Sun Protection Clothing
Sun protection clothing is a relatively new concept in the United States. Most people don’t realize that regular summer clothing lets through a surprising amount of UV. Of course, summer styles also typically expose a lot of skin to the sun.
Good quality sun protection clothing typically covers a maximum amount of skin yet is designed to be cool and comfortable to wear. Sun protective clothing is also very reliable - providing consistent and constant UV protection. It does not fade or wear off during the day. It is less expensive, as the clothing is bought only once and will last many seasons or until outgrown. This form of protection is not messy, and it reduces the amount of sunscreen needed on exposed areas. This is particularly appealing to mothers of young children and to men. And protection is provided for both UVA and UVB.
Clothing is rated for its level of UV protection according to an Ultraviolet Protection Factor or UPF. This is a similar rating to the SPF used with sunscreen except that it addresses UVA and UVB whereas SPF only covers UVB. Most dermatologists recommend clothing with a UPF 30 or higher rating. According to American guidelines the highest rating is UPF 50+.
Most clothing manufacturers test their fabric when the garment is brand new. The test is one developed by the American Association of Textile Chemists and Colorists (AATCC) – Test Method 183. The best manufacturers also conduct end of life garment tests because most fabrics lose some of their sun protection capacity as they age. This is a protocol developed by the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) – ASTM D 6544. Also, there is now a specific wet test for swimwear that has been developed by AATCC as an extension of Test Method 183. Guidelines that manufacturers should follow for correctly labeling sun protective clothing are described in ASTM D 6603.
Another product that helps clothing protect your skin is Rit Sun Guard. It is a laundry additive that enhances they level of UV protection provided by your existing clothes. However, the protection provided by Rit will wash out over time and it only works with cottons.
Sun protective clothing is an important component of an effective sun protection program. Use the methods described in AWARE for the best sun protection.
For a listing of sun protective clothing companies, go here.