UPF vs. SPF: What’s the difference?

UPF vs. SPF: What’s the difference?

Sun protection at its highest: UPF Clothing

Proper sun protection is necessary to prevent skin cancer, which includes the essential use of UPF clothing.  A lot of people are not familiar with what exactly UPF clothing is.  To start, UPF stands for ultraviolet protection factor.  It is labeled on clothing, hats and fabrics that may provide this additional benefit.  The actual number that follows “UPF'' indicates what fraction of the sun’s rays can penetrate the fabric.  UPF measures light transmittance and blocks both UVA and UVB rays.  This means that it protects you from the rays that cause both skin cancer and physical signs of aging, such as wrinkles and brown spots.   On the other hand, sunscreens are labeled with “SPF'' which measures sunscreen protection.

Some may wonder, why wear UPF clothing and not only sunscreen? Some advantages to wearing UPF clothing is it does not rinse off and you can’t have the potential human error of not applying enough sunscreen or forgetting to reapply.  It is an actual physical barrier.  It is recommended to still apply sunscreen to your hands, face, neck, and any remaining exposed skin.

What do the ratings mean?  A UPF 50+ shirt only allows 1/50th of the sun’s harmful UV rays to get to your skin, which means it blocks 98% of the sunrays. A UPF 30 shirt allows 1/30th of the sun’s harmful UV rays through, blocking approximately 96-97% of the sunrays. Anything below UPF 15 is not considered protective.  Many people believe they are protected while wearing their white cotton t-shirt, but this is not true.  A classic white t-shirt typically only has a rating of 5 UPF, which means you are still absorbing the harmful rays.  In contrast, dark or bright colors keep UV rays from reaching your skin by absorbing them. That’s why people may think of light colors as more comfortable in the sun because less of the sun’s rays are being absorbed, which can make you feel cooler. UPF clothing is unique because protection is consistent regardless of color due to the textile make-up. Advancements in textiles provide the dense weaves necessary for sun protection without adding to the bulk of the garment.

You can still enjoy the sun while taking part in a sun-safe life.  UPF clothing is just one addition to this healthy lifestyle!

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