See our top UPF clothing picks for on-the-go days when you can't be trusted to reapply sunscreen.
It may not be the most fun part of packing for vacation, but your sun protection strategy is imperative to consider because the facts are scary. In the United States alone, there has been a 53 percent increase in melanoma cases for the past decade and “about 90 percent of non-melanoma skin cancers are associated with exposure to ultraviolet radiation from the sun,” according to the Skin Cancer Foundation (SCF).
And while most people think of sunscreen as the best defense against the sun’s harmful rays, institutions like the SCF and the Center for Disease Control say the first line of defense against UV radiation is actually your clothing. And unfortunately, a regular cotton T-shirt won’t really do much for you.
In fact, it's estimated that your go-to white tee has an SPF rating lower than 15 and if that tee gets wet, then its rating plummets even further. That’s why your best bet to protect your skin is to invest in UPF clothing. While SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor and measures how long your sunscreen will protect you from ultraviolet rays, UPF stands for Ultraviolet Protection Factor and indicates how much of the sun’s UV rays are absorbed by the fabric instead of your skin. For example, if a piece of clothing is rated UPF 50, only two percent of the sun’s rays can make it through.
For that reason, UPF sunwear is made from tightly woven fabrics and is usually treated with some sort of chemical UV absorber, making them even more effective. And fortunately, a lot of brands — like Lilly Pulitzer, Lands' End, and Athleta — have now launched special UPF lines that include a large range of items that go way beyond rash guards and swimwear.
Still not convinced? The benefits of sun-protective clothes aren't just for your health but for that of the environment, as well. If you get in the habit of wearing sun-protective clothing on the beach, you will end up using a lot less sunscreen, which is one of the main culprits of ocean pollution and coral reef damage.
Here we rounded up 17 cute pieces, all of which have been rated UPF 30 or above for maximum sun protection.