What is the difference between UPF and regular clothing?
Let’s admit it. We have all spent a little too much time unprotected in the sun. The resulting sunburn left us regretting every second of the previous day’s exposure. As we know, the superficial risks — as painful as they can be — can pale in comparison to the permanent damage that can be caused by the prolonged exposure.
And so, to try to cover our tracks and prevent further skin damage, we often lather up in sunscreen and throw on a long-sleeved shirt and hat to shield ourselves from the sun. This seems to do the trick, at least from a comfort perspective. We feel good about our preventative methods and we’re happy to pat ourselves on the back for our responsible behaviour.
The major questions that remain are: Do regular clothes actually protect us from the sun? Does simply donning a long-sleeved shirt or something similar prevent us from lasting damage from the UV rays of a powerful sun?
Simply put: No.
At the United States’s Cleveland Clinic, Alok Vij, M.D. said that regular cotton t-shirts typically amount to about a UPF of 5. That simply won’t cut it. The typical, loose-fitting clothing from our everyday wardrobe allows UV rays to penetrate the tiny holes in the fabric and is relatively useless against the sun. In the case of light-coloured shirts, UV can travel right through the fabric. Of course, as we suggested in an earlier blog, you could always start wearing darker clothing, but even then, you’re not out of the dark.
UPF clothing provides you with the best protection, offering UPF numbers of 40, 45, and 50+. UPF clothing will endure testing at independent labs to ensure certain levels of protection from the sun. Ideally, for the best protection, tightly-woven synthetic materials, preferably in dark colors that cover your whole body.
And not just that old track suit from your closet. Treat yourself. It’s always better to prevent than treat.