UV clothing provides important protection against the damaging effects of sun exposure. Dr. Coyle S. Connolly of Connolly Dermatology explains, "People should wear UV protective clothing because sunscreen alone does not offer enough protection." While it is important to use sunscreen, it is even better to combine sunscreen usage with apparel made from ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) fabric. As Dr. Connolly states, "Once it is placed on, the clothing does not wash off or have to be reapplied as with sunscreens."
Four UV Apparel Lines
A number of companies make UV protective clothing. Dr. Connolly recommends, "Research a reputable company that sells UV protective clothing to get a better sense of the styles, colors, fabrics, particular usage ( sport, casual, etc.) and price points that are available."
1. UV Skinz
Offering a full-line of UPF50+ apparel for women (including standard and plus sizes), men, babies and children, UV Skinz is a great choice when you're looking for quality, attractive casual wear that can help you look great while also protecting your skin from the damaging effects of the sun. The company's founder, Rhonda Sparks, created the line after losing her husband to melanoma when he was just 32 years old. On the UV Skinz website, Sparks states, "I like to think that UV Skinz sells peace-of-mind from the sun's damaging rays."
Apparel prices are consistent with average pricing for high quality active wear. For example, women's tops range from $35 to $45, while swimsuit tops and bottoms range from around $20 to around $40. Priority shipping is free on orders over $50.
UV Skinz has received the Melanoma International Foundation's Seal of Approval. The company also has some visibility with celebrity children as, according to Celebrity Baby Scoop, Matthew McConaughey young twins have been seen sporting UV Skinz apparel.
According to Dr. Connolly, "The Coolibar company from Australia is an industry leader." Specializing in UV apparel, Coolibar offers a full range of clothing items for men, women and children made with SUNTECT® fabric that offer UPF 50+ sun protection and block a minimum of 98% of both UVA and UVB rays. Options include cute casual wear, active wear, swimwear, sun hats and more.
Prices are standard for quality casual apparel. For example, most women's tops are priced from $40 to $90, with a few options priced higher and lower. Enjoy $8.95 flat rate shipping of all orders of $100 or more.
Coolibar is the first line of sun protection clothing to receive the Skin Cancer Foundation's seal of approval for blocking cancer-causing sun rays.
It also receives high marks from consumers. As an example, a review of one of the women's pieces on the ParentPalace blog is very positive, with the reviewer praising the piece for its sun protection capabilities as well as its comfort and style.
If you're looking for a combination of casual women's items and pieces that are a bit more dressy - such as maxis and wrap dresses - SummerSkin might have what you are looking for. Unlike the options above, SummerSkin specializes specifically in women's sun protection apparel, with selections leaning more toward dressy yet comfortable, casual items rather than beachwear or active wear. Most items in the line have a UPF factor of 50+, with the lowest rated item having a UPF of 30.
The company's found Summer Kramer, PharmD is a melanoma survivor. Her own experience inspired her to start SummerSkin.
She states, "I was diagnosed with melanoma when I was 26 years old. At my doctor's suggestion, I began looking for sun protective clothing that I could wear to keep myself protected from the sun's harmful rays. I quickly realized that most sun protective clothing offerings were only geared toward certain outdoor activities like swimming or fishing."
"I believe sun protection should be available for everyone and every activity, and you shouldn't have to sacrifice style or comfort in order to enjoy some time outside. SummerSkin is based on the closet staples that I love to wear every day - fashionable yet comfortable tops, dresses, pants, and accessories with sun protection built right in."
Pricing is similar to what you would expect to find at a women's specialty retailer like Chico's or Ann Taylor, and the styles are fairly similar to what you'd find at those types of stores too. The dresses are priced from $90 to $115 and the tops run from around $70 to $95.
This line also can also boast a celebrity sighting, as Taylor Swift has been seen sporting SummerSkin attire.
