Dermatologists agree that clothing is the best way to protect yourself from the sun.
However, it is important to note that some clothing protects you a lot more than others from UV radiation.
Firstly, the fabric of the garment dictates how sun protective it is. The colour, the weight and if the fabric is wet or dry will have an impact on the levels of protection.
Fabrics which have a tighter weave which prevent sunlight from penetrating the yarn are most effective. As a general rule the heavier the fabric the more protective and the darker the colour the better too. Fabrics which are wet protect less from the sun than those that are dry, so choosing a fabric which is lightweight, moisture wicking and breathable is also important.
A common misunderstanding is that lighter colours provide better sun protection because they reflect the sunlight. Lighter fabrics do reflect sun light, but they are not necessarily more sun protective.
Many people choose not to wear a black or dark coloured item of clothing because they think it will make them too hot, but there are a number of studies which have been conducted which have concluded that they are actually most effective at blocking the UV and also keeping you cool. Please see our separate blog on what colours protect best from the sun here.
UPF is the measure by which fabrics are judged in terms of sun protection. UPF stands for ultraviolet protection factor. As documented on Wikipedia, Australia established the standard in terms of Sun protection by inventing the sun protective rating system for fabrics in 1996.
The Australian Government has a testing facility that independently tests fabrics and will designate a UPF rating for the fabric. The highest sun protective rating for fabrics in Australia is UPF50+, this is also known as an “excellent” rating in Australia. The number 50 signifies the fact that 1/50th (or 2%) of UV radiation is able to penetrate. UPF50+ rather than UPF50 means that the fabric prevents at least 98% of UV rays from getting through. Research has shown that a regular t-shirt may only have a UPF of 5, which means that 20% of UV radiation is able to penetrate through to the skin.
As well as choosing garments that utilise fabrics which have been rated UPF50+, you should choose garments which provide excellent body coverage too. There is little point having a garment which utilises a UPF50+ fabric if large parts of your body are left exposed to direct sunlight. It is important to choose garments that cover your body minimising exposure to direct sunlight which is the primary cause of skin ageing, skin cancers and melanoma.
Tops which have long sleeves and a collar work best for sun protection. Some specialist sun protective tops have thumbholes which allow you pull the sleeves down to protect the back of your hands. In terms of your lower body, pants or trousers are recommended to cover up your legs.There are also sun protective tops called rash-guards which are made specifically for use in seawater.
Once you have found a fabric and a garment design which offers excellent sun protection, it is then key to find a garment which is also comfortable and lightweight to wear in sunny and hot conditions.
The most effective sun protective clothing not only has great functional design, an excellent Australian UPF50+ fabric rating but also is lightweight and comfortable to wear in hot, sunny conditions.
Solbari Sun Protection is the leading Australian sun protective clothing brand with customers in over 60 countries. All of Solbari’s award winning sun protective products have been independently tested and rated Australian UPF50+.
Solbari’s range includes sun protective UPF50+ shirts, polos, rashguards, trousers, sun hats, arm sleeves and umbrellas.