet Protection Factor of 80, only 1/80th of the sun’s radiation will penetrate the fibers and reach the skin. The higher UPF an article of clothing is given, the more protected you will be.
Studies conducted in Australia, where the ultraviolet radiation (UV) Index often reaches levels between 8-10 for much of the summer, show that 90% of lycra fabrics were likely to have a UPF above 50, while only 60% of nylons, polyesters and cottons reached the same level of protection. One of the many factors that makes an article of clothing high in UPF is fabric density. This depends on if the fibers are tightly woven or if there are tiny holes where the sunlight can reach the skin. Color is also a factor as darker fabrics absorb more UV radiation.
Avoiding the sun altogether while outside may prove challenging, however applying and reapplying broad spectrum SPF in addition to wearing UPF clothing can help reduce your risk of skin cancer.