Your Guide to Sun-Protective Clothing
Practicing good safety habits while exposed to the sun includes wearing sun-protective clothing. Learn what’s in the material and how to choose the right clothing for you.
Too much fun in the sun has an unfortunate side, which is the damage that rays of ultraviolet (UV) radiation cause to unprotected skin. Sunburn, sun spots, over-exposure, premature aging, and maybe skin cancer, are all conditions that can be avoided with proper skin protection.
There are several ways to stay safe in the sun, including wearing sunscreen, protecting your eyes with sunglasses, and limiting your time in the sun. However, wearing sun-protective clothing is at the top of the list of the most protective measures you can take.
Who Benefits from Sun-Protective Clothing
Some people are more vulnerable to UV rays than others. Wearing UPF-rated clothing is a good choice for everyone, but those especially prone to harmful sun rays are:
- Kids and Older Adults With thinner, more sensitive skin, kids are susceptible to sun damage. Older adults, especially those who have been less than kind to their skin, can begin to experience skin problems.
- Sun-sensitive Individuals People with light pigmentation in their skin or who freckle or burn easily have a greater risk from harmful sun rays.
- Darker-skinned People While dark pigmentation offers UV protection because of increased melanin in the skin, any skin damage is difficult to see. Be extra attentive to your skin while enjoying the sun.
- People on Medications A range of drugs can increase sun sensitivity. Always check the precautions.
- Travelers and Adventurers UV radiation is more intense at higher altitudes where the air is thin. Reflective surfaces like snow, ice, and water increase UV radiation intensity. Because you’re closer to the sun in equatorial regions, protect your skin.
- Farmers, Ranchers, Construction Works, etc. Working outside for a living can be hard on the skin without proper protection.
- Watersports Enthusiasts As mentioned above, water is reflective. Swimmers, surfers, anglers, boaters, and anybody who spends time on and around water are at risk of sun damage and accelerated skin aging. Cover up!
What, exactly, is sun-protective clothing? It’s just that: clothing that protects your skin from the sun. More specifically, the clothing is apparel created with material designed to protect your skin from UV radiation. It is also known as UPF clothing, referring to the Ultraviolet Protection Factor. In short, a UPF rating accounts for the ability of harmful rays to get through a fabric. The higher the number, the better the protection.
So, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation, a UPF rating of at least 30 is good, 30-49 is very good, and 50 or higher is excellent protection. When shopping for apparel you plan to wear as sun protection, look for the item’s UPF rating. If it doesn’t have a rating, consider that synthetic fibers offer more protection than natural fibers. Also, denser weaves provide more protection than loose ones, and darker fabrics offer more protection than lighter ones.
Factors of Good Sun-Protective Clothing
- Tight Construction The denser the weave, the more protective the garment. Loose weaves allow more sunlight through the material.
- Fit Clothing that fits just right offers better sun protection than over-stretched fabric.
- Dark Colors Darker colors absorb more UV radiation than lighter colors, preventing rays from reaching the skin.
- Fabric Fabrics that are better at blocking the sun include nylon, wool, silk, and polyester. Fabrics that are not very effective include hemp, flax, cotton, and rayon.
- Treatment Chemicals that absorb UV light are added during the manufacturing process of many sun-protective pants, shorts, shirts, swimwear, and hats. Also, laundry additives can increase the UPF rating of a garment.
Features of Good Sun-Protective Clothing
Special features that are specific to sun-protective clothing include:
- Ventilation Cleverly positioned panels or mesh underarms, behind zippers, and across the back let air circulate without exposing skin.
- Loose Cuts Snug to loose clothing is good. Tight is not. Loosely cut fabric is more effective at blocking UV light.
- Quick-drying Wet fabric reduces the UPF rating of a material. The quicker a fabric dries, the quicker the UPF rating returns.
- Hats A hat with a wide brim is effective at reducing skin exposure to the neck and face.
- Extras Sleeve cuffs that extend over the hands, flip-up sun collars, hat flaps, and neck capes offer additional sun protection in a garment.
Finally, when you are fully dressed in sun-protective clothing, you still need to put on sunscreen.
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