Can My Clothes Protect Me From Sunburn?

Read Time: 3 minutes

Most people know to lather on SPF before going outdoors. But what about UPF? Ultraviolet protection factor, or UPF, can be helpful for people who are in the sun for long periods of the day, such as when swimming, biking, hiking, or working outdoors. While wearing sun-protective clothing doesn’t mean ditching sunscreen, upping the UPF factor can bring significant benefits.

Northstar Dermatology Ultraviolet Protection Factor What UPF Rating To Look For In Your Clothing

Doesn’t all clothing block sunlight?

Clothes do provide some barrier between UV rays and skin. The average cotton shirt offers a protection factor of about 5 UPF. However, sun rays can still get through the tiny holes in the weave of a standard shirt. Sun-protective clothing is made with a unique pattern that blocks sunlight. The gear also uses a particular fabric to provide additional sun protection.

Does it really work?

UPF-rated clothing is one of the best ways to protect against sun damage and skin cancer. The number of the rating refers to how much sunlight the clothing blocks. For example, a UPF rating of 50 will block 98% of the sun’s harmful rays.

What number is best?

To achieve the Skin Cancer Foundation’s Seal of Recommendation, clothing needs to have a UPF rating of at least 30. Anything from 30-49 is considered good protection. Any clothing with a protection factor of 50 or above is considered excellent.

Other tips to know

Looking at the UPF rating alone may not be enough to get the best sun protection. After deciding to purchase sun protective gear, there are a few more factors to consider.

  • Color: darker colors provide more protection from the sun
  • Fabric: shiny polyester can be one of the most protective materials, as this reflects the sun
  • Fit: tighter clothing can stretch and lead to less sun protection
  • Weave: when holding a garment up to the light, there should be no visibility of the sun coming through the fabric

Don’t rely on UPF alone

Wearing UPF-rated clothing is an excellent way to protect against skin cancer. However, wearing this clothing should be one of many strategies that people use to protect from the sun. Besides wearing sunscreen daily, people should find shaded areas when outside. Especially avoid direct sunlight during the hottest hours of the day, between 10 a.m.-2 p.m. And hats are a must. Melanoma and basal cell carcinoma are 2 of the most common skin cancers and often appear on the face or neck. Wearing a hat can be a significant protective measure.

One of the many strategies

Take skincare to the next level with UPF-rated clothing. These garments help to block UVB and UVA rays, while SPF protects against only UVB rays. Sun protective gear should be used along with other strategies for skin protection. Speak with a dermatologist to learn more about preventing sun damage.