Clothing creates a barrier between the skin and the sun's harmful ultraviolet rays and can provide the most effective protection. Loose fitting clothing that covers as much of the skin as possible, such as shirts with long sleeves and collars and long trousers and skirts, are best. But not all clothing fabric is equal. Clothing with a high ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) rating will maximise protection.
What does the UPF rating mean?Clothing that has been designed for protection from the sun will have a UPF on the label. The UPF indicates how effective a fabric is at blocking out solar ultraviolet radiation (UVR). A fabric with a UPF rating of 50 will allow only 1/50th of the sun's UV rays to pass through. This means a significant reduction in UVR exposure.
The effectiveness of clothing in protecting against UVR is dependant on clothing design, the type and structure of the fabric, its colour and tightness and whether the garment is wet or dry.
- Less UVR passes through tightly woven or knitted fabrics
- Darker colours usually block more UVR
- Heavier weight fabrics usually block more UVR than lighter fabrics of the same type
- Garments that are over-stretched, wet or worn out may lose some of their UVR protection properties
Always use protective clothing in combination with other sun protection measures: hat, shade, sunglasses and sunscreen.
For more information about protective clothing see the ARPANSA Radiation Protection: Clothing and Solar UV Protection Factsheet.