The first line of defense against skin cancer is sun protection clothing.
But people are often confused about what makes good sun protective clothing.
There are five different factors to consider when looking for the best sun protective clothing: design, comfort, material, garment type, UPF (Ultraviolet Protection Factor) rating and cost.
DESIGN: Regardless of UPF rating, garments that provide more body coverage offer more protection. A shirt with long sleeves and a high collar offers more protection than a short-sleeve shirt without a collar. A legionnaire-style cap protects the ears and back of the neck far better than a baseball cap.
COMFORT: Sun protective clothing should be light, cool and comfortable so that you will wear it and keep it on in hot conditions. Remember the whole idea of sun protective clothing is to allow you to safely enjoy the outdoors. Look for clothing with wicking and ventilation properties.
- Wicking. When clothing gets wet from perspiration, it sticks to the skin and hinders the evaporation process. Wicking or breathable fabric have special fibers and weaves to keep perspiration away from you skin.
- Ventilation. If a garment is well designed, it will have panels that allow for air-flow. There is no single method for providing ventilation. However, always look for it in sun protective clothing that will be used for active-wear.
GARMENT TYPES: Good sun protective clothing is carefully designed for comfort and maximum protection. Always consider the activity for which you will be wearing the garment, and that will help you determine the best design.
- Surf shirts and rash shirts. These shirts offer superior sun protection for the upper body. They are usually made with a stretch nylon-Lycra or polyester fabric. They are designed to fit loosely to allow for evaporation, and they have high collars and long sleeves for coverage. The best are made from polyester so they are chlorine resistant and are rated to block 97 percent of UVR
- Neck-to-knee. These swimming garments look like wet suits with short legs and offer superior sun protection for arms, legs, and the trunk of the body. They are made to be worn in the water, usually with knitted nylon-Lycra or with polyester that is chlorine resistant. They should be rated to block 97 percent of UVR
- Athletic shirts. These shirts are meant to be worn while doing outdoor athletic activities such as jogging, hiking, or bike riding. Athletic shirts should be made with a lightweight wicking fabric and have plenty of ventilation.
- Every day shirts and blouse. Beyond the sun protective fabrics, these garments usually have special features such as fold-up collars to protect the neck or roll-down cuffs to protect the hands. The best designs are stylish and lightweight with plenty of ventilation so they can be worn in the warmest climates.
UPF RATINGS: The UPF rating indicates how much Ultraviolet Radiation is absorbed by the fabric. For example a fabric with a UPF Rating of 50 only allows 1/50th of the hazardous ultraviolet radiation falling on the surface of the fabric to pass through it – or expressed another way, the fabric blocks 98% of the sun’s harmful UV Rays.UPF factors rate both UVA and UVB protection in materials. And UPF ratings are listed on garment tags. The best ratings are UPF 50+ when tested. Once testing has been performed, manufacturers can label their garments based on the test results recorded. Always look for UPF labels on garments you buy for sun protection.
COST: The cost of buying sun protective clothing is ultimately far less than buying enough sunscreen to provide the same amount of protection. To achieve effective sun protection, an adult should use approximately one ounce of sunscreen to cover the entire body every two hours. A family of four (two adults and two children) spending six hours a day on the beach (three applications of sunscreen per person) for six days should use at least two four- ounce bottles of sunscreen per day, or twelve bottles during the six days. One sun protective shirt can last many seasons. Over time, the cost of using sunscreen is far more expensive while less effective than using sun protection clothing.
Sun protective clothing provides the fastest and most effective method of sun protection. It is made for all ages and sizes and is highly recommended by dermatologists and other skin specialists. Be SunAWARE and use all sun protection methods together to prevent skin cancers.
For a good idea of the types and variety of sun protection clothing available today, visit our sponsor, Coolibar, Inc.