Sun Protection From Your Clothes?
When it comes to shielding your skin from UV radiation, not all apparel is created equal. You need to know how to select a UV-safe wardrobe, whether it's from your closet or from specially made clothing.
Why Do You Need Protection?Despite the overwhelming brightness of summer days, only about 48% of sunlight is visible to your eyes. An additional 46% is invisible infrared radiation. The remaining 6% consists of two types of invisible ultraviolet radiation—UVA and UVB. UV radiation is the dangerous component of sunlight. UVB causes sunburn, premature aging, and skin cancer. UVA is also involved in sunburn and skin cancer. Although you are more susceptible to damage from UV radiation if you are light-skinned or you live at higher altitudes or near the equator, no one is immune to harm from UV radiation. And for those who try and stay out of the sun completely, if you have less than fifteen minutes a day of sun exposure, you will need extra vitamin D from your diet because sun exposure is the primary source of this vitamin. If you do not get enough vitamin D in your diet, talk to your doctor before taking any supplements.
A Standard in Sun Protection: Ultraviolet Protection FactorThere are three ways to protect yourself from UV radiation: block it, absorb it, or reflect it away. Sunscreens primarily block or absorb UV radiation, but clothing can protect you all three ways. The fabric blocks, the color absorbs or reflects, and special chemical treatments also absorb UV radiation; some even convert it into harmless visible light. Like sunscreen, there is a rating system for clothing called ultraviolet protection factor, or UPF. UPF indicates how much of the sun's UV radiation is absorbed. A fabric rating of 50 means that only 1/50th of the sun's UV rays will pass through. This means the fabric will reduce your skin's UV radiation exposure significantly since only two percent of the UV rays can pass.
Assembling Your Wardrobe: Clothing to Protect Against the SunHere are some general rules for selecting clothes to keep out UV radiation:
- Tight weaves are better than loose weaves (if you can see through it, UV can get through it).
- Polyester is better than cotton.
- Dark colors are better than light colors.
- Dry clothing is better than wet clothing.
- Choose outfits with long sleeves and long pant legs and collars to get as much protection as possible. Loose clothing can help you stay more cool, even when you are covered up.
- Always wear a hat, because your face and head get so much sun exposure.
- A hat made with a light colored material on the outside to reflect UV radiation and keep you cooler, and a darker lining on the brim to prevent UV radiation from reflecting on your face
- A wide brim of at least three inches
- No hats or clothing made of netting, mesh, or other loose weaves because they offer little or no UV protection
American Academy of Dermatology
American Cancer Society
Canadian Cancer Society
Canadian Dermatology Association
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- Reviewer: Michael Woods, MD
- Review Date: 04/2014
- Update Date: 03/26/2014