The skin on your face, neck and ears is much thinner and more sensitive to UV damage than other skin on your body. Skin cancers often appear on the head and neck but a good hat can help protect those sensitive areas.
For the best protection when the UV is 3 and above, use all five forms of protection – clothing, sunscreen, a broad-brimmed hat, shade and sunglasses.
Choosing a SunSmart hat
Not all hats offer the same level of protection.
When choosing your hat look for a tight weave and broad brim that provides good shade to your face, head, neck and ears.
- Broad-brim hats should be at least 7.5cm for adults, 6cm for children over 8 years and 5cm for toddlers depending on head size.
- Bucket hats need a deep crown, angled brim of at least 6 cm for adults and 5cm for children and should sit low on the head.
- Legionnaire hats need a flap that covers the neck and overlaps at the sides of the front peak.
- Check the weave and material in the hat. If the hat is loosely constructed UV rays may still pass through to your skin. A fabric with UPF 15 offers good protection while one that is UPF50 offers excellent protection. Even if the fabric is excellent, make sure the hat's overall design is effective too.
- Baseball caps are not a good option for everyday sun protection because they only protect your scalp and forehead.
- Use a brim attachment or legionnaire cover if wearing a hardhat or helmet.
What does UPF mean?
The ultraviolet protectoin factor (UPF) rating refers to both the design of the hat (how much of the head it protects) and the material it is made from (how much UV it blocks).
To claim or display a UPF rating, hat designs should protect the face, head, ears and neck. Sun protective hat styles that meet UPF rating guidelines include bucket, broad-brim and legionnaire hats (AS 4399: 2020).
The UPF rating tells you how much UV will pass through unstretched, dry material. Any fabric rated UPF15 provides minimum protection against UV. UPF50 and above provides excellent protection.
Tips for parents and carers
Many children do not like to wear hats. Persistence is needed to teach them that a sun protective hat is part of their outside routine. If a hat is on, the outdoor fun is on!
Children are more likely to wear their hat if you do too.
- For babies, choose a fabric that will crumple easily when they put their head down.
- For younger children choose a hat size that is proportional to the size of their head and provides shade across their face and neck areas.
- For older children, a bucket hat should have a deep crown and angled brim which is at least 6cm. A wide brimmed hat should have a brim that is at least 7.5cm. The side flap and front peak of a legionnaire hat should meet to protect the side of the face.
- Hats that can be adjusted at the crown are best. If the hat is secured with a long strap and toggle, ensure it has a safety snap, place the strap at the back of the head or trim the length so it doesn’t become a choking hazard.
A note about head lice
Head lice have not been found to live in hats because hats do not provide the right conditions for head lice to thrive and survive. For more information see Department of Health – Head Lice and Better Health Channel.