Many wary sunshine warriors may wonder whether or not they can get sunburned through their clothing.
It certainly is possible to get sunburnt through your clothes – a lot depends on the type of clothing you’re wearing.
Clothes with thin, loose fabric weaves will allow for plenty of gaps where UV rays can hit your skin, whereas clothing fabric with thick, tight weaves protects much better against the sun.
How Can UV Rays Penetreate My Clothing?
While any type of clothing will provide some protection against the sun (as opposed to bare arms), there is definitely a lot of variation in how much protection various articles of clothing can offer.
For example, some of the best fabric materials that block UV rays include:
All these materials feature tight-stitched weaving and thick fabric, resulting in a strong layer of protection between your skin and the sun. Of course, due to the heavier, denser nature of these fabrics, most individuals won’t want to wear these kinds of materials during the hot summer months.
Luckily, modern sun-protective clothing relies on polyester and nylon synthetic blends to keep the material lightweight while still providing full sun protection.
How Do I Know if My Clothing is Protecting Me from Sunburn?
In order to know how effectively your clothing protects you from UV rays, it’s essential to look for the clothing fabric’s UPF (Ultraviolet Protection Factor) rating. This is a number that tells you exactly how much protection you can expect from the clothing.
Not all articles of clothing will include UPF information, but clothing that is specifically designed to protect against the sun will always include the UPF rating. UPF 50 is the highest possible rating for clothing, so ideally seek out clothing with that rating or close to it. UPF 50 allows only 1/50th (aka 98%) of the sun’s UV rays to penetrate through the material.
A material’s UPF factor is measured in a laboratory setting by sending out a beam of UV radiation and placing a fabric sample over an electronic sensor, which can assess how much UV radiation penetrated through the fabric.
How Can I Better Protect My Skin With Clothing?
There are a few things you can do to utilize clothing to its full potential for sun protection:
- Opt for UPF 50 rated clothing when possible
- Use sunscreen on any non-covered areas (or even underneath clothing if the material has a loose weave or is translucent)
- Look for natural sun protection via awnings, shade canopies, and trees
- If you’re wearing thin clothing, try adding layers (using a sun shawl is a great way to cover up more)
- Carry a portable sun umbrella with you to provide added protection
- Wear sun sleeves to provide additional arm protection
Even clothing with loose weaves and no UPF rating will likely provide some protection against the sun, but a wearer could still potentially be burned if they stay out in the sun for long periods of time without appropriate UPF-rated clothing. For reliable protection, utilize natural shade, clothing, and sunscreen for full sun safety!
Have you ever been sunburned through clothing? What was the situation? Tell us in the comments!