Does UPF Clothing Really Work?

UPF Clothing Effectiveness People Walking

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 Compared To 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.

Washing Machines, UPF Clothing Longevity

With all Rayward Apparel products, we avoid chemical additives and the UPF value of our shirt will last the life of the shirt. This is not always the case with other UPF products in the marketplace, so do your research. There are two general ways to achieve a UPF value in clothing: through chemical additives (not recommended) or through effective shirt design (recommended). 

One of the major reasons chemical additives can be concerning is because when you put the shirt through the wash it’s possible some of that chemical washes out and the UPF value drops. As the chemical is washed out of the shirt, it becomes less and less protective. Overtime this makes it difficult to know the exact protection value you are receiving.  

If the UPF value is derived from effective design rather than a chemical additive, it will never wash out. This is often achieved through a combination of factors such as the fabric weave, blend, composition, weight, etc… These are things that remain constant through the life of the shirt. Read more on the UV protective qualities of different fabrics.

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:

Rayward Apparel’s SUN BOUND Collection

SUN BOUND Collection UPF 50 Apparel

We recently launched our first product line of sun protective bamboo shirts – the SUN BOUND Collection. But what makes this line of sun shirts so unique?

While we only recently officially launched the SUN BOUND collection, it’s been months in the making. Creating a high performing shirt that also achieves a high UV Protection rating (UPF) requires a very specific fiber blend. It must be lightweight and breathable to handle the heat, but also protective enough to protect against harmful UV rays. After prototyping dozens of shirts and fiber blends from suppliers around the world, we’re proudly releasing the SUN BOUND Collection. The collection includes three styles of shirts, available in both men’s and women’s sizes: Short sleeve, long sleeve, and hooded.

Performance AND Protection

The SUN BOUND collection is more than just a high quality UPF 50 shirt, but it’s built to perform. These shirts are built for athletes, but comfortable and stylish enough for the casual wearer. Our unique blend of cotton, viscose from bamboo, and lycra create a lightweight and moisture wicking shirt any athlete would love, while providing a UPF protection rating any mom would approve of. While there may be other UPF 50 shirts out there that provide sufficient sun protection, there are very few that would be suitable for training. The SUN BOUND collection accomplishes both.

Comfort

You don’t have to be an athlete to fall in love with this collection. Not only is it one of the softest shirts you’ll ever wear, but we’ve designed every element of the shirt to make it as comfortable as possible. This includes, but is not limited to:

  • Tailored athletic fit to ensure it’s not too loose and not to tight
  • Raglan sleeves for better movement with thumb loops stitched inside of the long sleeves to keep your arms protected regardless of your activity
  • Single layered fabric hood to provide substantial sun protection without overheating
  • Tag-free collar

Quality

These shirts are made to last. While lightweight and breathable, our blend of fibers is durable and strong enough to withstand the toughest conditions. In addition to developing an extremely durable fabric, we reinforce all our seams to prevent any tears or splitting.  Also, you can rest assured with our hassle-free returns & exchanges policy – If you are not entirely satisfied with your order we offer a free exchange or refund for the full cost of your returned items.

Mission

A portion of all purchases of the SUN BOUND collection (and all other products we sell now or in the future) will be donated to charities with a vision similar to ours to help treat and prevent skin cancer. For more details on the foundations we support and our charitable donations, click here.

We are finalizing the production of our shirts now, and expect all pre-sale orders to ship out upon completion. If you’d like to guarantee your shirt in a specific color and size, please order now and we will notify you as soon as we have it ready. As a thanks for your support and patience we are providing a 25% discount and free shipping for anyone who places a pre-sale order, just enter “PRESALE25” at checkout – the coupon code will be valid through May. To see the various styles, colors and sizes available, click here.

What is the Difference Between UPF and SPF?

Kayaking at Sunset with UPF Protection

You’re probably familiar with the SPF (sun protection factor) ratings found on sunscreen, but what is UPF clothing? Did you know clothing has its own UV protection rating system? You’ll see this rating, known as an ultraviolet protection factor, or UPF for short, when buying sun protective clothing or bamboo apparel. But what exactly do SPF and UPF ratings measure, and how do they compare?

Before we dive into the differences, it’s important to understand the reason we are protecting our skin at all. The ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun are harmful, especially during long periods of exposure. Unprotected exposure to UV rays damages the skin, and cause over 90% of all nonmelanoma skin cancers.

Sunny blue sky with UV rays

Broad-Spectrum

Sunscreen labeled as “broad-spectrum” blocks both UVA (long wave ultraviolet A) and UVB (short wave ultraviolet B), each of which damages the skin. Any sunscreen not labeled broad-spectrum is generally designed simply to protect from short wave UVB rays to avoid a burn, but will not block harmful UVA rays. Whenever possible, always choose broad-spectrum protection.

SPF

SPF stands for “sun protection factor” and is a relative measure of a sunscreen’s effectiveness in protecting your skin from UV rays. A higher SPF rating means that it will block a higher percentage of UV rays, but nothing is 100%. The number generally correlates to the multiple of time in which you can avoid a burn. So if you would normally burn in 10 minutes, and properly applied an SPF 30 sunscreen, it would take you about 300 (10 x 30) minutes to burn (assuming you are constantly covered and re-applying).

UPF

So we know what Broad-Spectrum and SPF are, but what is UPF clothing? UPF (ultraviolet protection factor), on the other hand, is specific to sun protective fabrics. UV radiation can penetrate clothing and as with SPF, the higher the value, the more protection you receive. The specific UPF rating of the garment indicates the amount of the sun’s UV radiation it allows through. For example, a UPF 50 shirt only allows 1/50th or 2% of the UV rays through, a UPF 30 shirt only allows 1/30th or about 3% through, and so on. Plus, unlike sunscreen, UPF apparel always blocks both UVA and UVB rays and is always broad-spectrum.

UPF ratings can be difficult to identify, as they’re rarely marked in any product details. That is, unless the garment is specifically designed for UV protection. The average cotton t-shirt’s UPF value is 5 or less, and determining the exact UPF rating requires costly, time-consuming testing. Also, while it’s required that apparel show its country of origin and fabric content, there is no requirement for a manufacturer to provide the product’s UPF rating. This leads to many companies taking the cheap and easy route—not listing it at all. So in general, if an article of clothing does not have a UPF value listed (and it’s not thick like denim or heavy fleece), it’s safest to assume it does not provide significant UV protection.

Kayaking at Sunset with UPF Protection

SPF & UPF, In Summary:

  • SPF rates the UV protection effectiveness of sunscreens
  • UPF rates the UV protection effectiveness of protective fabrics
  • UPF is always broad-spectrum, SPF is not
  • Fabrics with UPF provide constant coverage, SPF and sunscreens need regular re-application to maintain protection
  • When choosing UPF apparel, look for ratings of UPF 50+ for the best protection

Rayward Apparel focuses exclusively on UPF 50+ apparel, specializing in sun protective shirts that are as comfortable as they are protective. Shop Rayward Apparel today!

Our vision sees through the sun’s glare and extends far beyond clothing. We go beyond clothing with our dedication to supporting the fight against skin cancer, donating 5% of all profits to charities with a similar vision to ours. Learn more about how we give back.

Source: Skin Cancer FoundationSkincancer.org

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