"Today we are lucky to have good quality, fashionable sun protective clothing and glasses for active lifestyles. Over the last 30 years we have become much more informed as to the damage that the sun can do to our skin and eyes. Long gone are the days of adding iodine to baby oil, slathering our bodies with it and laying in the sun with tin foil while wearing those cheap sunglasses that looked good."
As we were having a discussion after a boat show, someone said that clothing doesn't really have SPF protection like the manufacturer’s claim. He stated that it is a coating on the fabric that washes off after a few trips through the washer. I disagreed, but I didn’t know what it was that made clothing SPF 30 or 50 or 0. He cited the old term about a farmer’s tan, which as many of you know was the farmer would be working in the sun in a short sleeved shirt. His face, neck and arms would have a tan, but what was covered by the tee shirt would be his natural skin tone. So I decided to check out what makes clothing SPF specific.
TECHIE TALK: Briefly, ultraviolet light is a particular wavelength of radiation, higher than the visible spectrum of light. There are two types of ultraviolet rays from the sun, UVA and UVB. UVA rays penetrate farther into the skin than UVB rays, steadily destroying key substances in skin that give it its firmness and elasticity. UVA rays are a leading cause of wrinkles and a cause of, or a major contributor to every type of skin cancer. One other difference is that UVA rays penetrate glass, while UVB rays do not!
PROTECTION RATINGS: First, I found out that clothing is not rated as SPF, but rather UPF, which is the Ultraviolet Protection Factor. UPF is the standard to measure the effectiveness of sun protection in fabrics. Also, UPF takes into account, both UVA and UVB protection. A UPF rating of 25 indicates the fabric of a garment will allow 1/25th (roughly 4 percent) of available UV radiation to pass through it, while a rating of 50 permits only 1/50th (roughly 2 percent) UV transmission. Any fabric that allows less than 2 percent UV transmission is labeled UPF 50+. This kind of protection doesn't wash out, but as with special weaves, a fabric's fibers can become distorted over time, making them less effective at screening UV light.
SPF, which is the Sun Protection Factor, is a standard measure for sunscreens. SPF only protects against UVB rays, and is rated as the amount of prolonged time you can be in the sun. For example, if there is an SPF of 30, you can be out in the sun 30 times longer before you start to burn. Of course, this is predicated on the amount of time it takes you to burn.
NON UPF RATINGS: Obviously, to have UPF clothing and using sunscreen is a much better choice, but not all clothes are UPF rated. Some clothing choices are better than others when planning on being in the sun.
Color of clothing makes a difference. Darker or bright colors are better for sun protection. As kids, we learned long ago that light colors reflect light and darker colors absorb light. In the summer we used to wear light colors so we wouldn’t be so hot. Just like cars, the lighter cars don’t get as hot inside because the sun is reflected instead of being absorbed. Well this is true, darker colors do absorb more of the rays, but that in fact keeps the UV rays from penetrating the skin.
The construction and content of the material also has an effect on UV penetration. The denser woven materials or synthetic materials are more protective than sheer or loosely woven cloth. Unbleached cottons act as UV absorbers as well. Shiny polyesters and satiny silks can be highly reflective to help prevent UV penetration to our skin. The new hi-tech fabrics with chemical UV absorbers or dyes also keep the rays from penetrating the skin.
In general, when going into the sun, loose fitting clothing is better for protection. When tighter fitting clothing is stretched, fibers pull away from each other, allowing UV penetration. Also, when clothing gets wet, it loses some of its protective ability, exposing your skin to more UV rays. This is why you see fishermen who are on the water all day wearing long sleeved, loose fitting ‘fishing’ shirts. Fortunately Tri Sirena has this in mind when making their aerodynamic apparel that reduces drag. Tri Sirena uses fabrics and materials that stay sun safe whether they are wet or dry and you are fishing, swimming, cycling, or running.
Since UVA penetrates glass, wearing 100% UV protective glasses will block the ultraviolet light that damages your eyes. Most U.S. manufacturers have UV protection in their glasses, but in Europe it is a law that they must have 100% UV protection. Check before you buy!
I didn’t realize that one of the best non rated sun protective materials is dark blue denim. I guess this has some merit because my dad was a roofer. He would work in the sun every day and would take his shirt off when it got hot. He always had dungarees on. His upper body was the darkest tan I ever saw, but when he put on shorts, his legs were fish belly white!
Today we are lucky to have good quality, fashionable sun protective clothing and glasses for active lifestyles. Over the last 30 years we have become much more informed as to the damage that the sun can do to our skin and eyes. Long gone are the days of adding iodine to baby oil, slathering our bodies with it and laying in the sun with tin foil while wearing those cheap sunglasses that looked good. Those of us who did this, now are paying the price with lots and lots of wrinkles and batches of skin cancer, as well as eye damage due to the sun. But, it is never too late to get protection! Whether you are active or just hanging around, stay protected from the harmful rays of the sun!
Written By: Caryn Pace, Tri Sirena Siren Luminary
Follow Caryn on Instagram @carynpace
How do you stay protected from the sun when you’re active outside? Let us know in the comments below!
This blog was created for informational purposes only. It's content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website or online.