Fashionable adult female holding small dog. Both of them are wearing sun protective clothing. Her hat is reflecting the UV rays from the sun. POC, East Asian

What Is Sun Protective Clothing?

A frequent recommendation for practicing good sun safety habits is to wear sun protective clothing. But what exactly is sun protective clothing?

What is sun protective clothing?

Sun protective clothing is apparel that is made from material specifically designed to keep your skin safe from UV radiation, which in turn helps protect it from sunburn and over-exposure to the sun. Not only can this help protect you from premature aging of your skin (think wrinkles, sun spots, or leathery skin), it may also help protect you from skin cancer.

Is there a difference between sun protective and UPF clothing?

Sun protective clothing is also referred to as UPF clothing. UPF stands for Ultraviolet Protection Factor, so they're one in the same. The clothing has a UPF rating that indicates how much UV radiation can get through the fabric to your skin. UPF protection takes into account both UVA and UVB rays. The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends a UPF of at least 30, and states that a UPF of 30-49 offers very good protection and a UPF of 50 or higher offers excellent protection.

When researching UPF clothing, I read that it works best when the fabric is not stretched. This is because when the fabric is stretched, the fibers are pulled apart and allow UV light to penetrate the fabric. So, looser-fitting apparel is recommended.

I wasn't looking forward to wearing UPF clothing

Several years ago, my doctor recommended that I start wearing sun protective clothing. And I cringed. In my head, I pictured sun protective clothing as looking like a hazmat suit, complete with a helmet and face shield. No way was I going to wear something like that!

There are actually a lot of options

I was pleasantly surprised to learn that sun protective clothing doesn’t look at all like a hazmat suit. I was even more surprised to discover the variety of clothing available. I found dresses, pants, shorts, swimsuits, jackets, and shirts made from the UPF fabric, as well as a variety of hats, rash guards, and even driving gloves to help protect your hands from exposure to the sun’s rays coming through the windshield.

It can be costly

One downside to sun protective clothing can be its cost; it can sometimes be pretty expensive. The good news, though, is that with more companies now making it and more options available, it is possible to find sun protective clothing at a decent price. Also, look for end-of-season sales online from companies that offer the clothing, and purchase it at a discount.

This isn't an excuse to not wear sunscreen

It is important to remember, though, that wearing UPF clothing does not mean that you no longer need to use sunscreen, because you still do! Any area of skin that is not covered by UPF clothing should be covered in sunscreen!

The furry friends among us

And don’t forget about your pets! You may not realize it, but your fur babies can also get skin cancer. I found a site online that sells sun shield tees and “snoods” for pets.

It is important to take good care of your skin, and wearing UPF clothing is one way to help you do that. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, sun protective clothing is the simplest way to stay safe, because, unlike sunscreen, you don’t need to reapply!

Do you own UPF clothing? If you do, do you have any tips for buying it?

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