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We all know sunscreen protects your skin from sunburn, melanoma and sun poisoning. You might not be aware of UPF clothing, or sun-protective clothing. What are your first thoughts when you think of sun-safe clothes? Maybe shapeless shrouds or hiking equipment and wide-brimmed hats. Over the years, UPF knowledge has grown and we now have many options for protecting vulnerable skin.

What is UPF?

UPF is an acronym for Ultraviolet Protective Factor. It’s a general term that covers both UVA and UVB protection. The Skin Cancer Foundation states that UPF differs from Sun Protection Factor in that UPF measures how much UV radiation can pass through the fabric while SPF is determined by the time it takes for UV-exposed skin’s skin to burn. UPF clothing protects body parts we don’t usually use sunscreen (a common sun-protection mistake). This reduces your exposure to harmful rays.

What are the key features to look for when shopping for sun-protective clothing

The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends that you look for the seal of recommendation when searching for sun-safe gear. To be eligible for the Skin Cancer Foundation’s seal of approval, clothing must have a minimum UPF rating 30. UPF 30 to 49 provides excellent protection. UPF 50+ protects skin from about 98% of the sun’s harmful rays.

These factors should also be considered for clothing that isn’t specifically marked as UPF.

  • Bright or dark colors that absorb UV rays instead of allowing them to penetrate.
  • Densely weaved fabric that looks like denim, canvas and wool.
  • Loose-fitting, high-coverage
  • Fabric compositions such as unbleached cotton, shiny/satiny artificial fibers and high-tech activewear

Sun shirts and T-shirts with UPF Protection

You are probably most familiar with full-coverage button-down UPF shirts. More brands are creating UPF gear that is similar to normal clothing as the world learns more about sun safety and protection. Outdoor Voices’ new Solarcool collection is funky, temperature-regulating, and UPF 50+. Lululemon’s breezy long sleeves make a great protective beachshirt. There are many options available at Amazon to suit rugged hiking.

Activewear UPF

It’s a smart idea to use UPF fabrics when you are exercising outdoors or near a sunny window indoors. If your clothing doesn’t have UPF, any body part covered in fabric will not be protected. Amazon’s Baleaf brand makes quick-drying shorts that have a UPF 50 rating for hiking and running. For outdoor training, you might also want to invest in a UPF high-neck sports bra to protect your chest. Unsurprisingly, just because you are wearing leggings does not automatically protect your legs from UV rays. Athleta’s durable pants are UPF 50+.

UPF Jackets and Sweatshirts

There are many sweatshirts that provide UPF protection, whether you’re an athlete or just looking to keep warm on your morning walks. Vuori’s ultra soft crew neck pullover, and Nike’s track jacket, are lightweight, comfortable, and safe to wear while on the road. Athleta’s full zip makes a great workout buddy and The North Face’s hoodie is meant for spring and autumn treks.

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