When it comes to sun protection, more is more. Yet, while sunscreen is most readily credited for its ability to thwart UV rays, clothes can protect just as efficiently — if not better — than our beloved SPF. However, not all fabrics protect equally. For instance, a loosely-woven cotton T-shirt will allow more UV rays through to the skin than, say, a densely-woven shirt made of neoprene. Additionally, dark colors protect better than light ones; dry clothes protect better than wet.
To gauge how protective your clothing might be, hold it up to the light. If you can see light through the fabric, that means that UV rays can also pass through. Of course, this quick test is merely a guideline, so it’s not necessarily indicative of exactly how much protection a piece of clothing provides.
The only way to confirm the level of sun protection your clothing provides is to seek out garments specifically created to block UV rays. To find them, look for items tagged with the letters “UPF,” or ultraviolet protection factor. Similar to how SPF tells you how much a sunscreen formula will shield you from the sun, UPF indicates how much protection a particular garment provides (and the higher the number, the more protection you’ll get). It’s worth noting that every item with a UPF value has to have undergone extensive lab testing in order to be declared protective, and this testing is closely regulated by the FTC.
Many UPF garments are made from specially-designed fabric, while others are infused with common sunscreen filters such as titanium dioxide. Below, seven items — from leggings to gloves to hats — that protect without compromising on style.
(Once you’ve shopped the list, don’t forget to accessorize with one of the season’s hottest new sunscreens.)
While most UPF clothing veers sporty, the Lilly Pulitzer® UPF 50+ Skipper Ruffle Dress ($158) could pass for chic day-to-night cocktail attire. We love the zip-up collar, which protects the thin skin of the décolletage — an area that is particularly vulnerable to sun damage and age spots.
Our hands are one of the first areas to show signs of aging, so protecting them is particularly important. (Read about other oft-forgotten places you should be protecting.) You could slather an SPF-infused hand cream — or protect boldly with ManiGlovz®, UPF 50 ($24). As the name suggests, these gloves are particularly useful for slipping on before a UV-based gel manicure. (Though, it’s worth noting that many gel lights use non-harmful LED.) We’re partial to this marble design, but there are over 20 additional prints to choose from.
The Bluestone® Sunshield® ($38) is a favorite among editors, dermatologists, and celebrities, alike. Not only does it literally shield your face from every possible angle, but it also makes for a fantastically fun selfie (or a genius paparazzi-proof disguise). Read a full review of this galactic-looking hat.
While seemingly pricey for a plain white shirt, this UPF 50 Scallop Tee from Cover® ($110) offers full upper-body protection that pairs with virtually anything.
You see a washing machine; the Sun Guard® Laundry Aid ($22) sees a world full of UV-proof clothing. Toss this powder into your regular load for an infusion of UPF 30 that lasts up to 20 washes. According to numerous reviews, the product leaves the integrity of the fabric — including the color, smell, and shape — totally intact.
The Coolibar® UPF 50+ Weekend Pants ($70-$85) prove that sweatpants and sunshine can, in fact, go together. These pants are not only comfy and surprisingly lightweight, but they’re also infused with zinc oxide, which shakes out to an impressive UPF 50+.
The Pelagic® Women’s Hexed Maui Leggings ($69) are not only splashy, but they also boast UPF 50+ protection. Outdoor yoga, anyone?
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