10 wearable ways to protect yourself outdoors
What to look for when buying sun protective clothing, including hats and sunglasses:
- Many items of clothing you already own may offer some protection from the sun’s damaging ultraviolet (UV) rays. Basically, the tighter the weave, the greater the protection. The color makes a difference as well: Darker colors and bright colors tend to absorb more UV radiation than lighter colors.
- You can also add protection to your existing clothing with special dyes and other laundry additives that help keep UV rays from penetrating the fabric.
- Broad-brimmed hats—with a brim at least three to four inches all the way around—and hats with a neck flap offer more protection than hats with smaller brims or caps with only a brim in front.
- Clothing and hats made from special sun-protective fabrics are available at sporting-goods stores and from sun protective clothing companies online.
- Although no federal agency regulates sun protective garments (the way the Food and Drug Administration regulates sunscreen), there are nationally recognized standards that manufacturers follow on a voluntary basis.
- Clothing designed to be sun-protective will be labeled with a UPF (“ultraviolet protection factor”) number. The amount of UV radiation that can penetrate the garment is based on the fabric’s fiber content, weight, color, and construction. For example, a shirt with a UPF of 50 allows just 1/50th of the sun’s UV rays to reach your skin. For the most effective sun protection, look for clothing with a UPF of at least 30. But be aware that the UV protection greatly diminishes when the fabric becomes wet from sweating or swimming.
- Take care to purchase the right size, especially elastic items such as leggings—overstretching the fabric will lower the UPF rating.
- For better protection choose long-sleeve shirts, long pants, and full-length skirts (as well as broad-brim hats). These items, as well as full-coverage stylish swim clothing, are available at many sporting goods stores, as well as from online merchants.
- Sun-protective scarves, wraps, and gloves are readily available in numerous colors and styles.
- Sunglasses labeled as “UVA/UVB rating of 100 percent” will give the most protection to your eyelid skin. Choose a large, wraparound-style frame to cover the entire eye area—especially when you’re around water or sand, since a lot of the UV comes from reflected light.