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A Guide To Choosing Your Sun-protective Clothing

By Dr. Nikita Toshi +2 more


Good quality clothing, hats and goggles can help you in getting added protection from the harsh rays of the sun. As the summer season approaches, we think of light, breezy summer clothes and refreshing drinks. The clothing you wear during summers provides a physical block between your skin and the sunlight. Unlike sunscreen, this does not have to be applied every few hours.

What is UPF clothing?

UPF stands for Ultraviolet Protection Factor. A UPF rating is given to specific fabrics that protect your skin from the sun and indicates what fraction of the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays can penetrate a piece of fabric. According to the recommendation, a UPF of at least 30 is the beginning of providing sufficient sun protection. A UPF of 30 to 49 offers very good protection, while UPF 50+ is best.

Why is it important to wear UPF clothing?

The sun’s harmful UV rays can be the cause of severe sunburn, skin cancer and premature skin ageing. People who are photosensitive can face serious problems if they are exposed to the sun for long. UPF clothing can help reduce the risk. According to research, 90% of non-melanoma skin cancers and 86% of melanomas are caused by UV radiation. Using sun protective clothing is an effective part of your daily sun protection routine especially when you are outdoors. This routine also includes applying sunscreen and avoiding sun exposure at peak hours (between 10 AM and 4 PM).

Wearing sun protective clothing such as a long-sleeved shirt, pants, a wide-brimmed hat, and sunglasses, whenever possible will protect against sun induced premature aging, melanoma. Look for clothing with a UV protection factor (UPF) or made of a tightly woven fabric.

Dr. M.G. Kartheeka, MBBS, MD

What are the factors that determine sun protection with clothing?

Most of the clothing disrupts UV radiations from reaching the skin’s layers to some extent. When determining a piece of clothing’s UPF, several factors are taken into consideration. You can use the same factors to determine if a regular piece of clothing is efficient at blocking UV rays.

  • Dyes: Dark-colored clothing is always better than lighter shades in the case of UV blocking, but the real blocking power comes from the type of dye used to colour the fabric. The higher the concentration of certain premium UV-blocking dyes, the more rays they disrupt.
  • Fabric: Certain fabrics like cotton, flax, rayon and hemp are not good at blocking UV rays unless treated with an added chemical. However, some fabrics like wool, polyester, nylon and silk are better at blocking the sun’s rays. 
  • Stretch: Clothing that stretches may have less UV protection than clothing that does not stretch.
  • Treatments: Clothing manufacturers may add chemicals that absorb UV light during the manufacturing process. Laundry additives, such as brightening agents and UV-disrupting compounds, can increase a garment’s UPF rating. 
  • Weave: Loosely woven fabrics provide less protection than tightly woven fabrics. To see how tight the weave on a piece of clothing is, hold it up to the light. If you can see light through it, the weave may be too loose to be effective at blocking the sun’s rays.

Which clothing is the best for Sun Protection?

  • Dense fabric: More layers of clothing do not necessarily mean more protection. The most important protective factor of fabrics is weave density-the tighter the knit or weave, the smaller the holes and the fewer UV rays can get through.
  • Dark or bright colours: Darker colours absorb more UV than lighter colours like whites and pastels. However, bright colours such as red can also absorb UV rays. The more vivid the colour, the greater the protection.

Sunglasses are an essential part of a UV protection kit. The best sunglasses for eye protection are those with a UV 400 rating. These filter out between 99% and 100% of UV rays, making them the very best sunglasses to protect your eyes.

Dr. Ashish Bajaj – M.B.B.S, M.D.

What are the other ways in which you can keep yourself protected from the sun?

  • Cover your face as much as possible: It is recommended to wear hats with a brim 3 inches wide or more. A sun hat with a brim all the way around will protect your face as well as the back and nape of your neck.
  • Using sunscreen: Any areas of skin not protected by clothing should be covered in sunscreen. Your sunscreen should have at least 30 SPF protection, should be broad-spectrum by being protective against both UVA and UVB rays, should contain titanium dioxide or zinc oxide and be water and sweat resistant. Lastly, using a sunscreen that comes in a lotion form is better than a spray, as lotion gives better coverage.
  • Avoid tanning beds: UV light from tanning beds can cause skin cancer and premature skin ageing. People who tan have a higher risk of melanoma, the deadliest type of skin cancer. There is no such thing as a healthy tan. A tan or sunburn is your body’s response to damage from UV rays.


Thus, it can be good to choose UPF clothes during summer. If purchasing UPF clothing is not possible due to any reason, need not worry and opt for full coverage clothes that can offer good protection from sunlight. Using sunscreen on the exposed parts may help you keep away tanning and the harmful rays of the sun. Accessories like hats, shades and scarves may also be helpful to keep away the damage from direct sun.

Disclaimer: The information included on this site is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for medical treatment by a healthcare professional. Because of unique individual needs, the reader should consult their physician to determine the appropriateness of the information for the reader’s situation.


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