One of the best barriers between your skin and the sun is clothing, so try to cover as much skin as possible.
What to look for when choosing sun protective clothing
Not all clothing fabric is equal. Consider:
- Fabric structure: If you can easily see through the fabric, chances are UV can easily pass through it. The tighter the fabric structure, the better the sun protection. Tightly woven, lightweight natural fabrics such as linen, cotton or hemp will also help keep you cooler than synthetic fibre equivalents.
- Tension: If a fabric is stretched, it will be less protective. This is common in knitted or elasticised fabrics.
- Layering: Layering of fabrics and garments is an effective way of increasing protection from UV.
- Colour: Darker colours absorb UV rays better than white or pastel colours of the same fabric.
- Moisture content: Fabrics offer less protection from UV radiation when wet. How much less protection will depend on the type of fabric and the amount of moisture it absorbs. To reduce the effect of the moisture, take dry clothes to change into or if dipping in and out of the water, choose a fabric that provides effective protection from UV and that will dry quickly.
- Caring for your clothes: Washing new clothes can improve their sun protectiveness by shrinking gaps in the structure. However, old, threadbare or faded clothes may offer decreased protection over time.
- UV absorbers: Some clothing is treated so it can absorb more UV radiation. Check the clothing label to see if your clothes have been treated and follow the care instructions.
Some clothing has an ultraviolet protection factor (UPF), which is a rating of how much UV protection a fabric provides. But the rating doesn’t apply to the style or design of the clothing.
Most fabrics will provide some protection from the sun, but a UPF rating provides a handy guarantee.