It’s the weekend, the sun is out and you are excited to head outside to get some sun on your skin.
- Sunscreen – check
- Sunglasses – check
- Hat – check
With all the other things you have to remember when heading out into the sun, you would think that simply putting on clothes to cover a majority of your precious skin would be enough to protect those areas from the harsh effects of the sun’s rays.
But do you know the UPF rating of your clothes? Probably not!
Clothes are an essential part of protecting us against those harmful ultraviolet rays, but, did you know, not all clothing is created equal when it comes to protecting us from the sun.
Wait, so, what does UPF mean?
UPF stands for Ultraviolet Protection Factor.
It provides you with important information on how much of the sun’s harsh ultraviolet rays will penetrate your clothing and potentially harm your skin.
It may not surprise you to hear that not all clothing will provide you with the same amount of protection from the sun. Think, a thick canvas shirt versus a lightweight white bleached cotton shirt.
I think most of us would pick the canvas top as providing the most protection. Its thicker fabric and tight weaves, mean it’s harder for those ultraviolet rays to get through.
UPF and fabric
Quite a lot! Let’s look at some fabric examples to help you get an idea of what to look for.
As we have already discovered, canvas is a great option, but let’s be realistic… no one wants to head out to the beach in a canvas shirt.
So, what are some other options?
Fabrics that have a higher UPF rating include:
- Dark denim
Fabrics that have a lower UPF rating include:
- Bleached cotton
- White denim
- Sheer gauze
Fabric can also be treated with UV blockers or absorbers to improve their UPF rating.
UPF and colors
Yes, they matter too! As you have probably already figured out darker colors can provide more protection than lighter and un-dyed fabrics, so look for darker colors if you are unsure if your favorite top will protect you from the sun.
Of course, like any sun protection, clothing with a UPF rating can still be ineffective if not used correctly.
Clothing that is pulled too tight for example may become thin and transparent, resulting in less effective protection.
Clothing also becomes significantly less effective when it becomes wet and old clothing that has worn will also lose its ability to protect you from those rays.
UPF Rating Scale
If you are still stumped and are asking yourself what is UPF in clothing, let’s explore the UPF rating scale.
The UPF rating scale provides us with an easy and effective way to pick clothing that will provide the most UV protection. Clothing can only be rated if it has a UPF rating of 15 or higher. Clothing under 15 is not considered to be UV protective. The higher the UPF rating, the better protected you are from the sun.
The table below explains UPF ratings in greater detail:
|UPF Rating||Protection||UV Blocked|
|15-20||Good||93.3 – 95.9%|
|25-35||Very good||96.0 – 97.4%|
|40 and over||Excellent||97.5% or more|
Some additional features to look for in clothing that that can assist in greater sun protection and keeping you comfortable in the heat may include:
- Ventilation – look for clothes with mesh ventilation sections that allow trapped heat to escape, keeping you cooler on your adventures
- Fast-drying fabrics – this will help your garment to get back to its optimal UPF rating faster
Is there a difference between UPF and SPF?
You might be asking yourself right now what the difference is between SPF (Sun Protection Factor) and UPF?
SPF is the rating system found on sunscreen products. This rating tells us how effective a particular product will be in protecting us against ultraviolet B (UVB) ONLY. SPF completely ignores ultraviolet A (UVA) rays which are just as damaging.
Clothing with a UPF rating acts to protect our skin against both UVA and UVB rays.
Some handy tips before I leave you and head out into the sun:
- The higher the UPF number the greater the protection from the sun.
- If your current clothing does not have a UPF rating don’t go out and buy a whole new wardrobe (unless you really want to), look for:
- tightly woven dark fabrics
- bamboo, or
- as these will provide the best protection against the sun’s harmful ultraviolet radiation.
- Once your clothing gets wet, worn or is stretched a little too tight, its protection against the sun reduces.
Remember clothing is not the only protection you have as your line of defense against those rays; get out that sunscreen, put on a hat, some sunglasses and seek out shade where available.
I hope you have found this article helpful so that next time next time someone asks you, what does UPF mean, you will be able to help them make smarter decisions about sun protection.