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In the past, sun-protective clothing hasn't always been the most stylish. Fortunately, there are now many trendy UPF clothing options to help you safely have fun in the sun.
If you're looking for an extra layer of sun protection to pair with your usual sunscreen, we asked experts for their advice on what to look for when shopping for UPF clothing.
What is UPF Clothing?
UPF stands for Ultraviolet Protection Factor, and it's essentially the clothing version of SPF.
“A UPF rating is given to fabrics that protect you from the sun and indicates what fraction of the sun’s ultraviolet rays can penetrate a piece of fabric,” said Matthew Mahlberg, a Colorado-based dermatologist and spokesperson for The Skin Cancer Foundation. “A UPF rating is based on the construction, weight and color of the fabric in question.”
When using clothing as a form of sun protection, the fabric must be durable and tightly-woven in order to be effective.
“The tightness of the fabric decreases spaces between the fibers that UV rays can pass through,” said New York-based dermatologist Hadley King. "Different materials are better at deflecting UV rays, such as polyester and nylon, because of their molecular structure.”
If you’re not great about wearing sunscreen, sun-protective clothing may be the best way for you to shield your skin. As long as the fabric covers your skin, you should be protected all day long, unlike sunscreen which requires regular reapplication.
Why can't I use my regular clothing?
According to experts, typical clothes are not tightly-woven enough to provide necessary protection from the sun without the use of sunblock.
“A plain white T-shirt only has a UPF of about seven. When that T-shirt gets wet, it provides a UPF of only three,” Mahlberg explained. “It’s also important to consider how much skin you’re covering. Basically, the more skin you cover, the better.”
If you're looking to protect yourself from skin cancer, the Skin Cancer Foundation recommends looking for clothing with a UPF of at least 30.
“A UPF of 30 to 49 offers very good protection, while UPF 50+ is excellent,” Mahlberg said.
While there are now dozens of brands that specialize in UPF clothing, our list includes six different brands recommended by professionals, with picks that all offer UPF 50+ protection.
"Coolibar specializes in UPF clothing and has a mission to promote an outdoor healthy lifestyle, safely," said King. "They have been innovators in the UPF clothing area for more than 20 years."
The brand has won over many experts thanks to its careful blend of fabrics and minerals.
"They use UV-blocking minerals such as zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, which are woven into the fabric. These are the same minerals found in sunscreens that protect against both UVA and UVB and are safe," said Dr. Michelle Henry, clinical instructor of dermatology at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City.
Better yet, the brand offers a wide range of styles for the whole family.
This Coolibar dress is technically a cover-up, but you could easily wear it around town or to lunch! Plus, its machine-washable and comes in over 18 different colors.
This cardigan is great for both breezy summer days and early fall afternoons. It’s available in a variety of different colors, but we love this crisp white style for the summer.
For a chic and loose-fitted pant option, consider this bohemian high-waisted design. They come in both white and black and would look great paired with a simple UPF T-shirt.
This cotton blend long-sleeve T-shirt is meant to block 98% of UV radiation. It’s super soft against the skin and available in almost 20 different colors.
This swim cover-up for girls is breathable, quick-drying and chlorine-resistant, making it perfect for your daughter to wear all summer long.
"Mott is another reputable brand that specializes in UPF clothing, with all of its fabrics having UPF," said King. "Their mission is offering UPF clothing options that are also fashionable. I think they offer a wide range of style options that are generally more stylish compared to some of their competitors."
This trendy, ruffle one-piece is a chic swimsuit option that still allows you to protect your skin while you spend time in the pool or ocean.
These orange printed swim trunks are a fun choice that would pair well with a basic white UPF T-shirt.
Your little girl would look adorable in this pastel long-sleeve one-piece that will protect her arms, stomach and neck.
These black pants are cozy, protective and a favorite of celebrity esthetician Candace Marino.
“Oftentimes when people think about sun protection they think of the upper half of the body and forget that our legs need protection too,” Marino told TODAY. “These pants make it easy to ensure the lower half of the body is just as protected. These can be dressed up or worn casually and are great for travel.”
