How Harmful Are UV Rays?

How Harmful Are UV Rays? Sun Over Hills

Our skin’s number one enemy is UV (ultraviolet) radiation, but just how bad is it? Like most things, there are a lot of misconceptions about sun protection and it really depends on length of exposure, but it’s proven to cause cancer and definitely something you should be protecting yourself from. Thankfully, most UV shirts for men and women do exactly that – keep you protected.

How & When Are People Exposed to UV Radiation?

The Sun and UV Damage

Women Tanning UV Exposure

The main source of UV radiation is the sun, which we are exposed to at different levels throughout the day. UV radiation from sun exposure does not penetrate past the skin, but can be extremely damaging and cause cancers which then permeate through the body. Look for products with a high SPF or UPF rating to determine the amount of UV protection a sunscreen or fabric provides.

The sun emits three types of UV radiation, but only two of them even reach our skin:

  • UVA: long wave ultraviolet waves. These do not cause sunburn, but are shown to damage the DNA of skin cells overtime and can lead to skin cancers overtime. Only broad spectrum sunscreens protect you from UVA rays in addition to UVB rays, but UV shirts for men and women with a high UPF rating always protect you from both.
  • UVB: short wave ultraviolet waves. These have more energy than UVA rays and damage the outer surface of your skin directly and are the reason you get a sunburn. Also, UVB rays are thought to be the leading cause of most skin cancers such as melanoma, basal and squamous cell skin cancer. 
  • UVC: The highest energy waves the sun emits, but these never reach our skin thanks to the interaction with our atmosphere. However, this is sometimes emitted through various man-made objects.

Tanning Beds and UV Exposure

The next most common exposure to UV is through tanning beds. While the amount of exposure depends on the duration and the specific lamp used, exposing yourself to unnecessary UV radiation should be avoided.


  • Black-light lamps
  • Mercury-vapor lamps (but these generally only have dangerous UV rays when broken)

UV Studies and Statistics Related

Skin Cancer and UV Exposure in the United States

Building representing US Skin Cancer Facts
  • 9,500 people in the US are diagnosed with skin cancer every day
  • More than 2 people die of skin cancer every hour
  • 90% of non-melanoma skin cancers are associated with UV exposure from the sun
  • The annual cost of treating skin cancer in the US is $8.1 Billion
  • 3.3 million people in the United States need skin cancer treatment annually

Link Between UV Exposure and Cancer in Men & Women

Certain cancer research organizations study and post the findings of the different causes of cancer. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) and National Toxicology Program (NTP) are a couple of them. Below are a few of the many UV related causes that the IARC and NTP have linked to cancer:

  • Solar Radiation
  • Use of UV-emitting tanning devices and exposure to sunlamps/sunbeds
  • Broad-Spectrum UV radiation (including UVA, UVB, and UVC)

Summary of UV Exposure for Men & Women

UV exposure is not something you should take lightly. You should always keep your skin protected with either sunscreen or proper sun protective apparel if you are spending time outdoors.

You should schedule an appointment with your dermatologist immediately if you are concerned about your UV exposure and worried you might have developed skin cancer or have any concerning spots. The included video has a quick summary for things to look for if you are worried at all. Here at Rayward Apparel we are passionate about skin protection, but we are not skin cancer professionals and cannot give medical advice. If you have any questions or concerns about your health, it’s always best to consult with a doctor.

Protection with UV Shirts for Men & Women

We are committed to helping the battle against skin cancer. We make UV shirts for men and women, all of which have the highest possible UV protection rating, UPF 50+. Also, Rayward Apparel donates 5% of all company profits to our non-profit allies in the fight against skin cancer.

Source: American Cancer Society

A Brief History of Sunscreen and Sun Protection

Sun Protection in Ancient Egypt

Sun protection has come a long way since ancient times, but the need to protect our skin is nothing new. Travel back in time with us on a quick journey through the interesting history of sunscreen and sun protection. We imagine you’ll return grateful to be on this end of the timeline with access to UPF 50+ clothing and broad-spectrum sunscreens.

Sun Protection in Ancient Times

In ancient Egypt, people used a combination of grains and spices to concoct sunscreens, relying primarily on rice bran, lupine and jasmine. Although people with limited, if any, understanding of the sun’s damaging rays applied these for cosmetic reasons, the Egyptians were actually on to something. In fact, it’s now known that rice bran contains a substance that actually offers limited UV protection!

Jumping ahead and into Greece, people became more aware of sun damage. However, the revealing practices of exercising naked outdoors and lathering oneself in olive-oil demonstrated room for improvement in the areas of sun safety.

We’ll travel into Europe and ahead to the medieval period. At this time, people preferred pale skin as an indicator of wealth, so sun protection took the form of clothing. Since this often meant several layers, we begin to see more effective—albeit less comfortable—sun protection taking shape.

Sun Protection in the 20th Century

Let’s skip way ahead to the early 1900s (hey, we said this would be brief!). This is when scientists begin linking sun exposure, cellular damage and cancer. These findings led to an increased demand for sunblock. The first of which was invented by an Australian chemist named Milton Blake, but with little proven effectiveness. Later, Austrian scientist and climber Franz Greiter developed a cream with some actual UV protection. It was only about SPF 2, but at least it was a start. During WW2, American pharmacist Benjamin Green created a sunblock for soldiers in the South Pacific, which would eventually become Coppertone.

Crowded Beach Needing Sun Protection

Interestingly, the advent of more effective sunscreens coincided with shifting cultural attitudes towards tanning. Where it was once considered best to have pale skin, the idea of tanning started to take hold. In the 1960s, as scientists shed light on causes of skin damage, people began shining lights by buying tanning beds. Worse yet, these were often used in conjunction with tanning lotions, only exasperating UV damage.

