May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month. This is particularly meaningful to me because, as you know, I lost my father to malignant melanoma when he was just 46 years old. This year will be 22 years since he has passed. Since losing him, I have made it a point to stay on top of all we can do to protect ourselves from the sun. In this post, I am sharing post on how you protect yourself wtih UPF protection clothing.

What you need to know about clothing that offers UPF protection

Weave and fabric thickness

First, even clothing that doesn’t specifically say it offers UPF protection can actually offer protection. There are, however, varying degrees of protection you can get from the clothes you wear. The thicker and the more closed the weave of a fabric is, the more UPF protection you will receive. Jeans, for example, offers great UPF protection.

The white t-shirt is at the end of the spectrum and probably one of the biggest offenders of offering little-to-no protection, which is scary considering many people throw on a white t-shirt after they’ve been in the sun too long. I still cringe at the idea that I used a white t-shirt when snorkeling. When dry white t-shirts have a UPF protection of 5, which means the garment allows 95% of the incoming UV rays to penetrate it. When wet, the protection that a t-shirt offers goes down to about 1. So, basically, my wet white t-shirt I wore while snorkeling let 99% of the UV rays in. Thankfully, I also wear sunscreen at the beach.

Wetness diminishes UPF Protection

Second, what wetness does to clothing, in general, should be considered. It’s not just a white t-shirt that loses its UPF coverage when wet, all fabrics do. If you’re prone to heavy sweating, consider wicking technology and be sure to choose clothes with moisture management, proper ventilation, and looser cuts.

Darker fabrics offer greater protection than lighter fabrics

Lighter colors may reflect heat and keep us cooler, but darker colors actually offer better UPF protection. In order to keep cool in darker shades, choose looser silhouettes and breathable fabrics.

Do you really need UPF protection clothing?

The choice of whether to buy clothing with UPF protection or to just wear clothing woven tightly enough to properly shield the sun really is yours. I’m not here to evangelize, just provide information. It also depends on your lifestyle, the amount of time spent outdoors and how prone you are. And before you think you are safe because you don’t have fair skin, remember, Bob Marley died from skin cancer.

UPF Protection

According to some dermatologists, what you should keep in mind is most UPF clothing isn’t chemically treated as much as it is woven tight enough where light can’t shine through. However, companies like Coolibar, which is the gold standard of sun protection clothing, in my opinion, use particular kinds of materials. One, for example, is viscose or material from bamboo. Bamboo is a natural UV deterrent. They blend it with cotton and the sun blocker Zinc Oxide. This is their ZnO fabric, their own proprietary fabric. Other fabric fibers are infused with Titanium Dioxide, and these tend to be fabrics designed for activities like swimming. They also use a highly technical weave to our fabrics, weaving them so tightly, they’re like Fort Knox to UV rays.

Shop some Coolibar Styles

Can you wash in UPF protection?

You absolutely can. SunGuard can transform everyday clothing into sun protective gear with a UPF protection of 30. SunGuard works by washing an invisible shield into clothing that helps block more than 96% of the sun’s harmful rays from reaching your skin. With the active ingredient TINOSORB FD, a UV protectant from Ciba Specialty Chemicals. SunGuard can boost the UPF protection of a white cotton T-shirt from UPF 5 to UPF 30. SunGuard is so easy-to-use. Add one package of SunGuard to a warm or hot water laundry load along with laundry detergent and you wash in skin protection for up to 20 washings. SunGuard won’t change the color or comfort of clothing and is safe for even the most sensitive skin.

UPF Protecton

Other popular brands that offer UPF Protection

In addition to Coolibar, many popular brands have jumped in and begun offering clothes with UPF Protection. Can I say with the same confidence that these companies have the same rigorous testing standards as Coolibar? I can’t. You can read about Coolibar’s practices here, but I think these other brands are still quite impressive and offer a variety and alternative options when you are looking for coverage.

I want to also be clear, UPF Protection Clothing should not negate using sunscreen. You need both. UPF clothing should be seen as an additional measure.


Great for workout and daily wear, Athleta offers a variety of stylish UPF protection pieces.

L.L. Bean

L.L. Bean boasts over 150 pieces with UPF protection. They were given the Skin Cancer Foundation’s Seal of Recommendation which is sun conscious products that meet the strict criteria of an independent Photobiology Committee.

Lands’ End

Lands’ End has the most impressive assortment of swimwear and coverups around. Their rashguards were tested by The Good Housekeeping Institute found them to”not only provides effective sun protection with a rating of UPF 50, but it also was impressively comfortable by being lightweight, smooth and stretchy.” Many of their pieces have the Skin Cancer Foundation’s Seal of Recommendation.

Lilly Pulitzer

Lilly Pulitzer and outdoor fun go together like peanut butter and jelly, so it is no surprise that they now offer a UPF 50 vacation-ready line that includes everything from preppy pullovers and sporty leggings to flirty frocks and ruffled skirts, all in the same vivid and happy prints as the regular collection.

Wallaroo Hats

Last year, I was in Orlando to speak to golf retailers during the PGA show. Sun protection being so important to golfers, I wasn’t surprised when Wallaroo Hats was one of the vendors at the show. I took some time to chat with them and learn about what they do. It’s an incredible brand to consider when looking for UPF protection hats.

However you choose to protect yourself from the sun, just protect yourself in some way, be it with UPF clothing, being vigilant about sunscreen or just staying out of the sun for long stretches of time when it is the strongest, between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.

The most frustrating part about losing my dad to malignant melanoma was just how preventable it was. Little did anyone know back then just how deadly the sun could be. But we know now, we can do better, and we should.