Ultraviolet radiation (UV)

Individual protection against UV

Is it true that clothing always provides good UV protection?

properly dressed baby

Clothing provides the ideal barrier from the sun. In contrast to sunscreen lotion, clothing is relatively cheap and does not rub off. Cool, loose-fitting clothing and a wide-brimmed hat are the essentials for your summer sun protection kit. However, even through a garment, photodamage can occur. Against common belief, the simple see-through test is not good enough to assess the effectiveness of UV protective clothing and often turns out to be a pitfall. Clothing design, the type and structure of the fabric, its colour and tightness and whether the garment is wet or dry determine its effectiveness in protecting against UV radiation.

  • Less UV passes through tightly woven or knitted fabrics.
  • Darker colours usually block more UV radiation.
  • Heavier weight fabrics usually block more UV radiation than lighter fabrics of the same type.
  • Garments that are over-stretched, wet or worn out may lose some of their UV protection properties.
  • Special UVA and UVB absorber additives applied during laundry can significantly improve protection.

Over the past few years the concept of a so-called Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF) has been introduced, and in some countries manufacturers include the UPF with their garment labelling. The UPF is a measure of the protection against UV radiation provided by an item of clothing, and is the equivalent of the sun protection factor or SPF for sunscreens. The higher the UPF value, the less UV radiation reaches the skin and the better the protection against sunburn and other harmful effects. Unfortunately, an international standard for the concept of the UPF has not been developed yet.