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Sun Protective Clothing: What to Know

We’re experiencing some of the hottest days of the year and with that comes a heightened need for education on sun protection. One question that has started to emerge is the value of sun protection in clothing. In recent years we’ve seen a sharp increase in brands developing clothing with a stated UPF level (or ultraviolent protective factor), particularly among sports brands. So what do patients really need to know?

UPF And Clothing:

As a testing method initiated in Australia in the 1990s, the ultraviolent protective factor for clothing (UPF) became standardized in 1996. The measure indicates a lab-verified level of protection provided by a piece of clothing against the sun’s UV rays. Why is this helpful? Because standard clothing in your wardrobe can vary considerably based on wear and tear, the weave of the fabric and a garment’s color and weight. Thin, white cotton t-shirts are believed to only offer an UPF of 5-8, while velvet and dark denim is estimated to be around an UPF 50. The reality though, is that most individuals won’t wear head-to-toe velvet during the summer season. The benefit of UPF clothing is that it technically cannot be marketed as sun protective without a UPF level of at least 30+ and most of these items are available in more ‘modern’ fabrics that are moisture wicking and breathable.

What To Be Aware Of:

While the FDA originally regulated UPF clothing as a medical device, today it is just monitored by the Federal Trade Commission, which reviews advertising standards. As this is the case, it is especially important to look out for the guidelines that are being used for testing and labeling and to remain well informed and vigilant. Furthermore, it is important to look out for how long the UPF rating will remain at it’s designated level after a series of laundry cycles. If this is a concern, or if UPF clothing isn’t available to you, Rit Sun Guard laundry detergent is an alternative that washes UPF 30 directly into the clothing you already have.

More Is Better:

As any good dermatologist would tell you, more is better when it comes to sun safety and it remains the truth. To enjoy the sun with ease, use all of the protection available to you. The alternative isn’t worth it. Always feel free to speak to your dermatologist about best practices including avoiding the sun between 10am-2pm during it’s hottest hours, wearing a wide-brimmed hat and larger sunglasses, never skipping a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30+ that is reapplied at least every 2 hours and, as much as you can, choosing to wear clothing that covers as much of the skin as possible in a tighter knit weave. If you want to wear designated UPF clothing it’s another interesting option to explore, just make sure it’s not your only arsenal against sun damage!


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