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UPF Clothing -Keep Yourself Protected


Outdoor activities bring so many benefits- fresh air, exercise, stress relief, closeness to nature, vitamin D! With our Newfoundland weather being so varied, with lots of fog and rain, it is easy to think we can bypass the sun protection when we are outdoors, especially when there is a slight chill on many days!

Contrary to most beliefs, UV damage can happen on overcast as well as chilly days, and air temperature has nothing to do with how quickly you can burn. The sun is strong, and regardless of the type of activity, or even duration, you should aim to keep yourself protected.

It is important you know that all fabrics are not created equally. Tightness of weave, type of fiber, color, and the amount of skin covered will determine your protection level. Understanding these factors is the first step in being proactive!


 SPF (or Sun Protection Factor) measures the amount of time it takes for sun exposed skin to redden and typically relates tosunscreen and other sun protective products.

 UPF (Ultraviolet Protection Factor) measures the amount of UV that penetrates fabric and reaches the skin. Most UPF fabrics absorb UV radiation. UPF ratings, such as 50, only allow 1/50th of the sun’s rays to pass through a fabric.


 Fabrics & Color

It is best to choose fabrics which are tightly woven and darker in color, as they will block more UV radiation from passing through the fabric to your skin. A good rule of thumb is, if you can hold the fabric to the light and you can see through it, UV radiation can penetrate it and your skin.  In this sense, a white cotton T- shirt will not offer as much protection as a dark colored, tightly woven denim.

For example, a white T-shirt offers a UPF factor of 7, while a long-sleeved dark denim shirt offers a UPF factor of 1,700 (almost complete sunblock). Might make you think twice before putting on a cotton tee for protection when swimming!


What you do while wearing your clothing makes a difference. When a fabric gets stretched, it becomes thinner and more transparent, allowing for more UPF penetration.  Once a fabric gets wet, it can lose up to 50% of its UPF protection. That white cotton shirt, once wet goes from a UPF factor of 7, down to a 3!

What a fabric is made of makes a difference. Unbleached cotton contains a pigment called lignin which act as UV absorbers.  High-luster polyesters and even silk reflect radiation making them more protective, despite their light weight.

Consider high tech UPF rated fabrics

 There is a huge variety of sun protective fabrics and clothing available, with more and more manufactures addressing our need for increased sun protection.  This can be achieved through chemical applications to the fabric, tight weaves, proper fabric choices, and full coverage designs.

Only clothes with UPF of 15-50+ can be labelled for a protection factor, with UPF 50+ being one of the highest available. When shopping for UV protection consider the quality of some fabrics and its value to your health.


UPF Classification System


Article Sources: Sun-Protection, get in on the trend/ Updated May 2014/ www.skincancer.org

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