The conversation around sun protecting, UV light and radiation has been increasing in all circles in the last two decades. Yes, some people say that the sun was never seen as a problem some 50-80 years ago, and they are correct. However, the ozone layer was not that badly damaged back then either. Due to climate change, greenhouse gases, and the damage in the ozone layer, a lot of harmful sunlight and radiation are now able to reach us directly on the earth, and this why the number of cases related to skin cancer and so on has been on the rise. So yes, sun protection is now something we need to discuss and consider in our everyday lives.
Our clothes can also play a role here and if you are interested in knowing just how much protection from UV rays are your clothes currently giving you, then you can keep on reading the rest of the article.
The Problem With Ultraviolet Rays
The search for protection against UV rays started in Australia, and contrary to what you might think, this research was not carried out to protecting one against skin cancer, rather it was done more for observing how it was making the skin age faster.
There are essentially different types of ultraviolet light, and this includes UV rays and UVA rays. The difference between the two is that UV A rays have a comparatively bigger reach that UV rays. There is also the fact that UVA rays also accelerates the aging of the skin. We then have UV B rays, and these UV rays do have less of a reach and they will deflect or bounce off our skin, but they are responsible for causing cancer. Three main types of cancers that are associated with these UV rays are melanoma, squamous cell growth, and basal cell disease, all of which develop when exposed to UV rays for prolonged periods.
If we leave our skin unprotected and it continues to have prolonged exposure to UV rays over time, these UV rays can end up affecting the DNA within our cells, and this in turn can cause all kinds of conditions and anomalies which include and is not limited to faster visible aging and different types of skin cancer.
The idea of sun clothing slowly started catching and the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) slowly started testing clothing that claimed to provide UV protection and then created a standard for checking them out, and now millions of clothes are annually inspected by the ASTM and AATC, and no these clothes are actually not uncomfortable, and when done right can provide the best possible alternative for sunscreen.
Why Buy Sun Protective Clothes?
One of the reasons why sun-protective clothes are so popular is because of how durable they can be, so no, they do not come with an expiry date and they will not just last one season or a few washes. Sun-protective clothing can withstand many washes and last many seasons all the while not affecting its UPF rating.
Sun-protective clothing is not exclusive, so you can find it at your local stores and retailers without any worries, and they can even be bought online.
Another great thing about sun-protective clothes that makes them stand out is the fact that they are not expensive, and they do not come with an expiration date, so you can get it cheap and it does not come with a short life the way sunscreen does. Another issue with sun-screen is the fact that it is not always consistent, and its performance will vary depending on the manufacturer. Your sun-screen not only needs to be water-resistant to properly work, but it also needs to be at least SPF 50 to work, plus re-application is another thing that you need to consider. Lastly, even dermatologists believe that sun-protective clothing provides an ideal level of sun-protection.
Shopping For Your UV Protective Clothes
Clothing, in general, will help protect you from the sun, however, all clothes are not made equally and different factors like color, choice of material, and so on can affect the performance of your sun-protective clothes.
Let’s Talk Colors
Lighter colors are not the best colors for protecting against UV and sun rays since the light can penetrate through those colors. However, radiant and dark colors are considered to be a better choice since they absorb the rays of the sun and this in turn prevents it from getting to your actual skin.
The Make & Construction
How your clothes are constructed and made also affects their effectiveness in dealing with sun rays. A great way to test this out is to hold your fabric up and against the sun, if you can see through the material when sunlight falls on it, then that means that this fabric will not be able to protect you and your skin from sun rays since sunlight can easily pass through it. However, materials like wool, synthetic fibers, denim, and canvas, all of which are materials in which the fabric is heavily interlaced with each other can provide adequate protection against the sun.
The process through which your clothes are made also matters here. For instance, clothes that are treated with chemicals and are high-tech are better absorbers of ultraviolet light. Similarly, unbleached cotton is considered to be a natural absorber of UV light. Similarly satin-silks and polyester also provide high UV reflection because of their radiation reflecting abilities.
Another interesting thing to note here is the overall fitting of the clothes. If your clothes are tight, then the fabric threads end up stretching apart, and this in turn ends up creating room and allows for UV rays to pass through the fabric. So clothes that are of a looser fit are more desirable when it comes to sun protection.
Ultraviolet Protection Label
Another thing that you can look out for is the ultraviolet protection label on your clothes. Some companies do this and this way you can already whether or not the clothes you are buying are built to provide sun protection and UV protection or not.
The Amount of Coverage
This is not something that necessarily needs to be said since it is common knowledge, but if your clothes are covering most of the areas of your body, then you are logically providing your skin with plenty of sun protection since there is no direct exposure on the skin, so pants, long-sleeved shirt, long skirts and so on will all help you protect yourself from the sun.
