Do Clothes Protect You From The Sun?

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Can Clothes Protect You From UV?

Clothes which will protect you from the sunAs summer arrives our UV awareness rises. With it rise the troubling thought we are not protected from UV radiation, though we do know the risks and the odds. Wearing regular clothes does serve as a real protection from UV. Regular clothes, like T shirts or buttoned shirts can filter only a very small fraction of the radiation. Counting on your regular clothes as UV shield is not very wise…

Scientists have tested different kinds of shirts to see their UV protection level. The results were that a cotton shirt may filter 5%-10% of incoming UV radiation. This means 90% of the UV passes through and gets absorbed by your skin!

Shirts Block UV-B Radiation But Not UV-A

Sending your kids to play outside at summer wearing a cotton T shirt, means they are nearly “naked” as far as the UV is concerned. Would you send you kids to play in the sun without wearing a shirt? Surly not.

When wearing a shirt under direct sunlight we do not get sun burned. When wearing a shirt we get sun tanning only at the arms. So we are fooled to believe the shirt is protecting us from harmful UV.

This is only partly true. We are managing to filter only the UV type B radiation which causes tanning and sun burns. But the “silent killer” are the UV-A rays. These are the longer wavelength of ultraviolet. They come to earth along with the visible sun light.

UV type A, are longer than UVB, they can penetrate clouds. Even at cloudy days there is light – if there is light there is UVA. UVA can reflect off surfaces (like water, snow or sand) UVA can penetrate glass (UVB can not). UVA penetrates through fabrics, UVB can not.

How do they check UV protection level for clothes?

When placing a cotton shirt in front of a UV lamp, and placing a spectrometer on the other side (a device which measures UV light). Scientists can check how much UV is reach the other side.

Cotton shirts do a lousy job protecting you from the sun. So do other types of fabrics, especially natural fabrics like silk, linen, wool, hemp. Man made fabrics do better at filtering UV, but most of them are not as friendly to be wearing at summer.

Unless they are UPF clothes which will be reviewed below.

Clothing Tips to Protect You Against the Sun

The protection level of clothes differs by the fabric, the design, the color and the way it is used. Here are the main highlights and guidelines to know how clothes protect you from the sun:

  • A tight clothing which is stretched over the body is less protective than a loose garment.
  • A black garment is more protective than a white one.
  • Wearing clothes in layers is better than a single layer.
  • A wet T shirt gives less protection from the sun than a dry shirt.
  • Polyester/nylon filters UV better than cotton or other natural fabrics.
  • Long sleeve gives more protection than short sleeve.
  • Long pants are better than shorts.
  • A hat with a wide 3 inch brim all around is better than a cap.
  • UPF clothes beat all the rest.

How Do UPF Clothes Protect You From The Sun

clothes to protect you from the sunScientists have found that if special UV absorbing materials are inserted to the fabrics, they tend to filter UV by higher rates. When tight weaving is implemented in clothing UV does not manage to pass through. By testing different types of dyes, weaving and UV filtering ingredients scientists managed to create wearable UV armor clothing, some which block 99% of all incoming UV!!

Today there are thousands of designs, shapes, sizes and colors or UPF clothing. At Amazon you can find numerous brands and leading manufacturers.

UPF clothes (ultraviolet protection factor) carry different grades, from 15 till 50. UPF 50 is the highest protection you can have from the sun. These clothes filter 98%-99% of the UV (A and B). You can choose any color as the secret is in the dyes and weaving and not in the color. When you wear a UPF shirt you do not need to wear layers as this single layer protects you from the sun better than any other improvised solution.

Check here clothes which will protect you from the sun!

Columbia’s lightweight men’s long-sleeve UV protection shirt (image above)

Columbia Men’s Terminal Tackle Long Sleeve Shirt

Sun UV Protective T ShirtCoolibar UPF 50+ Men’s Long Sleeve T-shirt – Sun Protective (image right)


Clothes can cover you and protect from sun burns and tanning, they do not block UVA thus not reducing your risk from skin diseases and sun harming effects. Regular clothes will not slow sun side effects or skin aging process.

It is always wise to stay away from the sun when ever possible. Sit, walk and stay in the shade or out of mid day sunlight. At these times the UV is at the most harmful state for your skin.



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