Most people believe that as long as they are physically covered by a fabric, they are protected. All clothing has some UPF value. However, what most people don’t know is that the average t-shirt generally has a UPF value of 1-5. Does UPF clothing really provide that much more protection than everything else? The short answer: yes!
10x the Protection of the Average T-Shirt
UPF clothing is designed specifically with sun protection in mind. If you compare a UPF 50 long sleeve shirt to a standard cotton long sleeve shirt you’d be surprised how differently they function. They might fit the same and cover the same amount of skin, but the UPF 50 shirt only allows about 2% penetration of damaging UV rays. An average cotton shirt at UPF 5 allows 10 times the UV penetration of the UPF 50 shirt.
Consistent, Reliable UV Protection
Unlike sunscreen, a sun protective shirt will keep you protected for as long as you are wearing it, no reapplication needed! If you purchase quality sun protective apparel, it will also last for years—saving you a lot of money in the long run. The cost savings are even higher if you are wearing a UPF 50 long sleeve shirt instead of a short sleeve shirt, keeping you from having to apply sunscreen on your arms every time you go outside. One quality UPF shirt can save you from buying dozens of bottles of expensive sunscreen.
Even with the Best UPF Clothing, Sunscreen Is Still Needed
Even with a high quality UPF 50 long sleeve shirt parts of your body are still exposed. The back of your hands, neck, and face will still need protection. A long sleeve shirt will help provide maximal coverage and reduce the amount of sunscreen needed. However, you still need to pair your sun protective shirt with a high quality sunscreen. This is critical to make sure all areas of your body have proper protection.
When purchasing a sunscreen, make sure you are getting the right one. ALWAYS make sure the sunscreen is broad-spectrum to protect you from UVA and UVB rays. Also check on statistics like it’s water resistance rating and whether it’s a spray or lotion. If you are going to an area that requires reef-safe products ensure that it meets those requirements as well. If you need more help choosing a sunscreen and want to learn more about the chemical makeup of the different options, the video below is a great summary: