WHAT CAUSES SUNBURNS?
UV rays cause sunburns and skin cancer by damaging skin's cellular DNA. One bad sunburn in your youth, or five burns any time in your life, more than doubles your chance of developing melanoma later in life (skincancer.org). There are several types of UV rays created by the sun. The two of most concern are UVA and UVB rays.
UVA (long-wave): Can penetrate clouds and untreated glass, and impact skin more deeply than UVB. Can cause aging of the skin and wrinkles and weaken the immune system, as well as contribute to skin cancer.
UVB (short wave): Can penetrate clouds, but not glass. The main cause of sunburns, and can contribute to skin aging and cancer, as well as weaken the immune system. Most dangerous between 10 am and 4 pm.
NOT ALL SUNLIGHT IS EQUALLY INTENSE
Depending on where you live or travel, the sun can have a greater impact on skin. The below factors all increase UV intensity, requiring more protection to keep skin safe. Adapt to your destination, and be sure to take these into account when packing.
Clothing vs. Sunscreen
UPF: Ultraviolet Protection Factor
UPF is used to rate the sun protectiveness of a fabric. Unlike SPF, UPF applies to both UVA and UVB rays. Ratings run from UPF 5-50, with 8 being the rating for an average white t-shirt.
With sun protective clothing, as long as the fabric covers your skin you are protected all day long. The more intense the sun, the higher the rating you should wear, especially if you will be out for an extended period of time.
HIGHER RATING, SAFER SKIN
A cotton t-shirt is rated between UPF 5-8, meaning it allows up to 20% of UV radiation to reach skin. According to the UPF standard, no rating below 15 can be called 'sun protective'.
SPF: Sun Protection Factor
SPF rates effectiveness against UVB (burning) rays. Unless it says Broad Spectrum, it likely doesn't stop UVA rays, which cause skin cancer. Currently, there is no accepted rating system for UVA.
Apply a shot glass full at least 20 minutes before going outside. Reapply every two hours, (more when in the water, sweating, or using a towel). Applying a smaller amount less often decreases SPF rating. (Source: skincancer.org)
NOT TRAVEL FRIENDLY
With current security measures in airports, it isn't easy to travel with a bottle of sunscreen, and it is often more expensive at your destination.
Isn't All Clothing Sun Protective?
All clothing offers some degree of protection. When the sun's rays hit fabric, some of the energy is changed to heat. This converted energy is no longer dangerous to skin. The UPF rating, similar to SPF for sunscreen, determines the amount of UV rays that a garment can block.
The higher a fabric's UPF rating (15-50), the better protected you are. The rating equates to the percent of UV rays that pass through the fabric, so UPF 50 means that about 1/50th, or 2% of rays, can get through. Another way to think of this is a UPF 50 shirt blocks 98% of UV rays.
Coverage vs. Protection
Clothing manufacturers have many ways of improving the protectiveness of garments. Thanks to the following fabric characteristics, lightweight and breathable clothes can also provide high levels of defense.
The tightness of the fabric decreases space between the fibers that UV rays can pass through.
Contrary to popular belief, color does not have a strong effect on sun protection. It is the type and amount of dye in a fabric that determines effectiveness.
Different materials are better at deflecting the sun, such as polyester and nylon, thanks to their molecular structure. Most natural fibers need added treatments to be more protective.
Garments may have added chemical finishes to increase UPF. These treatments are not harmful to skin, but may lose some effectiveness over the lifetime of the garment.
Covered from head to toe
Our sun protective clothing includes shirts, pants, hats, and other accessories to keep you covered and protected wherever your adventures take you.