The Best Sun-protective Clothing for Women

Our top UPF clothing choices include brands like Athleta, Columbia, and Patagonia.

We independently research, test, review, and recommend the best products—learn more about our process. If you buy something through our links, we may earn a commission.

Fashion
Photo: Courtesy of Rei, Backcountry, Athleta

A day of frolicking in the sun can be great for your mental health, but those UV rays can be dangerous physically. Proper sun protection isn't just important at the beach — a long day of hitting the trail or sightseeing at ancient temples can be just as sunny and even more hazardous if you aren't thinking as much about reapplying your sunscreen.

"It is much easier to put on a UPF shirt and pants than to apply sunscreen to all these areas and re-apply it every 90-120 minutes," says Dr. Lisa Garner, a practicing dermatologist in Clearwater, Florida. While you certainly can't skip the sunscreen, it can use all the help it can get.

"Sun-protective clothing is one of the easiest and most important tools we can use to protect our skin from the harmful rays of the sun and allow us to enjoy the outdoors safely," says Dr. Ivy Lee, a board-certified dermatologist in practice in Los Angeles.

Since personal fashion is so variable, you're much more likely to shop around when it comes to clothing; whatever you may be drawn to, make sure it comes from a credible company and mentions UPF specifically.

Here, we've rounded up some of the best sun-protective clothing options for women.

T+L's Top Picks

Best T-shirt: Beyond Yoga On the Down Low T-shirt

Fashion
Courtesy of Amazon

Also available at REI

Why We Love It: This flowy option adds UPF to a classic, versatile T-shirt.

What to Consider: Since it's originally designed for yoga, it's cut longer in the front and back and shorter on the sides.

Your favorite white T-shirt probably only has a UPF of around 8 at most, so upgrade to this Beyond Yoga tee to get that classic T-shirt look with sun protection involved. The super-soft fabric is designed to move with you, so you'll stay comfortable whether you're taking a beachside yoga class or sidewalk stroll. And since it's cut long, you can easily wear it over leggings or go for a front tuck, making it a versatile addition to your suitcase.

UPF rating: 40 | Material: 94 percent polyester, 6 percent spandex | Care instructions: Not listed

Best Long-sleeve Shirt: Athleta Uptempo Top

Fashion
Courtesy of Rei

Also available at Athleta

Why We Love It: This soft, simple long-sleeve has thumbholes to go along with its easy style.

What to Consider: It runs more flowy than fitted, so it's not great for running.

Athleta's Uptempo long-sleeve top is versatile, good for everything from hikes to happy hours. The soft fabric dries quickly and wicks sweat, and thumbholes both keep your sleeves in place while layering and protect the skin on your wrists and hands from the sun. It's available in regular, tall, and petite cuts, as well as sizes from XXS to 3X, making it a good option for travelers of most body types. The inclusion of recycled polyester is a nice sustainability bonus, and the fact that it's machine-washable and dryer-safe means you don't have to get too fussy about taking care of it.

UPF rating: 50+ | Material: 44 percent recycled polyester, 44 percent polyester, 12 percent spandex | Care instructions: Machine wash and dry

Best Collared Shirt: Patagonia Long-sleeved Self-guided Hike Shirt

Fashion
Courtesy of Backcountry

Also available at Massey's Professional Outfitters

Why We Love It: Patagonia enhances the basic button-down with vents, extra pockets, and adjustable elbow button closures.

What to Consider: Sleeves run a bit long for petite sizes, and the color range is limited.

An easy button-down is a great piece for layering or wearing on its own. The cut of this one is timeless, with a slim fit and princess seaming. When you're ready to roll up your sleeves, adjustable button closures up the arm keep them in place. There are two button-closure pockets on the chest if you need to stash something small, and vents under the arms to keep you cool without sacrificing sun protection. Patagonia's focus on sustainability shows in the 100 percent recycled polyester and Fair Trade Certified sewn status, so you can feel good about your purchase.

UPF rating: 50+ | Material: 100 percent recycled polyester woven-ripstop fabric | Care instructions: Not listed

Related: The Best Packable Sun Hats

Best Hoodie: REI Co-op Sahara Shade Hoodie

Fashion
Courtesy of Rei

Why We Love It: It's great to wear as a main layer or for throwing on top of another shirt.

What to Consider: If you're looking for a classic kangaroo pocket or more tapered fit in your hoodie, you'll have to look elsewhere.

Just because the sun is out doesn't mean you can't catch a chill. This hoodie has a nice loose fit for layering, and the thumb holes will make sure your sleeves stay in place while protecting your wrists and hands. The sides are cut higher than the front and back to maximize ventilation (though this may also impact the fit; keep it in mind when choosing your size), while the longer front and back hems provide extra coverage and keep it from riding up under a backpack. An internal drawstring will keep the hood on even in blustery winds. And no need to sweat any long travel days: The stretch knit is moisture wicking, quick drying, and antimicrobial, so you won't smell like you've spent all day on the trail or train.

