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What Is the Fuss Over UV Protective Clothing?

By , On , In Sun Protection

According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, clothing is the “first line of defence” against the sun and the harmful UV rays that it emits – which is the leading cause of virtually all types of skin cancer. To be true, clothing offers more protection than any sunscreen as most individuals don’t use sunscreens as they should ideally be used. And, this is the reason behind all the fuss over UV protective clothing today.

But, do all types of clothing provide equal level of protection against the sun? Certainly not. So, what exactly can offer the real UV protection? Well, that depends on many factors. Here are five things to consider when buying apparel for your family with UV protection in mind.

What to Look for in UPF Protective Clothing

1.   Color

The colour of what you wear may affect how well you are protected against the sun. Simply put, bright or dark clothes in black, red and navy blue tones absorb more UV rays than clothes in lighter shades like white or pastels. For instance, a white cotton tee has an ultraviolet protection factor (UPF)rating of around 5. The thumb rule is that the more intense the tone of the clothing, the better the protection from the sun.

2.   Construction

Similar to colours, the texture, material, and weaving pattern of your clothing may impact the way it can protect you from the UV rays. Semisynthetic or synthetic fabrics, such as polyester and nylon offer the best sun protection. Heavy, dense and tightly woven textiles like denim, wool, and corduroy also offer the same level of protection.
On the other hand, lightweight and natural fabrics, such as crepe, silk, and refined or bleached cotton are thinner and allow more light to pass through them. Hence, they offer less UV protection.

3.   UPF

There are specialized type of clothing on the market that come with ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) ratings. This is similar to the SPF rating of sunscreens, and thus, gives an estimate of how well it can protect you from the sun’s UV rays. The number shows what fraction of the UV rays can pass through the fabric. For instance, a T-shirt with UPF 50 will only allow 1/50th of the UV rays to penetrate its fabric and reach your skin.

4.   Size

Man holding a door open carrying a box of baking, wearing Coolibar uv protective clothing

Obviously, the more you keep your skin covered, the more protected you are against the UV rays. This rule is applicable to hats too! A hat with a broad brim – 3 inches or more – works best. A pair of UV-filtering sunglasses along with a broad-brimmed hat offer an extra layer of protection against UV rays, especially to those areas of the skin that we often forget to cover when moving out in the sun, such as the ears and scalp. Always choose a tightly woven hat for optimum sun protection. For sunglasses, pick a study one with wider lenses to cover your eyes, eyelids, and the surrounding areas as much as possible.

5.   Fit

It may sound contradictory, but looser fabrics offer much better protection than tighter clothing. Reason being, tight clothing can cause the fabrics to stretch or tear, creating more space between them for the UV rays to pass in to your skin. 

No single sun-protective measure in itself is complete. Therefore, experts recommend using shade, clothing, hats, sunscreens, and sunglasses together round the year to ensure all-inclusive sun protection.

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Congratulations Ben Wiese – Kelowna Skin Cancer! You’ve been nominated for Best of Kelowna 2020 in the category of Best Local Influencer. Please continue with your nominations to help us reach the final round.

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