Published on August 24, 2011
As an everyday barrier between the sun and your skin, clothing can absorb or reflect much of the sun’s harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiation. It is the simplest, and often the most effective, form of sun protection. But some clothes are more protective than others. Here, we present The Skin Cancer Foundation’s guide to maximizing this protection during the summer as well as all year long.
You probably already own many garments that provide good sun protection. For effective UV protection,
• choose clothes in bright or dark colors, like red or black. They absorb more UV radiation than white or pastel shades.
• look for synthetic fibers (such as polyester), which offer more protection than materials like refined and bleached cottons or crepe.
• on cooler days, go for tightly woven or closely knitted fabrics, like denim, and denser fabrics, like heavyweight flannel, which let in less UV light than thinner materials.
Ultraviolet Protection Factor
Many manufacturers identify their sun- protective garments with an ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) label. This indicates what fraction of the sun’s UV rays can penetrate the fabric. A shirt with a UPF of 50, for example, lets just 1/50th of the sun’s UVR reach the skin, compared to an everyday white cotton T-shirt, which has a UPF of only about 5. The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends clothing with a UPF of 30+.
Dressing for sun safety is also about how much skin you cover; long-sleeved shirts, and long pants and dresses simply provide more protection than T-shirts, shorts, and minis. Luckily, many sportswear manufacturers offer fashionable, seasonal high-UPF staples such as cargo shorts, polo shirts, and dresses designed to keep you cool, dry, and sun-safe.
If summer brings you to the beach, wear high-UPF swimwear in styles that cover more skin, like one-piece suits and long trunks. Rash guards and swim shirts, athletic shirts made of elastic materials like nylon and spandex, are also good choices. Out of the water, loose- fitting tunics and sarongs help shield the arms and legs; scarves and wraps can cover the neck, upper chest, and shoulder area.