UPF rating: 50 | Material: 92 percent polyester, 8 percent spandex | Care instructions: Not listed

Best Pants: Prana Halle Pant II

Fashion
Courtesy of Amazon

Also available at REI and Prana

Why We Love It: Plentiful pockets and fine-tuned details make the Halle II pants a versatile option.

What to Consider: The nature of the ReZion fabric can be a bit shiny, and when combined with the many pockets, may make these look a bit on the outdoorsy side depending on where you're wearing them.

In case six pockets weren't enough of a draw for you, Prana's Halle II pants have been updated from their predecessors to account for user feedback and increased earth-friendliness. The recycled ReZion recycled fabric provides a UPF of 50 along with breathability and DWR treatment, so it's quick drying, water repellent, and abrasion-resistant. If you're crossing a river or just airing out your ankles, there are snaps on the legs for secure hem roll-up, and pockets have been improved to be deeper and more secure. In addition to the standard bootcut style, the Halle is also available in a straight-leg style, shorts, and joggers, and pants come in short, regular, and tall inseam options, so you can find a pair for any purpose.

UPF rating: 50 | Material: 95 percent recycled nylon, 5 percent elastane | Care instructions: Machine-wash cold on delicate cycle; tumble dry low or air dry

Best Dress: Arcteryx Contenta

Fashion
Courtesy of Rei

Also available at Arcteryx

Why We Love It: This dress stays cool and simple, but still stylish.

What to Consider: Some may find the cut to be less fitted than they prefer.

This easy shift dress is the perfect base for a travel capsule wardrobe. Pair it with nearly anything, whether that's sneakers for a long day of walking or heels and jewelry for dinner, and you'll still benefit from some sun protection the whole time. Cinch it with the removable waist belt or wear it loose, and the light, quick-drying material will stay breathable even when you're sweating your way through ancient stoneworks. Even better: It has pockets. Specifically, two hand pockets at the hips, one of which contains a secret zippered security pocket to make sure nothing sneaks out. Just throw it in the washing machine whenever it's time for a refresh.

UPF rating: 50+ | Material: 100 percent diem recycled polyester | Care instructions: Machine wash cold, tumble dry low

Related: The Best Reef-safe Sunscreen

Best Jacket: Columbia Flash Challenger Windbreaker

Fashion
Courtesy of Rei

Also available at Columbia

Why We Love It: This windbreaker is light enough for sunny days while still offering protection from wind and rain.

What to Consider: Unlike some other travel jackets, this one doesn't pack into its own pocket or bag.

There are plenty of parts of the world where the weather can change without warning, even (or especially, if it's monsoon season) during the summer. Stay comfortable even wind or rain with the lightweight Flash Challenger. Zipper pockets keep belongings secure and dry, and a drawcord-adjustable hood will stay on your head despite any squalls. There are sizes available up to 3X, leaving room for layering, and multiple sherbet-toned hues are available to brighten up your outfits. It's mainly recommended for hiking, but we could easily see throwing it in a day bag to have with you just in case on any excursion.

UPF rating: 40 | Material: Polyester | Care instructions: Not listed

Best Shorts: Columbia PFG Coral Point III Shorts

Fashion
Courtesy of Amazon

Also available at Columbia and Zappos

Why We Love It: They were designed with long fishing days in mind, meaning they pack some serious sun protection.

What to Consider: The fit runs a bit small, and lighter colors may be slightly see-through.

Columbia's Coral Point shorts are designed with fishing and long days on the (reflective) water in mind, so you know they have some serious sun protection involved. The Omni-Shade technology uses tight fabric construction and modified fibers to block UV rays, keeping the sun at bay. Two front pockets and a zippered back pocket give everything a spot. The range of available colors (seven in standard sizes, six in plus), sizes (2 through 24W), and inseam lengths (5 and 7 inches) helped push the Coral Point ahead of the competition.

UPF rating: 50 | Material: 88 percent nylon, 12 percent elastane | Care instructions: Machine wash, tumble dry

Best Running Shorts: Athleta Run With It 4.5-Inch Short

Fashion
Courtesy of Athleta

Why We Love It: Smooth, well-ventilated, and made of recycled polyester, these will keep you comfortable and protected during your workout.

What to Consider: Depending on your build, these might end up a little snug in the hips or lower torso.

Whether you're out on a run or just want an easy layer to throw on over a bathing suit, this running short can help. The recycled fabric is silky soft but still resists snags and tears, so you don't need to worry about stray branches or rocks. It's also breathable and quick drying, whether you're sweating or picking up ocean spray, and wrinkle resistant to stand up to haphazard packing. The Run With It style also comes in a shorter 3.5-inch or high-rise 2.5-inch inseam and sizes range from XXS up to 3X, so most bodies should be able to find a good fit. Note that the 3.5-inch inseam version doesn't mention UPF protection in the website description.

UPF rating: 50+ | Material: Recycled polyester and spandex | Care instructions: Machine wash and dry

Related: The Best Swimsuits for Women

Best Swimsuit: Prana La Plata One-Piece

Fashion
Courtesy of Backcountry

Also available at Prana

Why We Love It: This suit strikes a balance between functional and fashionable.