Movement & Activity
Another thing that you need to think about when it comes to clothes is that if your fabric begins to pull away from itself or if your clothes get wet, they will instantly lose the ability to protect you from UV rays, and they will also look transparent or faded, both of which as we have already discussed above, is not able to protect you from UV rays.
A lot of people are not thinking of their clothes when discussing sun protection, in fact, most of them just wear sunglasses, a cap, and just slap on some sunscreen and call it a day. Thinking about what you are wearing when you step out should also be something that everyone adds to their list.
Protecting Yourself From UV Dangers
There are several factors that you have to consider when talking about protecting oneself from UV rays. You need to consider whether or not you are wearing the right clothes and have the right protection on, how much time you are directly out in the sun, whether or not you live in an area that gets a lot of heavy sunlight, and so on.
You need to consider the amount of sunlight your area receives, and how much time you are out in the sun with or without the necessary sun protection. If you are not keeping track of these things then your vulnerability and potential for developing cancer will increase with time. This is where you have to learn your exposure patterns like recurrent sunburns, especially during your childhood increases your risk for developing different types of skin cancers later on. So, for people that have had a recurrent sunburn or are more vulnerable to sunburns, adequate protection is needed.
Wearing a hat that has a 2-4 inch brim is a small yet effective way you can deal with sun exposure and this way you cover vulnerable and sensitive areas like your forehead, scalp, nose, and ears, etc. all of which are more likely to lead to sunburns. Similarly, non-reflective clothes also help prevent sunlight from being absorbed and it instead ends up bouncing off.
A shade cap or even a handkerchief or bandanna worn under a cap will help give your neck the necessary protection it needs, and as a general rule of thumb, the fabric should be at least 7 inches.
Staying Protected When at The Beach
Every single one of us loves going to the beach and we cannot help but wait excitedly for summer to roll around so that we can spend our days or weekends lazing on the beach. However, the beach can be a dangerous place when it comes to sun exposure and UV rays, so it is important to make sure that even while you are out having fun, you are still protected when out on the beach.
The Shade is Your Friend
You do not have to be directly under the sun the entire time you are at the beach. Using an umbrella, lying under a tree, or moving in or out of a pavilion throughout the entire duration you are there will help. This will greatly reduce the risk of excessive sun and UV exposure as opposed to just sitting directly under the sun the entire time.
The clothes that you will wear when you know you will be under the sun for most of the day do matter, so you want to make sure that you wear UV ray protective clothes, and opt for clothes that are known to have a high UV-ray protection level.
You can check for the UV ratings on your clothes and, if your clothes have 15-20 range, then they provide you with good protection, similarly, a range between 25-35 is above average UV protection, 40-50+ is considered to excellent UV protection and is the highest rating in terms of clothes.
Eye Protection & Eyewear
Wearing the right kind of protective eyewear is also necessary when outside since it helps to prevent the reduction of the cataract, and it also helps save the sensitive skin around the areas which can potentially cause wrinkles. They will be able to provide you protection from UVB and UVA rays.
Notes to Remember
Clothing with good UV protection factors will protect you when you are outside, and even more so when you are at the beach, however, it cannot be considered enough. Like we mentioned before, good sun protection involves many factors
- Wear a good SPF sunscreen.
- High SPF works better when it comes to preventing sunburn.
- Stay in shade, bring an umbrella, or keep alternating between shade and light throughout the day.
- Good sunglasses that come with UV protection will help you protect both your eyes and the skin surrounding it.
- 9 am-3 pm are considered to be peak daylight hours so you should limit and monitor your exposure to the sun during this time.
All of these little precautions will go a long way in ensuring that you stay safe from dangerous UV rays.
Clothes & Solar Energy
When we talk about harnessing solar energy, we automatically think of solar panels, however, we are expanding and it might now be possible to harness solar energy in the clothes we wear. While this is still under research and it will take some more time before we see it in our stores, but solar fabric might just revolutionize everything.
Silicon wafers and other materials are usually used to collect rays of light from the sun, and this was not possible when it came to clothes, but there have been breakthroughs and it is now possible to wear miniature solar cells that can be fitted onto clothes. If research on solar fabric continues at its current momentum, we might soon be able to wear clothes that can also help charge are phones, tablets, power banks, laptops, and so on.
This fabric can be placed anywhere, be it inside our cars, on curtains, tents for when camping outdoors, and so on. So there is a lot of room to play with things here and there are many possibilities as well.
There is a lot to digest here, because the sun was once a source of nothing but light and life, however, thanks to our actions it can now become a source of harm as well. Of course, you have to make sure that you are taking the necessary precautions to save yourself, and all you can do in this situation is be smart, make good choices, stay safe and hope for the best.