What’s better at protecting your skin from the sun than sunscreen? Sun protection clothing! Basically shirts, pants, hats and bathing suits made from fabrics designed to filter out harmful ultraviolet rays. And they have a UPF rating – short for ultraviolet protection factor.
Dr. Joshua Zeichner is a spokesman for The Skin Cancer Foundation. And he says that UPF clothing is better than sunscreen because it keeps the sun from even touching your skin. And with more than 2 million malignant skin cancers diagnosed every year in North America, we have to use every possible protection.
The truth is, any clothing can be considered sun-protective if it covers your skin, but it’s not enough. That’s because a white T-shirt just gives you the equivalent of an SPF 4. And a dark, tightly-woven short only raises the coverage to 10.
But garments with a UPF rating provide a lot more protection. The numbers range from 15 to 50-plus. Some ratings are based on fiber density, like thread count. Others are pre-treated with UV-blocking chemicals, which last for several washings. You can also create your own UPF clothing with a fabric dye called Sun Guard.
Sun protection garments also beat sunscreen because most people don't apply enough lotion and forget to reapply it after they’ve been sweating or swimming.
Want to find UPF clothing? They sell it at REI, Athleta.com, Solartex.com and Amazon.