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Sun protective clothing: what to know.


Summer’s here in all its glory. But before you go out and play, take a moment to think about protecting your skin. Sunburns are not only painful, they can pose real danger, including cancer.

You’re likely familiar with sunscreens and their SPF (Sun Protection Factor) ratings. But did you know that clothes can also be rated for their level of sun protectiveness?

In this case though, the ratings are called UPF (Ultraviolet Protection Factor), and they work slightly differently than SPF ratings. SPF measures how long you can stay in the sun without burning. For example, if you would normally get a sunburn after 20 minutes of standing outdoors unprotected, then wearing SPF 30 sunscreen means, theoretically, that you could go 600 minutes (or 10 hours) without burning.



But UPF ratings measure the amount of ultraviolet light that is able to get through a garment. The number indicates the fraction that’s getting through. For example, a half-zip with a rating of UPF 50+ means only 1/50th of those UVA and UVB rays are penetrating through the material (or 2%). In comparison, the average T-shirt has a UPF rating of 5. That means one-fifth of the UVA/UVB rays are getting through – or 20%!




As you can see then, a higher UPF rating means a lot more protection. In the industry, something must have a UPF rating of at least 15 to be considered “sun protective” and even those pieces are only considered to offer “good protection.” The ratings can be charted like this:

  • UPF 15 or 20: Good UV protection
  • UPF 25, 30 or 35: Very Good UV protection
  • UPF 40, 45 or 50+: Excellent UV protection.

50+ is the highest a UPF rating goes – and it’s the same number you find in any Cutter & Buck piece made with CB DryTec 50+UPF fabric.