Can Your Clothes Protect You From The Sun?

According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, one in every five Americans will develop some form of skin cancer by age 70, and the risk of getting melanoma doubles after only five or more sunburns. Given these statistics, it's more important than ever to remember to protect your skin if you plan on being out in the sun — especially if you are at higher risk for skin cancer. The health experts at the Skin Cancer Foundation affirm that your clothes are an excellent way to protect you from the sun's harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays, but there are certain fabrics and colors that are going to be more protective than others.

As far as the most protective colors, dark or brightly colored apparel will act as a stronger shield compared to white or lighter colors, which are easier for the sun's rays to penetrate. The make-up of your clothing is also key. For instance, because they reflect the sun's rays, shiny polyesters and satiny silks will be more protective than unbleached cotton, which absorbs UV rays. Also, look for densely woven cloth like denim, canvas, wool or synthetic fibers. If you hold up a piece of clothing to the light and you can see through it, chances are this fabric is not going to provide you with good protection against the sun (via Skin Cancer Foundation). The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) also mentions that you can look for clothing that has an ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) number listed on the label.

Additional ways to protect yourself from the sun

While being selective about the kind of shirts and pants you wear out in the sun is going to be a great deterrent against skin damage, don't forget that there are other parts of your body to take into consideration. The AAD advises that you only wear sunglasses that provide UV protection. If a pair of sunglasses has dark lenses, that does not necessarily mean they will protect you from the sun, so be sure to check the label to ensure that the sunglasses are protective against UV rays. Also, consider sunglasses with wide frames or that wrap around the sides of your face for even greater protection.

The experts at AAD also suggest wearing a hat with a wide brim that can provide coverage for your face, ears, and neck. Baseball caps or straw hats that are not tightly woven will not offer the same level of protection. And don't forget your feet! Feet can easily get burned given the skin is thinner and feet generally get less exposure to the sun, so if you plan to wear sandals instead of shoes, be sure to put on a copious layer of sunscreen on all areas of your feet. For any areas of your skin that you are unable to cover with clothing or shoes, the AAD advises that you apply broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher.