Slip on clothing

Clothing absorbs or blocks harmful UV radiation and is one of the simplest ways to protect your skin. However, choosing the right clothing for maximum protection is important.

If you can see skin, UV can reach it. Clothing can be a great barrier between the sun’s UV and your skin.

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.

How to choose sun protective clothing  

  • Coverage: The more skin you cover with long sleeves, skirts and pants the better your level of protection.
  • 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.
  • 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 as they become more transparent. Choosing a fabric that provides effective protection from UV but dries quickly will help minimise the effect of moisture.
  • Caring for your clothes: Washing new clothes can provide greater protection by shrinking gaps in the structure. 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.

About Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF)

UPF tells you how much UV radiation can get through the fabric and reach your skin. UPF refers to both the design of the garment (how much skin it covers) and its fabric (how much UV it blocks).

To claim a UPF rating, clothing should cover the upper body including the torso and 3/4 of the upper arms and / or the lower body. Lower body coverage should extend from the hip line to halfway down the thigh (AS/NZS 4399:2020).

The Australian Standard states that clothing designs incorporating full length sleeves, collars, crew necklines, long skirt or long trouser legs cover more body surface area thereby providing a more extensive physical barrier to UV (4.2.1)

Most fabrics will provide some protection from the sun but if you want to be sure your clothes are SunSmart, look for a UPF of at least 30 for good protection and UPF50+ for excellent protection.

Tips for parents and carers

Try to cover as much skin as possible with cool, loose-fitting clothing made from densely-woven fabric like cotton. If your child is wearing a singlet top or dress with thin straps, don't forget to layer up with a t-shirt or shirt before outdoor play.

Does your child’s school uniform or dress code include sun protective clothing items that follow the Australian sun protective clothing standard? Make sure your children are being well protected when they need it most. See Top tips for sun-protective school uniforms.

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