Clothing for Sun Protection: How to be Trendy From UV Rays.

Agostina Martino 2021-06-03

As summer is coming, sun protection is calling. Surely, an hour on a shiny day under the sun it's a small pleasure we all enjoy having. But, what about UV rays? According to Skin Cancer Foundation 1 out of 5 Americans will develop skin cancer by age 70. And one of the two main causes of skin cancer is the sun’s harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays. The good news is that prevention it's an effective alternative for avoiding sun's UV rays damage and clothing sun protection, an attractive and easy choice for that purpose.

Lakeside Sunbathing
Lakeside Sunbathing - Pixabay

The second main cause for skin cancer is the use of UV tanning beds, a beauty option just for those who are truly searching for a tanned skin instead of a healthy one.

15 to 35 kilometers above Earth's surface, a gas called ozone surrounds the planet. The atmospheric ozone layer acts as a barrier between Earth and ultraviolet radiation from the sun, particularly harmful UVB-type rays. However, pollution has caused the ozone layer to thin, exposing life on Earth to dangerous radiation. You can learn more about the ozone layer in our article Depletion of the Ozone Layer: Impact on Planet Earth. Exposure to UVB radiation is linked with increased risk of skin cancer and cataracts, as well as damage to plants and marine ecosystems. In that context, why not consider clothing for sun protection the alternative to counteract effects on skin of a thin ozone layer?

The skin needs sunlight in order to be able to manufacture vitamin D, which is important for normal bone formation. It also prevents mood enhancement (technically known as Seasonal Affective Disorder - SAD). Studies have shown that the rate of serotonin production in the brain is directly influenced by the amount of sunlight the body is exposed to on a given day. Serotonin levels are higher on bright days than on cloudy days. It's a potent brain chemical that controls mood and is associated with feelings of happiness. That's why shining smiles on shining days.

Learn more about healthy sunbathing here Sun and Skin protection: How To Healthily Enjoy Sun Exposure.

Woman Sitting on Textiles Applying Suncsreen
Photo by RF._.studio from Pexels

But there’s a downside. Sun's ultraviolet light can cause major damage to the skin. The skin on its outer layer is composed by cells that contain the pigment melanin. Melanin acts as a protection for skin from the sun's ultraviolet rays. These can burn the skin and attempt against its elasticity, leading to premature aging.

The amount of UV light that comes into contact with the skin depends on several factors, such as time of day, season, altitude and geographical location. During periods of intense UV radiation, for example, at midday or on a hot summer day, it is advisable to wear protective clothing (clothing for sun protection consists of an trully innovation for this) and apply sunscreen when going outside.

Sunlight, especially UVA and UVB rays, can cause sunburn, premature skin aging, eye damage, weakening of the immune system, photoallergic and phototoxic reactions and even skin cancer. Doctors and dermatologists constantly warn about the strong correlation between the frequency of skin cancer and the degree of DNA damage, reminding us that more than 90% of skin cancers are a consequence of sun exposure. It is generally known that the best treatment is prevention through sun protection.

Commonly, sunscreen and sun protection items, including clothing for sun protection, are classified by the SPF (Sun Protection Factor) or UPF (Ultraviolet Protector Factor). It consists of a measure of how well sunscreens or, for example, shirts with sun protection, will protect skin from UVB rays. If sun protection clothing for women indicates UPF 15, this means that the skin can be exposed to UVB rays without burning 15 times longer than the same skin without that sun protection clothing. Thus, a person who would burn within 10 minutes of being exposed to the sun, when wearing UPF 15 sleeves for sun protection, the time it will take to burn becomes 150 minutes (10 x 15 = 150 minutes).

It is therefore important to know that the higher the protection factor, the longer the protection time. There´s an usual mistake: In no case does the sun protection factor indicate the degree of tanning tolerance.

Summer Flat Lay - Pixabay License
Summer Flat Lay - Pixabay License

It's there an advantage to clothing for sun protection over sunscreen?

Not really. Sunscreen and sunglasses are complementary to sun protective clothing. Everyday face sunscreen is a great beauty and health care routine. Face skin it's a delicate one and it's usually more exposed to sun damage than the rest of the skin of our body, so it deserves not only a proper hat but also a sunscreen design for it. Nowadays even make up products consider UPF in its composition.

