Spring has finally sprung which means it's (almost) time for open-toe sandals, maxi dresses and more garments that leave you exposed. Being prepped with the right sunscreen, a beach umbrella for shade and sun-protective clothing will help in many situations, but one of the best (and easiest) ways to protect our faces from the unbearable heat during outdoor activities is a sun hat.
To avoid hyperpigmentation and other long-lasting skin issues, Shop TODAY spoke with a handful of experts to get the lowdown on why it's essential to protect yourself from the sun throughout the year. We also found some of the best sun hats on the market to help shield your face from harmful UVA and UVB rays.
What is UPF rating?
For the ultimate sun protection, experts advise investing in clothes and accessories with an Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF) rating.
"When you're talking about UPF, you're talking about protection from ultraviolet B rays and ultraviolet A rays. When you look at the number, a UPF of 50...blocks 98 percent of sun rays. When it comes to protection, anything above 50 is considered excellent by the Skin Cancer Foundation," comments New York-based board-certified dermatologist Dr. Jeremy A. Brauer.
What should I look for in UPF clothing and accessories?
The SCF recommends looking for clothing with a UPF of at least 30 to protect yourself from skin cancer.
“All fabrics can shield some UV radiation, but clothing [and hats] that are designed to do the most effective job are items that are labeled with a UPF rating. The ratings range from UPF 15 to 50+. The higher the number, the better,” says New York-based dermatologist Dr. Melissa Levin.
Protecting your neck, ears and face are essential when you're exposing your skin to the sun. One component Brauer recommends looking for is color, specifically "bright colors that are reflective and darker colors [that] can absorb those rays and avoid penetration."
Shopping tip: Look for UPF indicators when purchasing sun protection gear as these tell you just how much of the sun's rays the item can block. The Skin Cancer Foundation also has a seal of recommendation for UPF-approved clothing.
How to shop for hats with UPF protection
While there are plenty of trendy sun hat options, it’s also important you invest in a design that will actually protect your skin.
“The best hats for sun protection have a brim of at least three inches to shade the face, scalp, neck, shoulders and upper back, along with easily overlooked places like the tops of the ears and back of the neck,” the SCF states. “Look for a tightly woven hat rather than a loosely constructed straw hat that lets in the UV rays.”
“Broad-brimmed hats are one of the most important steps when it comes to safe sun practices,” says Levin. “Heavy perspiration, water activities and incomplete application of sunscreen lend to sunscreen products that rub off and lose their effectiveness, resulting in incomplete sun protection.”
In addition to a protective hat, sunglasses and sunscreen are always a good idea for optimal summer safety.
Sun protection hats for women
Add a colorful hint to your favorite sundress in this ultra-protective hat. Aside from blocking the sun from your face, this hat features UPF 50+ material and a feminine floral bow on the back. Wear it while tending your garden or keep it nearby when you go hiking. Just like its name, this hat is a sun blocker and summer essential to use every day.
If you're interested in a more personalized option, consider this customizable floppy beach hat from Etsy. For less than $25, you can get your name printed in beautiful script lettering. The hat comes in either tan, white or blush.
Aside from adding protection, this hat is adjustable, packable and will hold all your sweat. The hat is made of 65 percent cotton and features a zipper that removes the top part when you need your head to cool off. Over 6,000 verified shoppers rated this hat five stars, with one saying there is "enough stiffness in the brim so that you can see on the sides, yet you don't give up protection."
With a UPF 50+ rating and a breathable, high-quality woven straw material, it's no wonder this Amazon sun hat is so highly-rated on Amazon.
"Excuse the cliché, but this hat fits me like a glove," one Shop TODAY writer said about it. "It lacks the dorky chin strap my mom's sun hats have, but it does have a ribbon inside the brim which can be used to adjust the size. I haven't worn my hat while riding in a convertible (yet), but I wear it a lot while working around the yard in 15 mph Montana winds."
If you're going for a run and need something more portable, this swim visor is essential to keep your eyes protected. It's salt water-resistant and made with UPF 50+ protection to keep your summer days sunburn-free (for the most part!).
This floppy hat is made with a wide brim, sweat-wicking headband and provides UPF 50 protection to help you keep fresh. It's comfortable enough to wear anywhere you go this summer and won't blow away during a stiff wind. The hat is available in white and the natural straw hue.
No matter how sunny it gets, this hat will keep you in the shade. The headpiece offers UPF 50+ protection and a drawstring to hold your hat in place when boating on a windy day. One customer said this hat "can take a beating and reshape however you'd like, [it] shades me from the sun and is easy to wear in the Florida heat."