"UV Skinz specializes in UPF 50+ clothing for men, women, boys, girls and babies," said King. "Their fabrics are third party clinically tested to block 98% of UVA and UVB rays and they offer a 100% satisfaction guarantee."
These floral printed lounge pants would work great over a bathing suit or with your favorite shirt. They're designed to be lightweight, breathable and stretchy.
For a sun-friendly swim shirt, consider this floral design from UV Skinz. Whether you like to surf or simply want a little extra protection during a beach day with the kids, this swim shirt fits the bill.
This men's long-sleeve T-shirt is another great option for the man who is looking for a UPF 50+ shirt for everyday use.
Your baby boy will be protected from head to toe in this body swimsuit — and he'll look adorable too! It comes in a variety of cute patterns, including an octopus design and an artsy submarine style.
Marino loves that Solbari features plenty of styles and colors, making it easily wearable for all.
"Solbari offers a wide variety of UPF clothing for women, men, children and babies, and all of their items are made of UPF 50+ fabric," said Marino. "In addition to swimwear and sportswear, their range includes casual and workwear, making their offerings more than just outdoor and activewear."
You can't go wrong with a polo shirt with UPF 50+. It's a staple that he'll wear all summer long on the golf course, family gatherings or even the beach.
This long-sleeve T-shirt is another great staple piece that will go with a bunch of different bottoms. It comes in 12 different colors, but we love the navy blue for its simplicity.
“Lilly Pulitzer is known for its bright colors and flattering summer designs but they also offer plenty of UPF approved clothing including workout leggings, skorts, dresses and more," said Henry.
"I really enjoy their UPF collection because they have the highest UPF rating of 50 and the fabric is antimicrobial to help reduce odor while sweating."
This colorful Lilly Pulitzer zip-up will add a pop of color to any summer outfit. It comes in three other styles to choose from and would make a great transitional piece in the fall months.
You can wear this vibrant polo top with your favorite tennis skirt while playing on the courts, or pair it with some gym shorts to wear around the house. Either way, you'll be protected in style.
If all you wear is athleisure clothing these days, you won't be able to resist these fun weekender midi leggings. You can wear them during your next workout or around the house. They've earned an impressive 4.7-rating from Lilly Pulitzer customers.
Your little girl will look adorable in this UPF 50+ cover-up this summer. The zip front makes it easy for them to take the dress on and off and it comes in three different patterns that are perfect for the warmer months.
While L.L. Bean is known for its stylish and casual activewear, the brand also has a good amount of UPF clothing for all genders and ages.
"I like their UPF clothing collection because of the versatility and wide variety of styles for men and women," Henry said. "Their clothing is also Bluesign approved to ensure responsible and sustainable manufacturing."
While it may be hot during your summer runs, it's important to protect your upper body from the sun. This quarter-zip hoodie is a great option since it's lightweight and covers your torso, arms and neck.
These casual board shorts are great for any water activity or even a day at the beach. They're made of a premium Italian-blend material that's breathable, quick-drying and abrasion-resistant.
For the man who loves to hike, consider these UPF 50+ and water-resistant pants from L.L. Bean. They're lightweight, breathable and made of a durable material that will stand up to every rock-scrambling, bush-whacking trail mile ahead.
This long-sleeved swimsuit will have your daughter looking stylish and protected all summer long. It's available in both blue and purple.
UV Protectant Clothing Treatment
Sun Guard is another great alternative when it comes to protecting your skin from the sun. "It's a powder that you add to a detergent that coats clothes with sunscreen for up to 20 washes," said King. "It includes Tinosorb FD, a chemical sunscreen that adheres to fabric and absorbs UV rays before they can reach your skin."
While an untreated white T-shirt only offers sun protection equivalent to about an UPF 7, washing it with Sun Guard gives it UPF 30.
"This will provide some additive protection but I would not rely on it too heavily. You still have to use sunscreen!" said New Jersey-based dermatologist Shari Sperling.
For more recommendations, check out:
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- From sprinklers to splash pads, these water toys are perfect for backyard fun
- Create a fun staycation with these kid-friendly swimming pools