By now we all know that sunscreen is a must when it comes to protecting your skin from melanoma, sunburn, sun poisoning, and premature aging. UPF clothing (or sun-protective clothing), however, might be new to you. When you think about sun-safe clothing, what are the first things that come to mind? Perhaps shapeless shrouds, hiking gear, and wide brim hats? Luckily, UPF knowledge has spread over the past few years, and now we have more options when it comes to protecting vulnerable skin.
What does UPF mean?
UPF stands for Ultraviolet Protection Factor, and it’s an umbrella term for UVA and UVB protection. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, UPF is different from SPF (sun protection factor) in that UPF measures the amount of UV radiation that can go through the fabric, whereas SPF is based on the amount of time it takes for UV-exposed skin to burn. UPF clothing is important because it protects the body parts that we don’t normally put sunscreen on (a common sunscreen mistake), thus decreasing your risk of exposure to harmful rays.
What should you look for in sun-protective clothing?
According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, when shopping for sun-safe gear, you should first look for its seal of recommendation. In order to receive the Skin Cancer Foundation’s seal, an article of clothing must offer a UPF rating of at least 30. UPF 30 to 49 offers very good protection, while UPF 50+ offers excellent protection, shielding skin from approximately 98% of the sun’s rays.
They also suggest considering the following factors for clothing that’s not specifically labeled as UPF:
- Dark or bright colors, which absorb UV rays rather than allowing them to penetrate.
- Densely woven fabric, like denim, canvas, and wool.
- Loose-fitting, high-coverage silhouettes.
- Fabric compositions like unbleached cotton, shiny/satiny synthetic fibers, and higher-tech activewear
Below, we found 30 pieces of actually stylish UV protective clothing from brands and retailers like Outdoor Voices, Athleta, Amazon, and Lululemon. You’ll find breezy long sleeve t-shirts, versatile dresses, and thoughtfully-made hats. Everything on this list has a UPF rating of 30 or higher to keep you protected while exercising, camping, swimming, and lounging.
UPF T-Shirts and Sun Shirts
If you know anything about UPF clothing, you’re probably the most familiar with full-coverage, button-down sun shirts. As the world has gained more knowledge about sun safety and protection, more and more brands have developed UPF gear that looks like, well, normal clothing. Outdoor Voices’ new Solarcool collection is funky, temperature-regulating, and UPF 50+. Lululemon has a breezy long sleeve that makes an excellent protective beach shirt, and there are plenty of options at Amazon that are ideal for rugged hikes.
If you enjoy working out outdoors (or even close to a sunny window indoors), it’s a good idea to look for UPF fabrics in your activewear. Remember: Any body part that’s covered by fabric isn’t getting slathered in sunscreen, and is unprotected unless your clothing has UPF. Amazon’s Baleaf brand has quick-drying shorts with a UPF of 50 for hiking and running. You also might want to consider a high-neck UPF sports bra for outdoor workouts to protect your chest. And, surprisingly enough, just because you’re wearing leggings doesn’t mean your legs are automatically protected from harmful UV rays; Athleta’s durable leggings are UPF 50+.
UPF Sweatshirts and Jackets
Whether you’re an athlete looking for a protective outer layer to wear on the sidelines or you just want to be extra safe during your chilly morning walks, there are more sweatshirts and jackets with solid UPF protection than you might think. Vuori’s ultra-soft crewneck pullover and Nike’s track jacket are both lightweight, sun-safe, and easy to travel with. Athleta’s full-zip makes an excellent workout buddy, and The North Face’s hoodie was practically meant for spring and fall treks.
UPF Shorts, Skorts, and Capris
Sun protective bottoms like shorts, skorts, and capris come in plenty of silhouettes. The Skin Cancer Foundation encourages loose-fitting gear because when tighter fitting clothes stretch, the fibers pull away from each other and allow more UV light to pass through. We love Outdoor Voices’ and Coolibar’s relaxed vibe for lounging or low-key movement. For hiking, you can’t go wrong with Columbia, or Kuhl’s skort that’s both functional and stylish.
Pants and Jumpsuits
If you’re into lounging outdoors in the spring, Vuori and Beyond Yoga’s supersoft fabrics offer a solid amount of protection and warmth. Athleta makes a cute pair of convertible pants perfect for outdoor activity (and we think they’re great street-style pants, too). Looking for resort wear? Coolibar’s flowy pants make an excellent protective option that doesn’t sacrifice style.
Swimsuits and Rash Guards
Upgrade your swimwear with more protective styles like these, which all shield your skin from harmful rays. Lululemon’s stylish rashguard is excellent for water sports and Torrid’s retro-style halter is cute enough to wear all on its own.
Dresses and Cover-Ups
There are plenty of stylish sheath dresses, midis, workout dresses, and more with built-in sun protection. We love Summersalt’s colorful shirtdress for our next beach day, and Solbari’s long sleeve midi is full-coverage but has a slimmer silhouette for more shape. Outdoor Voices’ moisture-wicking one-shoulder dress has built-in support for activities like jogging or tennis.
Hats and Accessories
Hats are the easiest foray into UPF gear because chances are, you already have one! These options from Solbari and Arc’teryx are adjustable and secure, making them ideal for boating or windy beach days. You can also opt for a pair of arm sleeves, which offer UPF 50+.