Everything You Need to Know About UPF Clothing


Thank you to Zappos for sponsoring this post. 


Sun Protective Clothing

Have you heard of UPF clothes?

They’re sun protective clothes when the fabric has built in ultraviolet protection. The specific amount of rays that the clothing blocks, is the UP factor.

If you’re cautious about sun exposure, hoping to protect your skin, or simple want an anti-aging product that’s way more effective than beauty treatments… grab yourself some UPF clothing!

Plus, unlike sunscreen you don’t need to reapply! 

Pop on a sun protective piece of clothing and you’re covered all day long. 





What UPF Factor Should You Look For

In the US, The Skin Cancer Foundation has a ‘seal of recommendation’ for UPF clothing. In order to qualify, a garment needs to have at least a UPF of 30. 

A UPF of 30 to 49 offers very good protection, while UPF 50+ rates as excellent.


What UPF Ratings Mean

UPF is the rating system for apparel.

For example:

  • a UPF rating of 30 indicates the fabric allows about 1/30th (~3%) of UV radiation to pass through it. 
  • a UPF rating of 50 allows about 1/50th (~2%) of UV transmission.
  • any fabric that allows less than 2% UV transmission is labeled UPF 50+

As a general rule, the higher the rating, the more sun protection





UPF Ratings

UPF Rating Protection Category Effective UV Transmissions
15 Minimum 6.7%
30 Good 3.3%
50+ Excellent 2%


UPF Clothing vs. Regular Clothing

Wearing something is better than nothing. I usually find my shoulder tan (or burn) super easily, with visible strips from a tank top where the regular non-UPF fabric protected my skin.

So, you might be wondering how regular clothes compare to specially treated UPF clothes.

A basic cotton t-shirt offers a UPF rating of 5, so about 1/5th (or 20%) of UV radiation will pass through it. Anything below UPF 15 isn’t considered UV protective.

But if you want to be really careful, wear UPF 50+ swimsuits (I like these long sleeve options) or at least a UPF 50+ rashguard!





UPF vs. SPF: What’s the Difference?

They’re very similar, with some slight differences.

UPF measures the amount of UV radiation that can penetrate fabric and reach your skin. It measures effectiveness at  both ultraviolet A (“UVA) and ultraviolet B (“UVB”) rays. 

SPF, meanwhile, measures the time it takes for your skin to redden from just UVB rays. In the United States, sunscreen isn’t covered as seriously as in Europe or Asia and UVB rays are considered ‘more’ harmful. 

I’m not sure why they don’t update the SPF metric to factor UVA exposure, because they should!

But some sunscreen labels do consider UVA exposure, with the words ‘broad spectrum’. It’s still not great though! I typically prefer to buy Asian or European sunscreen brands… or to wear UPF clothing!


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Helen Jon


Helen Jon makes super fun summer clothing that’s also UPF friendly!

Their sun shirts are loose and comfy to wear, either as a top or over a bikini as a coverup. They also come in a variety of colors and prints so you’ll be sure to stand out on the boardwalk!

Helen Jon UPF Clothes

Sold on Zappos

Check the latest reviews and see all color options here





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