What’s the best way to protect yourself from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays (UVR), given that we need to work, travel, and sometimes play outside? Clothing is the most basic and generally the best means of sun protection. Not all clothing is equal, however, and some of it isn’t actually very good at protecting us. So, what makes a piece of clothing sun-safe?
Why Choose UPF?
To be certain of an item of clothing’s sun-protective ability, the item has to be UPF-tested. ultraviolet protection factor. Choosing a garment with a UPF of 30 or higher means that 1/30th of the UVR is reaching your skin. This is a very small amount, and will most likely be adequate protection against any sun damage. In comparison, a thin white cotton T-shirt probably has a UPF of about 5, which allows 1/5th of the sun’s UV through. Your skin could eventually burn in such ashirt, especially if it was wet. Wet fabrics pull apart, creating larger gaps in the weave for UVR to pass through.
Here are some key tips for buying and staying sun-safe with clothing:
- Buy garments that fit your lifestyle. You don’t need a heavy work shirt for the beach, but a long-sleeved, tightly woven shirt can be both cool and sun-smart.
- Look for garments with a UPF of 30 or higher so that you know you’re getting effective sun protection.
- Choose items that cover more skin. Consider a rashguard or swim shirt instead of standard swim shorts or a bikini. Swim shirts are made of lightweight, elastic materials like spandex, and cover your upper body without weighing you down. You can also have beach towels or sarongs ready for when you leave the water.
Other sun safe tips
- When outdoors, seek out shaded areas under awnings or trees and minimize your time in the direct sun. A sun umbrella not only protects but keeps you cool!
- Be aware that UV light can bounce off surfaces such as water, and glass, hitting your skin twice and increasing the intensity of exposure.
- Use sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher every day.
According to the American Academy of Dermatology, anyone can develop skin cancer regardless of age, gender or race. There were 5 million U.S. residents treated for skin cancer last year.So while it is great to spend time outdoors and enjoy the sunshine, it is important to protect your skin from the harmful rays.