When is comes to any outdoor activity like golf, clothing and hats are the easiest and most effective ways to guard your skin from the sun’s harmful rays, in addition to sunscreen of course, for your face or exposed arms and legs. Regular fabrics can provide a physical block between your skin and the sunlight depending on the knit, weave and type of fabric and unlike sunscreen, you don’t have to worry about reapplying in the areas that your clothing or hat protects.
You may have noticed a trend in clothing brands with apparel labeled with UPF (ultraviolet protection factor) numbers and from what we have researched, clothing with an official approved UPF rating isn't necessary for some, though we realize for those who really need protection from the sun and are willing to pay the extra price, it can give a level of certainty.
In recent years, some clothing manufacturers started adding chemicals and additives to clothing during the fabric production process to boost the sun protective factor, however this process can be really expensive and isn't always necessary, plus some fabrics used in sun-protective clothing are treated with chemicals, like titanium dioxide and Tinosorb (two examples), that block UV rays.
One report* we read that examined the UV radiation transmittance of regular clothing versus sun-protective clothing found that regular clothes may match or even exceed sun-protective clothing in blocking the transmittance of UV radiation.
We at LaaTeeDa Sports have been considering this approach when developing our next collection and are still weighing the pros and cons of investing in this option. Most important is that we always chose materials we know are comfortable and offer good protection and coverage from the elements, leaving it up to our customers to wash certain pieces with a UPF treatment if they wanted to add on extra sun protection for a fraction of the cost of buying pre-treated UPF rated clothing. What are your thoughts?
All clothing protects your skin somewhat. Clothing, “chosen and used correctly, (is) the best form of sun protection you can find,” says the Skin Cancer Foundation*.
The American Society for Testing and Materials has developed standards for labeling clothing as sun protective. A UPF of 30 or higher is necessary for the product to be given the Skin Cancer Foundation’s seal of recommendation. UPF ratings break down as follows:
- good: indicates clothes with a UPF of 15 to 24
- very good: indicates clothes with a UPF of 25 to 39
- excellent: indicates clothes with a UPF of 40 to 50
A UPF rating of 50 means the fabric will allow 1/50th or about 2% of the ultraviolet radiation from the sun to pass through to your skin. The higher the UPF number, the less light reaches your skin.
Factors that determine sun protection
All clothing can disrupt UV radiation, even if only in very small amounts. When determining a piece of clothing’s UPF, there are many factors to take into consideration.
Some fabrics are better than others and there are many factors to consider.
The Mayport Mirror in Florida reports:
Factors that you will want to consider include construction (density and tightness of the weave), fiber type (synthetics like polyester and nylon are superior to cotton, rayon and hemp), color (darker is generally considered better than lighter because it contains more dye - the higher the concentration of certain premium UV-blocking dyes, the more rays they disrupt), stretching (more space between yarns can be less effective), wetness (dry clothes are better than wet, though the reason for this isn’t clear), and general wear and tear (causing fading, thinner fabric, etc.).
Clothing manufacturers can add chemicals that absorb UV light to clothing during the manufacturing process or consumers can use laundry additives, such as optical brightening agents and UV-disrupting compounds, which can increase a garment’s UPF rating. The kinds of UV-blocking dyes and laundry additives can easily be found at retailers such as Target and Amazon. Some additive lasts up to 20 washes. Many detergents contain OBAs, or optical brightening agents. Repeated laundering with these detergents will boost a garment’s UV protection.
The New York Times quotes Dr. Naomi Lawrence, head of procedural dermatology at Cooper University Medical Center in Camden, N.J.:
“When it comes to sun protection, you really can’t beat a dark shirt with a tight weave and a good hat,” she said. “There is a lot you can do and not spend a lot of money.”
Research Reference Articles: