Sun Protective Clothing Is Better Than Sunscreen

sun protective clothing

As long as you wear sunscreen, you’re protected from the harmful effects of the sun, right? According to the results of a recent proof-of-concept study, sunscreen might not be the most effective way to keep your skin protected from the sun. Read on to learn more about the study’s findings and what you can do to minimize your risk of accelerated aging and skin cancer caused by the sun’s UV rays.

Sunscreen vs. Clothing

Researchers from Boston University Medical Center, the California State University Maritime Academy, and the Fashion Institute of Technology at State University of New York set out to test various types of clothing to find out how well they protect your skin from the sun. To do this, they measured the broad-spectrum UV protection offered by three different categories:

  1. Common clothing garments — t-shirts and jeans
  2. UV sun-protective clothing — rash guards, athletic shirts, and swimsuits
  3. Commercially available sunscreens

Interestingly enough, all of the tested fabrics provided better broad-spectrum coverage than sunscreens, with the exception of one chemical sunscreen ingredient, avobenzone.

Which Clothing Provides the Best Sun Protection?

Some types of clothing performed notably better than others. Nylon bathing suits, denim jeans, and dark-colored cotton shirts offered the highest amount of UV protection. All of the fabrics tested, except for white cotton shirts, provided greater than 50 UPF (ultraviolet protective factor), making them highly effective barriers to UV light.

Although wearing denim jeans is not always practical on hot summer days, especially when on the beach or out on a boat, wearing sun protective clothing is crucial to keeping your skin protected from the damaging effects of the sun. There are now many different clothing brands that specialize in UV protective clothing, including Athleta, Sun Precautions, Coolibar, and Solbari.

How to Maximize Your Sun Protection

Although this study used a relatively small sample size, it highlights the importance of defaulting to sun protective clothing as your primary UV protection when you can. When swimming, playing sports, or boating, use a combination of sun protective clothing and sunscreen, and remember to reapply your sunscreen frequently.

You can also take a supplement like Heliocare, which contains fern extract to help your skin protect itself from the effects of UV exposure. However, supplements are not meant to serve as stand-ins for sunscreen and sun protective clothing.

It is also worth noting that while avobenzone performed well in the broad spectrum testing, this ingredient is known to cause stinging and burning for some skin types and may cause your eyes to sting as well. If you cannot tolerate this ingredient, choose a physical sunscreen that contains zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide, and remember to pack a sun hat, t-shirt, and sunglasses.

The Bottom Line

Sun protection is a must for healthy, youthful-looking skin. As this study has shown, wearing proper sun protective clothing is an important step to shielding your skin from the sun’s UV rays. The most effective way to minimize sun damage on your skin is to combine sun protective clothing with sunscreen use and lifestyle habits like taking certain supplements and sitting in the shade whenever possible.

For more skincare tips and recommendations from Dr. Leslie Baumann, follow Baumann Cosmetic Dermatology on YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram!

September 4, 2018 Beauty