HEALTHY LIVING | 6.25.15 | by Julie Rhodins
Kids’ arm sleeves for sun protection — Photo: Sun Angels
Most of us are familiar with the term “SPF” — the rating of a sunscreen’s ability to block UVB rays from the sun (Yep moms, it doesn’t rate the blocking ability of UVA damaging sun rays — sorry. More about SPF health issues at Environmental Working Group.) But a new term that is gaining importance is UPF. What is it?
UPF (ultraviolet protection factor) is a rating given to UPF clothing. The rating tells you how well a fabric will block UV rays from the sun — both UVA and UVB rays. There’s some very important reasons why you might look for UPF clothing, especially in the summer time.
More about how to read the UPF label and where to find UPF clothing below ⬇
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More on the UPF Label
Sun Angels Co-Founder Stacy DeVreese offers more UPF explanation — “UPF measures how much UV radiation passes through fabric. It’s essentially a SPF measurement for clothing, but it does provide protection from both UVA and UVB rays in most often a nontoxic way. UPF 50 means that more than 98% of UVA and UVB rays are blocked. A UPF label helps consumers understand how much sun protection they will get from a particular garment. The sun’s rays pass through all clothing but how much is what is unknown unless it’s labeled. All clothing provides some UPF protection but with the label you know how much.”
According to REI, the fabric’s UPF is decided on a number of factors: construction, dyes, treatments, fiber type, stretch, wetness (getting a fabric wet can reduce UPF), condition (used fabrics protect less). So, in order to truly know a clothing’s sun protection value, it would have to come with an UPF label. For example, a typical long-sleeved white shirt might only have a UPF of 5 — surprising!
UPF Protection Categories
A UPF rating of 40 or above is considered excellent. Clinuvel Pharmaceuticals Ltd in Melbourne, Australia lists this UPF guide:
|UPF Ratings and Protection Categories|
|UPF Rating||Protection Category||% UV radiation Blocked|
|15, 20||Good||93.3 – 95.9|
|25, 30, 35||Very Good||96.0 – 97.4|
|40, 45, 50, 50+||Excellent||97.5 or more|
Why Should We Care about SPF and UPF?
Well, we should care about our sun exposure, simply for the principal reason of protecting ourselves against skin cancer. But also protection against the sun’s harmful rays slows down skin aging as well. Furthermore, says REI:
Excessive UV radiation weakens the body’s immune system in addition to causing cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States—an estimated 1 million non-melanoma cases are diagnosed annually. The majority of skin cancer cases, up to 90%, are sun-related.
Many skin-care experts believe clothing shields skin more effectively from UV light than sunscreen. Key reasons: Many of us often apply sunscreen lotions too thinly, giving our skin less protection than the sunscreen’s available SPF rating, and we neglect to reapply it.
Where to Find UPF Clothing
You can type into Google “UPF Clothing” and find a handful of options — but not yet as many as you might like. Here are some go-to sites:
- Uniqlo: awesome selection of UV-protecting jackets. We wrote about its Airism UV Cut jackets here, UPF50.
- Sun Angels: kid-focused sun protection with cute UPF50+ arm covers (sun sleeves). Says the Co-Founder Stacy DeVreese, “The nice thing about our sun sleeves is that most kids wear short sleeves in the summer so they can slip our sleeves on before going out.” Easy sunscreen.
- Patagonia: The company has a multitude of contemporary options with various UPF ratings — pants, shirts, jackets, swimsuits, and more.
- Coolibar: Lots of UPF clothing and hats options for women, men, and children. (We also write about stylish sun protection hat options here from Modcloth.)
- Athleta: a small list of modern UPF50+ swimwear
- REI: pants, shorts, hats, and shirts with a variety of UPF ratings.
- Mott 50: stylish UPF50 clothing. Pants, tops, cover ups, sweaters.
Have you tried UPF clothing before?
Let us know in the comments below ⬇