The large brim adds an extra advantage to this sun hat, but its protective features don't minimize its fashion-forwardness. This is a great one to throw in your luggage and beach bag thanks to its crushable material.
Whether you're visiting the countryside or going on a safari, this unisex hat is perfect for protecting your face. The chin cord will make sure your piece doesn't fly away during an excursion. You'll also get to enjoy the sunshine with its UPF 50+ rating and four-inch brim.
Coolibar's Brittany beach hat is the perfect combination between a bucket hat and a large floppy option — making it a must-have for a long beach day. It's designed with a six-inch brim and offers UPF 50+ protection. It also includes a sweatband and an elastic string for adjustable sizing.
For those that like to roam freely outdoors, this hat a broad brim and quick-drying fabric. Your head will receive great sun protection while staying fresh thanks to its highly breathable material.
Feel like a celebrity going incognito in this large sun hat with an extra-wide brim. The accessory will add an elegant look to your pool outfits while covering your face from the sunshine. It's made with UPF 50+ protection that will block the rays but not your vision.
When it comes to UPF hats, Levin can’t speak highly enough of Wallaroo Hat Company. “I love Wallaroo. Their hats are super chic but still broad-rimmed. My favorite is the Morgan hat, which is a fedora-style hat with UPF 50,” she shares.
It’s currently available in a neutral gray hue that will complement any outfit while still protecting your face from harmful UV rays.
This is the perfect hat for those days when the sun refuses to hide. Overland's Safari Hat features mesh to let in cool air and a chin cord to secure it in place. It combines a three-inch sturdy brim that you can easily pack without worrying the shape will break.
This chic straw hat will add panache to your outfit while protecting your face. It features a wide brim and a classic grosgrain band that will go with all your summer looks. "Not only is it large enough if I want to wear a ponytail, but it’s sturdy and will last me a long time," added one customer who rated it five stars.
This lightweight UPF hat receives awesome reviews for its innovative sweatband technology. Basically, your skin will stay cool while you sweat and the UPF 50+ protection will void unnecessary sunburn.
"Awesome hat, wore it for the first time in the desert in 100-degree heat, kept my head cool and shaded!" said one verified buyer.
Sun protection hats for kids
“Hats are great for protecting the face and neck from harmful UV rays. Babies have especially sensitive skin, so it’s important to always put on hats when outside, at the beach, etc.,” says New Jersey-based dermatologist Dr. Shari Sperling.
Brauer recommends hats with flaps around the face to protect their ears and necks. Additionally, he recommends being cognizant of the sun's reflection and applying copious amounts of sunscreen on kids.
This UPF 50+ bucket hat from Connectyle is Amazon's Choice for kid's sun hats with an almost-perfect five-star average rating from more than 9,000 shoppers. It includes mesh side vents to promote airflow and an internal moisture-wicking sweatband for extra hot days.
Every kid needs some shade and this hat will block 97.5 percent of the sun's rays, according to the brand. With a lightweight quick-drying fabric and foam visor, this hat will keep your kid's skin safe and fresh. Also, the long flap in the back will cover your little one's neck.
Say goodbye to sunburn with this wide-brim hat, which has built-in UPF 50+ sun protection to help block 98 percent of UVA and UVB rays. Its features include adjustable head and chin straps, quick-dry fabric and side-venting to keep your child cool all day long.
Whether your little one is at the beach, lake or in the backyard, this packable bucket hat offers great sun protection for your child's summer adventures. It has a UPF 50+ rating and comes in a fun butterfly print.
What’s the difference between UPF and SPF?
According to the SCF, UPF measures the amount of UV radiation that can penetrate fabric and reach your skin, while sun protection factor (SPF) is the time it takes for UV-exposed skin to redden.
Can I get sunburn through a hat?
Though UPF accessories and clothing provide protection from the sun, ultraviolet light can still penetrate through these garments. Brauer mentions that while you should not expect a sunburn when you wear sunscreen and UPF clothing appropriately, there are always exceptions to the rule.
"Nothing is 100 percent, but the expectation is that UPF 50+ allows minimum sun rays and you shouldn't expect a sunburn," he says.
What can the lack of UPF protectant cause?
"Basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas account for about 90 percent of all skin cancers, and often appear on the head and neck,” a representative for the SCF tells us. “Hats help safeguard your face, scalp and neck.”
Meet the experts
- Dr. Jeremy A. Brauer, MD, is a New York board-certified dermatologist with more than 10 years of experience. He is the founder and director of Spectrum Skin and Laser.
- Dr. Melissa Levin, MD, is a New York-based dermatologist board-certified dermatologist and founder of Entière Dermatology.
- Dr. Shari Sperling, DO, is a board certified dermatologist and founder of Sperling Dermatology in New Jersey.