Scientific studies of different technical textiles, carried out in several technological centers, show that the protection of textiles against ultraviolet rays from the sun depends on several factors. Yes, you´re right, your clothing can shield you from the sun. But, all fabrics and colors provide equal protection? Luckily not. There's plenty of options and when shopping for apparel or thinking about your OOTD that can effectively shield you from harmful rays, you should keep some factors in mind.

Taking color into account in sun protection clothing for women, men or children, we should consider that dark or bright colors keep UV rays from reaching your skin by absorbing them rather than allowing them to penetrate. That’s why these colors offer better protection than lighter shades. Also, if we think about the construction of textiles, densely woven cloth, like denim, canvas, wool or synthetic fibers, are more protective than thin or loosely woven cloth.

An easy way to check this is holding it up to the light. If you are able to see through, UV radiation can penetrate the fabric with ease and will quickly reach your skin, just like light does.

The Composition of your fabric really matters in terms of UV protection.

Unbleached cotton has in it internal structure, natural lignins that work as UV absorbers. Also shiny polyesters and even lightweight satiny silks can have high performance in UV protection because they reflect radiation. Textile innovation has led to high-tech fabrics that are treated with chemical UV absorbers or dyes to avoid some penetration from UV rays. Also, apparel design can set the standard of clothing for sun protection.

Loose-fitting apparel is preferable over tight clothing, due to the fact that tight clothing can stretch and lose some level of protection offered, as the fibers recede from each other and allow more UV light to pass through. If sun protection shirts for women have sleeves for sun protection and also loose-fit, you will be on the right path for your skin health. Of course, the more skin your outfit covers, the better your protection. Whenever possible, choose sun protection long sleeve shirts and long pants or skirts.

Fortunately and increasingly, some apparel manufacturers provide UPF labels, which indicate exactly how much sun’s UV radiation rays the garment can shield. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation’s, a fabric must have a UPF of 30 to qualify for a special recognition from the institution.

Family all wearing floppy  hats on the beach
Robin Jonathan Deutsch in Unsplash

Bamboo fibre is really well ranked when talking about natural fibres. It is superior in softness, breathability, thermoregulation, absorbency and moisture wicking properties. Also, bamboo fibre is usually presented as an eco-friendly fibre, as the bamboo plant is probably one of the world's most sustainable resources. It develops very quickly and easily, it doesn’t need agrochemicals, and it doesn’t need to be replanted after harvest because it regrows from the roots. What's more, Bamboo has the unique quality of being resistant to harmful UV rays. There is no other natural fibre used for textiles that has this very useful property, and that's why it deserves the crown for sun protection fibres.

Our Top Pick best Clothing for Sun Protection

Best Outdoor Performance - BALEAF Women's UPF 50+ Sun Protection Jacket Hooded Cooling Shirt with Pockets

1a

This UPF 50+ Sun Protection jacket is a great alternative for those who do not want to compromise style over comfort, sun protection and sporty use. An ultra lightweight that assures next-to-skin feel protecting it from sun damage.

Buy on Amazon

Best equipped - SUPIELD UV Protection UPF 600+ SPF Clothing Hooded Lightweight Long Sleeve Hiking Fishing Sun Shirt with face Cover

2b

This item is more than a jacket, it is an all-in-one piece of garment that will make your skin totally safe from UVA and UVB rays.

Buy on Amazon

Most comfy - Willit Women's UPF 50+ Cover-Up Dress

3a

Not only a sportswear item, not only a dress, not only a sun protection piece of cloth, but all that together. Probably, the favorite of more than one!

Buy on Amazon

Most versatile - Women's UPF 50+ UV Sun Protection Safari Shirt, Long Sleeve Outdoor Cool Quick Dry Fishing Hiking Gardening Shirts

4a

This safari shirt is as versatile as Harry Potter's invisibility cloak. It is thought to protect your neck, to be adapted according to the weather conditions and to keep everything you may need to a trekking or outdoor activity handy.

Buy on Amazon

Most practical - Columbia Women Super Bahama Ls

5b

The Columbia Women's Super Bahama Long Sleeve Shirt guards against sun damage thanks to the built-in UPF 30 material. It’s a breathable, quick wicking fabric that pulls moisture away to keep you cool and dry.

