Updated: Sep 18, 2020
Dear Savvy Derm Diva,
I keep seeing the acronym UPF on clothing. What does this exactly mean, and why is it essential for sun protection?
–Tim B., Curious about UPF
Dear Curious about UPF,
UPF or Ultraviolet Protection Factor found in clothing has become more popular with companies such as Coolibar, offering stylish options for sun protection. UPF is dependent on how tightly woven the garment is, the color, weight, and active ingredients found in sunscreens (like sun-bouncing minerals, titanium dioxide, and zinc dioxide) which are infused at the fiber or fabric level. With high-quality UPF 50+ clothing, you are protecting your skin from 98% of UVA/UVB ray penetration for as long as you’re wearing it because the protection never washes out or wears away. Because UV rays from the sun increase a person’s risk of developing skin cancer wearing UPF clothing is an excellent option for people who spend a lot of time outdoors, but remember, you still need a broad-spectrum SPF of at least 30 for the areas exposed to the sun.
Diva Tip: Check out the fashionable finds for men, women, children, and babies at Coolibar 💋
Dear Savvy Derm Diva,
I am discussing with my husband, who believes wearing a long-sleeve T-shirt outdoors is enough sun protection and sunscreen is not needed. I disagree, who is correct?
–Savanah U., Debating Sun Safety
Dear Debating Sun Safety,
To begin, you always need to wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen wherever you have exposed skin. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends an SPF of at least 30 reapplied every 1-2 hours or after swimming or sweating, along with a sun protective hat and sun-protective clothing. When it comes to clothing, your husband’s regular long-sleeve cotton shirt will only provide a UPF (Ultimate Protection Factor – the sun protective rating for clothing) of about 3-5 which allows UV rays to penetrate your clothing and reach your skin, even though you may not see color. To really be safe, your husband should be wearing UPF 50+ clothing because it blocks 98% of UVA/UVB rays. Only then can he avoid wearing sunscreen wherever the fabric covers. As an added benefit, brands like Coolibar design their UPF 50+ clothing to offer added benefits like high-tech fabrics with cooling properties and convertible-coverage features to make covering up in the heat easy and more comfortable
Diva Tip: Not all clothing will block UV rays. For guaranteed sun protection look for UPF 50+. 💋
Renata Block, MMS, PA-C is the creator of Savvy Derm Diva, an online resource for proper skin care. Ask Savvy Derm Diva is a monthly column answering your skincare related concerns! Make sure you follow her on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter! You can make an appointment with her via TeleMedicine or in person at Advanced Dermatology & Aesthetic Medicine, LLC or TEXT to 847-802-9667.