Well-known outdoor apparel company Patagonia carries a nice selection of super-casual UPF apparel, with several options for men and women and a few for children. Each item in the company's UPF line is rated per the "Australia/New Zealand or AATCC protocols," with some items providing UPF 50+ protection and others that offer a lesser degree of protection of 30.
The company's UPF line includes long and short-sleeve shirts appropriate for hiking, running, boating, fishing and any other active outdoor lifestyle activities.
Pricing for the company's UPF line is consistent with the brand's overall pricing structure. Most items fall between $30 and $70, with a few pieces prices above and below that price point. You can shop in one of the company's retail stores or order online.
Standard shipping costs for online orders range from $8.50 to $13.95, depending on order size. The company typically offers free 12-day shipping with a minimum purchase, though the amount required to qualify varies by promotion.
Prevention magazine recommends Patagonia's UPF collection for sun protection. A Vail Valley Anglers review of Patagonia's Sun Hoody - which has a UPF of 45 - is very positive, with the reviewer recommending it as an excellent option for male and female fly fishing enthusiasts. Similarly, Hatch Magazine praises the company's 50 UPF Island Hopper shirt and Away From Home pants as outstanding choices for women anglers.
Choosing UV Clothing
There are a number of factors to consider when selecting sun protection clothing.
- Fiber type - Mark Little, product line manager for men's sportswear and surf apparel at Patagonia recommends hemp or light-weight synthetic fibers (nylon or polyester).
- Tight weave - Little also recommends choosing fabric with "dense, tight construction." Dr. Connolly advises, "If you can see light shining through the clothing, it is not providing adequate protection."
- High UPF - For the highest level of protection, Dr. Connolly recommends "Look for a UPF of 50+ which will block greater than 98% of UVA and UVB." Some items may have a lower UPF factor, and so do not block rays to the same extent. According to Kramer, UPF 30 is the minimum to consider. She states, "When shopping for protective clothing, make sure to look for a labeled UPF of 30 or higher."
Dr. Connolly states, "It doesn't matter whether it's at the beach, mountains, or running local errands, everyone needs to protect their skin." In particular, he recommends sun protection clothing for "anyone who enjoys and active, outdoor lifestyle, has a personal or family history of skin cancer."
Additionally, he states, "Those with fair skin and hair, light eyes, and many moles are particularly at risk for skin cancer development and should always consider UV protective clothing."
Sparks points out the importance of UV clothing for children. She states, "Special care must be taken with children as well, as one blistering sunburn during childhood or adolescence more than doubles that person's chance of developing melanoma (the deadliest form of skin cancer) later in life." Kramer points out, "The more UV exposure received earlier in life, the sooner we start to see the effects on the skin."
Little adds that sun protection clothing is particularly important for "people spending extended time at high elevation, in equatorial regions or on reflective surfaces (snow or water)." Kramer further points out that protective apparel is important for activities like "hiking, skiing, and rock climbing."
Avoid Sun Exposure
Medical conditions and treatments can also make protective clothing a particularly important item. Dr. Connolly explains, "Some people taking certain medications (antibiotics) or with specific medical diseases (lupus) may find that sun exposure worsens their condition. In these situations, UV clothing is a must."
Dr. Connolly recommends, "UV protective clothing should be worn during all outdoor activity, especially between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m." He warns, "This clothing is important even during cloudy days as the majority of UV radiation penetrates the skin even during overcast days."
Multiple Approaches to Protect Skin
Sparks states, "More than 85% of skin cancer is caused by UV radiation from the sun, making the majority of these cases preventable with proper protection efforts. The single best way to protect yourself from UV exposure (other than avoiding the sun at all times entirely) is with UV protective clothing."
UV clothing should be used in addition to sunscreen, not instead of it. Dr. Connolly advises, "A multifaceted approach is needed to combat UV-induced skin cancer and aging skin. No single product will provide complete protection. Sun protective clothing, sunscreens, sun avoidance, finding shade, wearing broad brimmed hats, wrap around style sunglasses, etc. work collectively to offer the most protection possible."