Buy on Amazon

Best pant option - NAVISKIN Women's Lightweight Quick Dry Joggers Capri Pants UPF 50+ Sun Protection Outdoor Hiking Pants

6a

These women hiking joggers capri pants are made of UPF 50+ fabrication that protects the skin during outdoor activity by blocking harmful UVA and UVB. super lightweight material feels amazing next to your skin while staying light and cool to the touch.

Buy on Amazon

Mont fancy - Women's Sun Hat Packable Reversible Bucket Hat UV Sun Protection Wide Brim Summer Beach Cap

7c

This sun hat is chic and lightweight, easy to fold and you can put it into your purse, absolutely will save lots of space. It is perfect for traveling, fishing, walking, going out, beach, holiday and other outdoor activities.

Buy on Amazon

Best material - Sun Visor Hats Women Large Brim Summer UV Protection Beach Cap

8a

Cotton is always a good idea, and this visor hat for women is perfect in terms of design and material. Sporty but fancy and easy to wear and carry.

Buy on Amazon

Best Outdoor Performance - BALEAF Women's UPF 50+ Sun Protection Jacket Hooded Cooling Shirt with Pockets

1a

Sustainable Warriors Score

2_5

Buy on Amazon

What I Like

  • Zipper closure and pocket design

  • Machine Wash

  • Hoodie & Thumb Holes Design

What I Don't Like

  • Tight and slip fit
  • Thumb hole stretched use after use
  • 90% polyester could be not that sustainable

This hooded jacket is trendy, good looking and a great alternative for those summer days you don't really need a jacket but your skin claims for sun protection. It is UPF +50 certified sun protection and your neck, head and even wrist could be fully covered.

1b
1c

You will find it in many colours, so you can choose which suits you better. What I don't fully appreciate about this alternative, is the fact that the slim and tight fit could not be suitable for every type of body or every type of outdoor activity. Loose fit always suits better for everybody. Also, this cloth is 90% polyester, my sustainable heart is near to collapse if I think about microplastics. Anyway, it is a functional piece of cloth, worth wearing!

Best equipped - SUPIELD UV Protection UPF 600+ SPF Clothing Hooded Lightweight Long Sleeve Hiking Fishing Sun Shirt with face Cover

2a

Sustainable Warriors Score

4_5

Buy on Amazon

What I Like

  • Certified UPF50+ fabric
  • Unisex design
  • Hat and neck protection included

What I Don't Like

  • Unisex use can make you mislead the proper size
  • Need to check size with size chart

If you were looking for a 360° solution for sun protection, this is the one. In a jacket you will replace an umbrella, a mask, a sun hat and even sunscreen protection cream. This item is perfect for those who need to spend many hours under the sun, especially if your neck and head need protection. It is an unisex item and comes in many different and nice colours.

2c
2b

It is important you check properly your size in the size charts because, being an unisex design, the chart it is made for a wide range of body sizes and the XL size it is not necesary the one you always wear. Just be aware of this to avoid returning costs and time waste!

Most comfy - Willit Women's UPF 50+ Cover-Up Dress

3a

Sustainable Warriors Score

4_5

Buy on Amazon

What I Like

  • In many color options
  • Four way stretch
  • Soft texture
  • What I Don't Like

  • Not as flowy as it looks garment
  • Tight and slim fit
  • Undercovered chest design

Dresses are always nice to wear, and even more if they are sun protection. This item is a really great option for home gardening or golf playing under sun rays. You will not fully cover your body skin unless you use it with some leggings, but it seems to be a good option when summer brings really high temperatures. It is offered in many different colors and the cloth has a soft and comfy texture.

3b
3c

I think it should consider in the design a kind of coverage over the chest, especially knowing that that section of skin is really sensitive to UV damage. Anyway, you can use it with your regular sunscreen and everything's going to be ok!

Most versatile - Women's UPF 50+ UV Sun Protection Safari Shirt, Long Sleeve Outdoor Cool Quick Dry Fishing Hiking Gardening Shirts

4a

Sustainable Warriors Score

3_5

Buy on Amazon

What I Like

  • Vented back
  • Quick dry cloth
  • Ultra light fit

What I Don't Like

  • Not unisex
  • Fabric is translucent in some color alternatives
  • Noisy fabric

This safari shirt is a must if you are a frequent outdoors person. Besides, you can find it in light colors for when the sun is not so intense and in dark colors if you want to avoid the dust staining it. It is practical, because you can change the length of the sleeves, wear it with or without a t-shirt underneath and even take advantage of the back ventilation and front pockets.