What to Consider: Size and color options are more limited than in some other models, and you aren't getting maximum fabric coverage against the sun.

Get the security of a one-piece without sacrificing style with Prana's La Plata. The cheeky rear cut, front cut-out, and strappy back add feminine touches to the standard one-piece build, so it appeals to a wide audience. It's also chlorine resistant for long days by the pool, and removable soft cups help keep cleavage in check. It even dries quickly so you can easily transition over to the bar for sunset cocktails, and there's a ribbed style as well. Even better, both ribbed and standard models are made from recycled nylon and created in Fair Trade Certified factories. If you're really hiding from the sun, Prana also offers a long-sleeve Seleina top and full-length swim tights.

UPF rating: 50+ | Material: 87 percent econyl recycled nylon, 13 percent lycra elastane | Care instructions: Not listed

Best Rash Guard: J. Crew Active Long-Sleeve Rash Guard

Fashion
Courtesy of JCrew

Why We Love It: This simple rash guard stands out for its convenient quarter zip and wider-than-usual size range.

What to Consider: It may run small, especially for larger-chested wearers.

We're a little surprised to see J. Crew coming through on the performance front, but this rash guard is both stylish and size inclusive. Part of their new "active swim" capsule set, the rash guard incorporates recycled nylon into its close fit, so you won't catch any drag when you're actually in the winter. The quarter zip is also a nice touch that you don't always find on a rash guard. Zip it up for full chest coverage or down for a little extra breathing room. Five available colors can complement any beach aesthetic, and a size range from XXS to 3X provides a nice amount of options.

UPF rating: 50 | Material: 82 percent recycled nylon, 18 percent elastane | Care instructions: Machine washable, but hand wash recommended

Tips for Buying Sun-protective Clothing

The first thing to look for in sun-protective clothing is that it actually is protective. Ideally it will have a specific UPF rating listed; the minimum you should look for in clothing starts at 30, but all the dermatologists we spoke to said they prefer 50. (A regular white t-shirt has a UPF of around 8.)

UPF testing is, however, entirely voluntary. Garner encourages shoppers to make sure they're buying from a reputable source — just because something claims to be "sun blocking" doesn't mean it actually is. "If you go on Amazon and look for UPF clothing, many that show up don't have any documentation that their products have been tested," Garner says. Purchase from a brand you trust, with credible testing and reputation to back up their UPF claims.

Lee recommends looking for the Skin Cancer Foundation's Seal of Recommendation, which indicates a minimum UPF rating of 30 and adherence to standards set by ASTM International (formerly the American Society for Testing and Materials) and the American Association of Textile Chemists and Colorists (AATCC).

Also consider how much skin you're covering and where the sun might sneak in. "Consider clothing with high necks, thumb holes to cover the hands, and stirrups of full-length leggings to protect the lower legs," says Dr. Melanie Palm, a board-certified dermatologist based in San Diego. "Use these in combination with pre-application of sunscreen. It's not a substitute!"

FAQ

What is a UPF rating?

UPF, short for UV Protection Factor, is a measure of how well a fabric blocks ultraviolet radiation (and thus protects your skin). A shirt with a UPF of 50 blocks 98 percent of UV radiation, so only 2 percent reaches your skin. The higher the UPF number, the better.

"Clothing fabric design, composition, and colors vary in how effective they are in protecting your skin from UV radiation," says Lee. "The UPF of clothing can stem from fabric design and composition (darker colors, denser fabric weaves, and synthetic fibers such as polyester and nylon are more protective), or from chemical treatment of the clothing item."

How long does UPF protection in clothing last?

"Unfortunately, there is no standard lifespan of UPF clothing and adherence to regulatory standards is voluntary," says Lee. The effectiveness of UPF-rated clothing can decrease when fabric becomes stretched or worn (faded fabrics offer less protection), when fabric is wet (hence the emphasis on quick-dry fabrics), and after multiple washings (which wash out chemical UPF treatments and wear down fibers). The thinner or looser a fabric weave becomes, the more radiation can get through.

Some companies will include a number of washings that you can do before your sun protection is no longer effective. You can help your UPF clothing last longer by washing in cold water and air-drying it. Don't use bleach or wring out the fabric, since that can stretch it out, decreasing the weave density. Palm also suggests using a UV wash.

Why Trust Travel +Leisure

Rena Behar has more than eight years of product review journalism experience and has traveled to more than 30 different countries. She interviewed multiple board-certified professional dermatologists, including Dr. Lisa Garner, in private practice at Palm Harbor Dermatology in Clearwater, Florida, and clinical professor in the Department of Dermatology at UT Southwestern Medical School in Dallas; Dr. Ivy Lee, in practice in Los Angeles and member of the American Academy of Dermatology's Expert Media Team; and Dr. Melanie D. Palm, Medical Director at Art of Skin MD and assistant volunteer clinical professor at UCSD.

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