By now, people have embraced sunscreen lotion on up to SPF 100+, but if you’re only pasting on chemical microparticles, you’re missing the rest of the sun protection component: shade. While there will always be a place for high-quality sunscreen on body parts exposed to the sun, covering up elsewhere—ideally with clothing designed to absorb or shield the sun’s damaging ultraviolet (UV) radiation—can minimize a person’s skin cancer risk significantly. This is where sun-protection clothing comes in to play. Clothing that is certified sun-protection, will have an Ultra Violet Protection (UPF) of 15-50 and give you up to ten times the protection of traditional clothing. For comparison, a typical cotton T-shirt has a UPF rating of about 5. A challenge with some sun protective clothing, however, is they can often have chemical agents, which can pose a problem to your skin and often wash out after a few spins around the washing machine. And up until more recent times, some have complained that the wear isn’t always the most fashionable.
You might then ask yourself, how can I get the best of all worlds: Safe, long lasting and fashionable sun-protection wear? The good news is that the marketplace at least in some instances, is starting to come around to using natural ingredients in the fabric versus chemical while being in vogue at the same time. This could be part of the reason for the recent surge in popularity, with sun protection clothing… you can now walk under the fury of the sun without fear, and look great while doing it!
Still not entirely convinced…
Shirts Block UV-B Radiation but Not UV-A, so sending your kids to play outside in the summer, wearing a cotton T-shirt, means they are nearly “naked” as far as UV rays are concerned. Would you send your kids to play in the sun without wearing a shirt? Surely not.
When wearing a shirt under direct sunlight we do not get sunburned. When wearing a shirt we get sun tanning only at the arms and are fooled to believe the shirt is protecting us from harmful UV-A.
This is only partly true. We are managing to filter only the UV type B radiation, which causes tanning and sunburns. But the “silent killer” are the UV-A rays. These are the longer wavelength of ultraviolet. They come to earth along with the visible sunlight. UV type A, are longer than UVB and can penetrate clouds. Even on cloudy days, there is light – if there is light there is UV-A. UV-A can reflect off surfaces (like water, snow or sand) UV-A can penetrate glass (UVB cannot). UVA penetrates through fabrics, UVB can not.
How do they check UV sun protection level for clothes?
When placing a cotton shirt in front of a UV lamp, and placing a spectrometer on the other side (a device which measures UV light). Scientists can check how much UV is reaching the other side.
As previously mentioned, cotton shirts do a lousy job protecting you from the sun as is the case with other types of fabrics, especially natural fabrics like silk, linen, wool, hemp. Man-made fabrics do better at filtering UV, but most of them are not as friendly to be wearing at summer.
Scientists have found that if special UV absorbing materials are inserted into the fabrics, they tend to filter UV by higher rates. When tight weaving is implemented in clothing UV does not manage to pass through. By testing different types of dyes, weaving and UV filtering ingredients scientists managed to create wearable UV armor clothing, some which block 98% of all incoming UV!!
With recent news about the inadequacy of many sunscreens—the nonprofit Environmental Working Group found that four out of five name brand sunscreens offer inadequate protection from the sun and/or contain potentially carcinogenic ingredients—covering up instead of smearing is looking better and better to many that like being outside. The only question now, will my clothing be chemical free and how awesome do I look?