Dual Purpose Fashion

Weather Watch - Ed Buckner

According to Vogue.com, “Your closet isn’t frivolous, it contains a myriad of channels to heightened performance, a selection of gateways to the best versions of yourself.” In other words, dress for success. But what if, in addition to bolstering our confidence and self-esteem, fashion also provided tangible, potentially life-saving benefits?

In the last issue we talked about the havoc the sun’s ultraviolet rays can wreak on our skin in the form of melanoma and other types of skin cancer, (everyone is wearing their 30 SPF sunscreen, right?) so in line with this fashion edition, let’s talk about clothing that can actually protect you from the sun’s harmful effects.

Clothing is the most fundamental means of sun protection, but not all clothing type provides the same level of protection. Here are some factors to consider when choosing clothing to protect you from the sun.

Bare is Bad

Sun damages every exposed part of your body throughout your lifetime, so it’s logical to assume the more skin you cover, the better. Clearly, long-sleeved shirts cover more than a t-shirt. Look for ones with a high neckline or collar that will also shield the back of your neck; in the same vein, pants are better than shorts. A wide-brimmed hat is a better choice than a baseball cap (and more stylish in my opinion) and when selecting shades, go for close-fitting, wraparound sunglasses.

Color Considerations

This one is kind of a “no-brainer”. Darker colors (black, brown, navy, red) absorb more UV rays than lighter colors, so brighten up for sun safety.

Functional Fabrics

You can be covered from head to toe, but if the sun penetrates the fabric you’re wearing, it’s not much good. The key is to choose a fabric with a tight-knit weave, like Twill, in order to block UV rays. Also, certain fabrics reflect the sun’s rays, while others actually absorb them. Synthetic and semi-synthetic material such as nylon, polyester, lycra, acrylic and rayon provide more protection than cotton.  Finally, look for a heavy weight fabric instead of lighter weight material such as linen or silk.

Ultraviolet Protection Factor

Some retailers offer clothing with an Ultraviolent Protection Factor (UPF) rating. UPF rated clothing has been tested based on numerous factors and provides buyers with a confidence about how much sun protection they are getting with that particular garment. For example, if a long-sleeve swimsuit has a UPF of 50, this means that only 1/50 of the sun’s UV rays are getting through, versus a lightweight cotton knit jersey t-shirt, which allows a whopping 1/5 to reach our skin. Blue denim is the pinnacle of UPF rating at 166, so in essence, jeans provide complete protection from the sun.

In addition to thinking through some of these things when making your next clothing purchase, also consider the following to help protect you from the dangers of the sun, just one of the many weather related risks here in the Natural State.

  • Wash new clothing to help shrink the weave, creating a more effective UV barrier.
  • For lounging by the pool, long-sleeve bathing suits, cover-ups or a sarong with a UPF rating of at least 30 might be an option.
  • When possible, seek shaded areas to minimize your time in direct sunlight and avoid areas where UV rays can reflect off surrounding surfaces such as water, snow and glass.

And remember to put sunscreen on the little ones for any outdoor activities including daily recess at school!