Because no one wants a painful sunburn to ruin their summer fun.
There’s nothing quite like the summertime. The days are longer, the temperatures are hotter, and everyone seems to be in a great mood all the time. But there’s one thing that can ruin all that summer fun in a hot minute: a nasty sunburn.
Even though you diligently slather on the SPF all season long, you’ll likely end more than a few good days spent outdoors with a painful pink glow (or even a hot red burn, depending on how your day went). When this happens, chances are it’s because sunscreen just wasn’t enough to protect you from the sun all day—and that’s where UPF clothing comes in.
While you may know that SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor, you may be less familiar with its sibling, UPF—or Ultraviolet Protection Factor—which is basically the number that measures how adequately a piece of fabric will protect you from the sun. According to the Environmental Working Group’s sun safety tips, UPF is actually a more reliable form of sun protection than SPF in sunscreen, simply because the majority of sunscreen users don’t apply enough of it, use it incorrectly, or don’t re-apply as often as is needed.
According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, a piece of clothing’s UPF indicates what fraction of the sun’s ultraviolet rays can pass through the fabric and onto your skin. As an example, it noted that a shirt with a UPF of 50 allows “just 1/50th of the sun’s UV radiation to reach the skin.”
The organization also included a handy graphic proving that clothes made with tighter weaves (or darker colors) block out more of the sun’s rays, meaning they have higher UPF ratings. That means a lycra one-piece bathing suit will come with an already-high protection factor, and even a barely-there bikini will block (at least part of you) from the sun.
But the more you cover up, the more protection you’ll gain from both a bad burn and potential sun-related issues that are much more serious—like skin cancer—down the line. The Skin Cancer Foundation notes that more people are diagnosed with skin cancer each year in the U.S. than all other cancers combined, which should be enough of an excuse to buy as much high-UPF clothing as you want. If you’re wondering just how high of a UPF you need, the Skin Cancer Foundation recommends choosing clothing with a UPF of at least 30 in hot summer weather—but you can also opt to go as high as UPF 50, which offers the most extensive level of coverage.
To help you stay happy, healthy, and burn-free this season, we’ve rounded up 15 clothing items—including dresses, skirts, leggings, shorts, and more— that come with high UPF ratings and can all double as swimsuit cover-ups for long days at the beach or pool. This way, you can enjoy your summer (and spend a few extra hours outdoors) with the peace of mind that you’re keeping yourself safe from the sun.