Skin School   >   Skincare

Wear Your Sunscreen, Literally

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Hey there, friendly reminder that you should always wear sunscreen if you’re going outdoors! We know you’re probably sick of hearing that– we are too, but we’re not mad because we know how important it is. It’s 91º in Arizona, 92º in Florida, and 93º in New York. It’s hot. Sunscreens just isn’t our best friend in this heat, and the thought of slapping on sunscreen every two hours is exhausting. But guess what? You can actually wear your sunscreen as clothing – we know, it’s crazy. 


What is sunscreen-ed clothing?

 

We know what you might be asking: Can’t I just cover up with regular clothes? You’re not wrong. Regular clothing can block out some UV radiation. But that’s the key word: some. Most clothing will block some sun damage, but UV radiation is so strong, that it can still find its way through the micro spaces between fibers. UPF clothing are specifically made to filter out UV radiation. 


UPF vs SPF


Ultraviolet Protection Factor or UPF, ratings are to clothing what Sun Protection Factor, or SPF ratings are to sunscreen. While the SPF rating measures how effective a sunscreen is against UVB rays, UPF ratings measures how effective the fabric is for both UVA and UVB rays. 


RELATED READ: Time for a Refresher: Suncare 101


Just like SPF ratings, the higher the UPF rating, the greater the sun protection. UPF rating indicates what fraction of the sun’s ultraviolet rays can penetrate clothing. For example, if you have a shirt with a rating of UPF 25, then only 1/25th (4%)of UV radiation is able to reach your skin. A shirt with a rating of SPF 50 allows only 1/50th (2%) of UV transmission. 


  • UPF rating 15 equates to 6.7% of UV transmissions 
  • UPF rating of 30 equates to 3.3% of UV transmissions
  • UPF rating of 50 equates to 2% of UV transmissions 

Woman hiking with floppy hat

Choose better UPF clothing


All clothing will give you some type of protection. A heavy winter coat will give better protection than a bikini. That obvious. What’s not obvious is that a bright yellow shirt gives better protection than a white cotton shirt. We’ve narrowed down how to tell whether your apparel gives good sun protection into five qualities:

 

1. Coverage  Is the garment covering a good amount of your skin? You can get better protection if you opt for longer sleeves and floppy hats.

 

2. Fit  Choose looser fit clothing. Tighter clothing means the fabric is stretching across the skin, thus creating bigger spaces for UV radiation to pass through.

 

3. Color  The darker the better. Darker colors tend to absorb more UV than lighter colors. Brighter, vivid colors also absorb more UV than pastels. 

 

4. Weight and Density  If your shirt is made tightly-woven then that creates smaller holes. That decreases the chances of UV transmission. Thicker fabrics like denim and twill are likely to have more layers of fabric and tightly woven.

 

5. Fabric composition: Synthetic fibers such as polyester, nylon, lycra, and acrylic offer better protection against the sun over bleached cotton, rayon, linen. 


Your normal bleached white cotton tee only has about a UPF rating of 5, which allows ⅕ or 20% of the sun’s UV transmissions. In order to earn the Skin Cancer Foundation’s Seal of Recommendation, the piece of clothing needs to have a UPF of 30 or higher. Hats must have a minimum 3” brim in circumference. For babies and toddlers, their hats must have a minimum 2 ½” brim.

 

There are some brands that specifically make UPF clothing such as Patagonia, Athletica, Coolibar and Uniqlo. If you’re planning to go hiking in the sun or tour in a sunshine city, we’d recommend purchasing UPF clothing with a really good rating–no less than UPF 50! But if you’re just walking your dog in the park, then opt for apparel that may offer better protection after considering the five characteristics we mentioned above!

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