Sun-Protective Apparel: No Reapplying; More Outdoor Clothing Designed with Regardfor the Skin in Mind

By Crumpler, David | The Florida Times Union, July 14, 2014 | Go to article overview

Sun-Protective Apparel: No Reapplying; More Outdoor Clothing Designed with Regardfor the Skin in Mind


Crumpler, David, The Florida Times Union


Byline: David Crumpler

You have to give the Sunshine State credit.

It generally lives up to its claim.

But there are problems that can come with spending time in the Florida sun - or anybody else's - as you know: sunburn, premature aging of the skin and skin cancer.

You've no doubt heard about sunscreen as a defense. A lot of effort has gone into getting people to pay attention to "SPF" and include the word "reapply" in their routine.

There is also the growing option of dressing to guard against the harmful effects of the sun's ultraviolet rays.

Sun-protective clothing has become increasingly visible in recent years. The shirts, pants, shorts, hats and more that you're likely to find in sporting goods and department stores, and catalogs with active wear, make it pretty evident the concept has gone mainstream.

How does sun-protective clothing work, and who is most likely to benefit from it? Here are some answers.

NOT ALL FABRIC IS EQUAL

All clothing offers some degree of protection from UV rays, said Erin Janda at REI, an outdoor equipment store at The Markets at Town Center.

But some fabrics do a better job than others.

Factors include construction (density and tightness of the weave), fiber type (synthetics like polyester and nylon are superior to cotton, rayon and hemp), color (darker is generally considered better than lighter because it contains more dye), stretching (more space between yarns), wetness (dry clothes are better than wet, though the reason for this isn't clear), and general wear and tear (causing fading, thinner fabric, etc.).

More and more outdoor clothing is being marketed with a UPF rating, Janda said.

It may help to think of UPF, which stands for Ultraviolet Protection Factor, as the SPF of clothing, since it indicates how effectively the fabric will guard you from UV rays.

(Quick lesson: There are two types of UV rays - UVA and UVB, and overexposure to either can damage your skin. UVA rays can result in premature aging and wrinkling of the skin and contribute to skin cancer. UVB rays can cause sunburn - they're the ones you're encouraged to avoid between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. - in addition to premature aging and wrinkling of the skin, and can lead to skin cancer. SPF measures protection only from UVB. UPF measures protection from UVA and UVB.)

UPF clothing is not a new concept. Australia came up with a standard for rating sun-protective clothes in the mid-'90s, and several other countries essentially adopted its model. In the United States, a system was established in 2001. Advertising claims are now regulated by the FTC.

There are three levels of UPF, Janda said. The higher the number, the better the protection.

- 15 to 24 is considered good, providing 93-96 percent blockage.

- 25 to 39 is considered very good, providing 93-97 percent blockage.

- 40 to 50 and above is considered excellent, providing 97-99 percent blockage.

Fabrics with a UPF rating of less than 15 are not considered sun-protective. That white cotton T-shirt you're wearing when you're outdoors in summer has a UPF rating of 7, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation's website, skincancer.org.

To determine an item's UPF rating, check the tagging, Janda said. Most manufacturers try to make it easy for consumers by displaying the information prominently on the garment.

WHO'S WEARING IT

Customers who come to REI with sun-protective clothing in mind are "typically planning a trip that involves a specific outdoor activity," such as hiking, running, boating or cycling, Janda said. She gets male and female customers in equal amounts.

She sees a lot of parents shopping for children participating in team sports as well.

"We also have some older customers who have had skin damage from the sun and are looking for ways to increase protection when they're outside," she said. …

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