As Australians, we’ve embraced wholeheartedly the “Slap on sunscreen, slip on a shirt…” maxim, especially after skin cancer rates rocketed in recent decades. While sunscreen and regular clothes offer great protection from the sun’s rays, you could make your clothes work even harder for you by investing in some threads with sun protection factors built into them.
Without getting too technical, these clothes work by both reflecting the sun’s rays (in the case of white and light-coloured fabrics) and by disrupting the passage of UV-A and UV-B rays through the fabric onto the skin. These clothes are labelled in a similar way to the lotions you’re already familiar with, with UPF 50 meaning they allow just 2% of the sun’s rays through and UPF 25 letting 4% through.
The biggest advantage that these clothes have over lotion is that they’re always there (unless you take them off, of course, but then you tend to notice!). Lotions, even waterproof, all-day versions, will wear off and lose potency over time, even with regular re-application. You may also simply forget to re-apply sunscreen if you’re busy working outdoors, or you may sweat and wash it off without realising. These items of clothing also mean that you will have fewer areas of your body that will need plastering with sunscreen; after all, it’s a lifesaver, but it really can get sticky or greasy…
Are they really any better than regular clothes?
In a word, yes. Your average white shirt has a UPF of around 8, which means it’s letting around 10-13% of the sun through. If you’re fair-skinned or spend a lot of time outdoors, that’s a lot of exposure.
How do they work?
Primarily, UPF clothes work because their fabric has a tighter weave than regular clothes, so there are fewer gaps for the sunlight to get through. Many are also treated with optical brighteners, which reflect the sunlight back, reducing transmission to the skin even more.
They’re feel like your regular work shirts, only they’re better for you…..