In Australia, sun protective clothing sells almost three times as well as sunscreen. In large part, that’s because for over two decades, the Australian government has supported a national campaign to reduce the epidemic of skin cancers in that nation.
The Australians also pioneered the concept of UPF, ultraviolet protection factor, a method of rating sun protection clothing. (In the late 1990s, several influential American organizations including the American Association of Textile Chemists and Colorists adopted the Australian UPF standard for use in the United States.)
UPF measures the amount of UVR (ultraviolet radiation) that is blocked by a fabric. Unlike SPF, the rating system used for sunscreen, UPF measures both UVA (longwave) and UVB (shortwave) rays. SPF measures only UVB protection.
Common sense suggests that a physical blok is the best way to protect the skin from the sun. For example, we know that there is a direct correlation between the change in clothing styles (smaller and smaller bathing suits) and the increase in skin cancers. The fewer clothes people wear, the more skin cancers they get.
Here are the practical reasons for wearing sun protective clothing:
Protection is Reliable Sun protective clothing protects consistently and constantly. Unlike sunscreen, the portection offered by UPF-rated clothing does not fade or wear off during the day.
Protection is less ExpensiveClothing is bought only once and will last many seasons or until outgrown. Over the long term, buying sun protection clothing is less expensive than buying sunscreen.
Protection is Not Messy Sun protection clothing is not sticky, oily, allergenic or difficult to apply, unlike sunscreens. In addition, UPF garments reduce the amount of exposed areas meaning sunscreen needs to be applied only to face and hands. This can be especially appealing to parents of young children…and to men.
Protection is Provided for both UVA and UVB This is worth mentioning again. Unlike sunscreens, which have SF ratings based only on UVB, UPF rating clothing protects against both UVA and UVB.
When you are buying sun protective clothing, only buy UPF rated clothing. And, look for garments with a high UPF rating. For example, a garment with a UPF of 50 only allows 1/50th of the UV radiation falling on the surface of the garment to pass through it. In other words, it blocks 49/50ths or 98% of the UV radiation.