To combat the lack of understanding regarding UV exposure and skin health, Franz Greiter (mentioned above) invented the Sun Protection Factor, or SPF, rating system. As his SPF system became widely adopted, sun protection products and their labeling kept evolving. Continued research revealed different types of UV rays. We now know that both UVA and UVB rays cause damage—thus the need for broad-spectrum protection to prevent sun burn, early aging and, most importantly, skin cancer. In the 1980s, Coppertone introduced the first broad spectrum sunscreen. Also, this was around the time when the first water-resistant sunscreens debuted.

Sun Protection Today

More recently, sunscreens are scrutinized for impacting marine life and coral reefs, and rightfully so. As we learn more about the potential impact of certain sunscreen ingredients, especially oxybenzone (and to a lesser degree, octinoxate), it becomes increasingly important to check product labels to ensure that what you are using is not only safe for you, but also for your environment.

Coral Reef Impacted by Sunscreen

Fast forward to today, and despite some remaining myths and misconceptions still surrounding sun protection, we’ve come a long way in our understanding of the causes and effects of UV damage. Fortunately, we no longer have to rely solely on sunscreen for protection, but have the added protection offered through sun protective clothing. Similar to SPF sunscreen ratings, we now have Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF) ratings for fabrics. Plus, modern textile production and testing has led to new fabric blends that feel, perform and protect better than ever. With this insight comes advancements in protective UPF 50+ clothing—which blocks over 98% of harmful UV rays—allowing you to continually explore new horizons, prepared and protected with clothing that performs.

Shop UPF 50+ Clothing at Rayward Apparel

Sources: he New York Times; JAMA Dermatology;

Sun Protection Myths: Know the Facts to Prevent UV Damage

Beach Lounging with Umbrella

There are many myths, misconceptions and misunderstandings when it comes to sun protection and preventing sunburn. At Rayward Apparel, however, our goal isn’t just to provide sun protective clothing, but also to provide the information and resources necessary to make you sun smart and UV protected.

Continue below as we bust some of the most damaging sun protection myths:

Sun Protection Myths vs Facts:

MYTH“All sunscreens protect against harmful UV damage.”
FACT: In reality, only “broad spectrum” sunscreen adequately blocks both UVA and UVB rays from the sun. UPF clothing, on the other hand, always blocks both types of UV rays. Therefore, you can trust UPF apparel.

Beach Sun Protection Facts vs Fiction

MYTH“You can’t get sunburn on a cloudy day.”
FACT: Clouds may filter some UV rays, but they do not block skin damaging UVA rays. Therefore, even in cloudy, overcast or foggy weather, sun protection clothing is paramount.

MYTH“You can’t get sunburn in the winter.”
FACT: UV damage doesn’t go on holiday. In fact, while UVB rays are strongest during the spring and summer, you are still being bombarded with UVA rays throughout the year. Furthermore, if the ground is covered by reflective snow or ice, you could actually be hit twice.

MYTH“Glass windows protect you from UV rays.”
FACT: Glass may filter out UVB rays, but UVA rays penetrate most glass surfaces. As a result, unless you are certain a glass window has been treated to block UV rays, wear sun protection apparel even behind glass (such as on a plane, bus, train or car).

MYTH“UV rays don’t penetrate the water’s surface and are blocked.”
FACT: Not only do the sun’s UV rays penetrate beneath the surface of water, but they also reflect off of it. They therefore cause damage both above and below the water’s surface.

Water Reflects UV Rays at the Beach

More UV Protection Myths vs Facts:

MYTH“Hair offers adequate UV protection.”
FACT: In fact, even a thick head of hair or a full beard don’t provide sufficient UV protection. Therefore, they should be protected with broad spectrum sunscreen and sun protection apparel.

MYTH“Regular clothing protects you from the sun.”
FACT: It’s safest to only trust clothing clearly labeled with a UPF rating, but the higher the better. In fact, certain fabrics, such as plain cotton, offer a false sense of security with little in the way of actual UV protection. As a result, anything without a UPF rating should be avoided.

MYTH“Lighter colored clothing, such as yellow, offers better sun protection.”
FACT: All else equal, darker colors (such as black, blue or red) absorb more UV rays, and therefore typically protect better than lighter colors like white or yellow.

MYTH“Beach umbrellas offer adequate UV protection.”
FACT: In fact, umbrellas only block direct UV rays from above. Meanwhile, they do little to shield you from indirect UV rays bouncing or reflecting off other surfaces, such as water or sand.

Beach Lounging with Umbrella

Final Sun Safety Myths vs Facts:

MYTH“It’s ok to get sunburn every now and then.”
FACT: Sun damage is cumulative. That is to say, every additional exposure leads to a greater risk of melanoma and skin cancer. Therefore, each case of sunburn is increasingly unhealthy.

MYTH“Unless you get sunburn, then you’re not damaging your skin.”
FACT: In reality, the sun’s UVA rays are already damaging your skin well before any indications of sunburn.

MYTH“It is safe to sun tan in short intervals. For example, just to get a ‘base.'”
FACT: Firstly, there is no such thing as a healthy tan. In fact, UVA rays, the ones which cause skin tanning, directly contribute to the development of skin cancer.

MYTH“Tanning and sunbathing help prevent skin cancer in the future.”
FACT: The tanning effect is your skin’s direct response to being damaged by UVA rays, and does not prevent skin cancer.

Now that you’re informed, it’s time to get protected, and that’s where Rayward Apparel really shines with our exclusive focus on UPF 50+ apparel. We specialize in UV protection shirts that are as protective as they are comfortable, so shop Rayward Apparel today!

Source: Skin Cancer Foundation,


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