Sunny Days Meet Your UPF Match
Summer is just around the corner. (Insert happy dance here) It’s time for fun in the sun, outdoor activities, and warm weather. When opening those summer drawers for the first time this season, here are a few things to keep in mind!
For the industrial athlete that works outdoors OR just enjoys spending time outdoors, protection from the sun is key. OSHA points out that radiation from the sun causes premature aging of the skin (think brown spots and saggy skin), wrinkles (no thank you!), cataracts (I’d rather see please), and skin cancer (yikes).
The amount of damage from sun exposure will depend on the strength of the light (time of the day when the sun is strongest), the amount of time spent in the sun, and whether the skin is protected. We know that one way to cut down on sun exposure is by using sunscreen. However, this can be an endless process of re-application. Easily forgotten and annoying in nature, sunscreen is not always the best choice when you can choose another form of protection that needs no re-application.
ALL clothing actually has some protection from the sun’s radiation but not all of it is adequate for protection. Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF) indicates the degree to which the sun’s radiation is able to reach your skin. For example, a UPF 50 fabric blocks 98 percent of the sun’s rays. Ideally we want to shoot for at least 30 to 49 UPF for very good protection, and 50+ for excellent protection.
How can you make sure you are wearing something with a high UPF? Some clothing will literally have a UPF label which makes it very easy to determine what protection it offers. But if there is no label, keep these 5 factors in mind when choosing the most protective clothing:
- Clothing Color: A dark or bright color absorbs the sun’s rays rather than allowing them to penetrate through the fabric. Darker colors will have better protection than lighter colors. Often we think that dark is a bad choice because it absorbs the sun’s rays, thus seeming hotter. This can be true but that absorption is part of why the radiation doesn’t make it to your skin. Choose a fabric that wicks sweat away.
- Fabric: Tighter woven fabric allows less light to peek through. For example denim, canvas, wool or synthetic fibers, are more protective than sheer, thin, or loosely woven fabric. You can check a fabric’s “sun safety” by holding it up to the light. The more you can see through it, the easier it is for the sun’s rays to reach your skin. If you are working in hot weather, a fabric like denim may not be the best choice because of how heavy the fabric is. However, there are other choices with tightly woven fibers that will be lighter. Denim is only an example of a tightly woven fabric. Use your best judgement when choosing the appropriate fabric for outdoor work.
- Fit: It is better to wear loose-fitting clothing as tight clothing can stretch and reduce the level of protection offered. This is also important when talking about the wear and tear of the fabric. If your clothes are stretched out, so is the fabric which will loosen the fibers and make it easier for the sun to pass through.
- Coverage: This one might be a no brainer. Obviously, the more skin your clothing covers, the better your protection. Whenever possible, choose long-sleeved shirts and long pants that fully cover your skin.
- Be Prepared: Regardless of the UPF, if your clothing gets stretched or wet, it will lose some of its protection. This is particularly true when the fabric becomes more transparent, thus exposing your skin to more UV light.
Oh…and don’t forget a hat! The most common types of skin cancer often appear on the head and neck. A wider brim will cover more area. You may want to think about an attachment to your hat or hard hat to protect the back of your neck as well.