4b
4c

What I don't like so much is that it is 100% polyester, although this can be good to avoid ironing and to ensure quick drying. It may seem that, being made of a very thin fabric, it does not protect against UV rays, however the brand claims that it is UPF +50.

Most practical - Columbia Women Super Bahama Ls

5b

Sustainable Warriors Score

3_5

Buy on Amazon

What I Like

  • Loose fit
  • Varied color combination
  • Perfect for fishing

What I Don't Like

  • 100% polyester
  • No plain options

This long sleeve shirt guards against sun damage thanks to the built-in UPF 30 material. It’s a breathable, quick wicking fabric that pulls moisture away to keep you cool and dry. It has four velcro closure fly box pockets and a rod holder loop at the left chest to meet the needs of the discerning angler. It is a must have long sleeve shirt to become a part of your fishing kit. It is loose fit and comfortable for outdoor activities.

5a
5c


It is just available in squared print, but you have different colors options.

Best pant option - NAVISKIN Women's Lightweight Quick Dry Joggers Capri Pants UPF 50+ Sun Protection Outdoor Hiking Pants

6a

Sustainable Warriors Score

3_5

Buy on Amazon

What I Like

  • Practical for all kind of sporty or outdoor activity
  • Comfy and stylish
  • Available plain and printed

What I Don't Like

  • Small fit in the waist
  • Peeling in some areas after first uses

When the sun rays are burning, leg protection is also really important. In that case, these hiking joggers are perfect for jogging, golf, fishing, hiking, traveling, climbing, running, workout and any other of your favorite sports or daily use. They are capri pants, made of UPF 50+ fabrication that protects the skin during outdoor activity by blocking harmful UVA and UVB.

6b
6c

It is made of super lightweight material that feels soft next to your skin while staying light and cool to the touch. May also be susceptible to peeling in the waist area. It is important to take care of the washing and drying of the garment to avoid this. In addition, if the size is not correct, this may occur more quickly.

Mont fancy - Women's Sun Hat Packable Reversible Bucket Hat UV Sun Protection Wide Brim Summer Beach Cap

7c

Sustainable Warriors Score

3_5

Buy on Amazon

What I Like

  • Premium material
  • Folding packable design
  • Reversible design

What I Don't Like

  • Small fit
  • The material can look cheap

This wide-brimmed hat is perfect for a stylish trip to the beach or golf course. It is perfect to combine with different outfits because it is reversible and in plain colors or with simple prints. There are also many options to choose from. This sun hat is chic and lightweight, easy to fold and you can put it into your purse, absolutely will save lots of space.

7a
7b

Although it looks good, the fabric may be considered poor quality in some prints. Also, the size of the hat's circumference is small and on top of that it is not adaptable, so it is important to check your head circumference before buying the product.

Best material - Sun Visor Hats Women Large Brim Summer UV Protection Beach Cap

8a

Sustainable Warriors Score

4_5

Buy on Amazon

What I Like

  • Elastic closure
  • 100% cotton
  • The Sun visor is very lightweight (only 4oz) and foldable

What I Don't Like

  • Hand Wash Only
  • More expensive than similar products on the market

This visor hat is made of 100% cotton, doesn't smell, and is quick-dry. The size is adjustable for head circumference 21’’-23.5’’ thanks to an elastic buckle and chin strap. Because of the adjustable fit, it can be used by women, men and youth. The sun protection of the extra large brim offers a wide shadow for your ear, forehead, cheeks and neck and is said to be made of a real anti-uv material (UPF50+) that protect you from harmful sun rays.

8b
8c

When using the hat in a dust area you will need to wash the cotton hand and this should be only hand wash, so, it is not as practical as a washing machine item. Although it is a premium product, it is not as cheap as other similar products in the market.

The wide variety of options probably means these are a type of item that will nearly be a must in every summer, sportswear and outdoor wardrobe. What do you think?

Agostina Martino

Fashion and textile designer. Working on sustainability. Entrepreneur, creative and university teacher.

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