What is UV Protective Clothing?

Add a layer of safety to your time in the sun. Discover how UV protective clothing can help limit exposure.

Hours on the beach with your family. A day of fun on the slopes. A round of 18 at your favorite golf course. Before spending several hours in the sun doing these activities, you’ll likely throw on some sunscreen. But did you know that your choice in clothing can also help protect you from the sun’s rays?

Be aware, however, that not all clothing is created equal. To help get the most protection from the sun, you may want to consider adding UV protective clothing to your wardrobe.

UV protective clothing can help limit your exposure to the sun while enjoying the outdoors.


Simply put, UV protective clothing is any apparel designed for protection from the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays. The fabric of the clothing has a rating for its level of protection against ultraviolet radiation (UVR).

There are a number of articles of clothing designed with UV protection in mind. Shirts, shorts, pants, jackets, hats, swimwear, rash guards and even arm sleeves are available with this feature. Whether you’re playing a round of golf or going on a high-elevation hike, you can most likely find UV protective clothing for the activity.

Remember: UV protective apparel is not a substitution for sunscreen. You should use both together for maximum protection. Also, don’t forget to limit your overall exposure to the sun.


To get better UV protection, choose clothing that has a higher UPF (ultraviolet radiation protection factor) rating. The higher the number, the better the clothing can protect you from UV rays. While a rating of 15 or 20 is good, a rating of 25 to 39 is very good. Ratings from 40 to 50 and even 50+ are considered excellent.
You will not see ratings below 15 in apparel. Anything below this level is not considered to be UV protective.

Several factors can affect the ratings of UV protective clothing. These may include:

  • Construction: Clothing with a dense, tight construction can help minimize the amount of UVR that can pass through to your skin. Also, thicker fabric can help reduce UV transmission.
  • Fiber type: Microfiber clothing offers higher protection than regular fiber fabrics. Wool and polyester can also offer a good level of protection.
  • Color: Darker colors tend to absorb more UV rays overall. More vibrant color hues can outperform paler ones.

When wearing UV protective clothing, there are three important factors to keep in mind:

  • You should avoid wearing stretched apparel. Stretching can adversely impact UV protection.
  • The more you wear and wash your clothing, the more of an effect it can have on UPF ratings. Also, as clothing fades, it can offer less protection.
  • When wet, the apparel can be less protective.


With this in mind, there are a couple of things to remember to help you decide which piece of UV protective clothing is right for you. These can include:

  • The cut: Looser can be better when it comes to UV protective clothing. You should go with a looser fit to avoid stretching and to help make sure the garment protects as it should.
  • The size: The more skin you can cover, the more protection you will have. If you’re looking for a hat, you should choose one with a wider brim (three inches or larger). Also, long sleeves and pants can protect better than short sleeves and shorts.
  • Warm weather: If you’re going to be outside in warm weather, UV protective clothing has several features to help you stay comfortable.
    • Moisture can affect the ability of UV protective clothing. It can be a good choice to go with quick-dry fabrics. The quicker it dries, the sooner it will go back to protecting you as designed.
    • You could feel a little warm with thick fabrics and extended coverage. So, make sure your clothing has good ventilation to help keep you cool, too.
  • Cold weather: Even if you plan on spending the day skiing or frolicking in the snow, make sure to wear UV protective clothing. Snow can actually reflect UV rays. Plus, UV can increase with altitude. Lastly, UV protective clothing can be an effective base layer.

So the next time you head out to your outdoor activity, make sure that you’re protected. A combination of UV protective clothing, sunscreen and awareness can help limit your exposure to the sun’s rays.

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