Overexposure to UV (ultraviolet) radiation from the sun is a major health problem. Continuous exposure to ultraviolet radiation (UVR) may lead to premature ageing of the skin and eventually skin cancer.
Sun protective clothing plays a critical role in safeguarding us from the harmful effects of UV radiation therefore its important we understand the science behind UPF ratings, the meticulous testing process, and the role of organisations like ARPANSA so you can make well-informed choices when buying your sun-safe clothing.
What is UPF rated clothing?
UPF (Ultraviolet Protection Factor) rated clothing is specially designed clothing that offers enhanced protection against the harmful effects of ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun.
The clothing is made using fabrics that have been treated or engineered to block a significant portion of the UV radiation from reaching the skin. This is achieved through various methods such as using tightly woven fabrics, adding UV-absorbing chemicals during the manufacturing process, or incorporating special coatings.
Polyester is a good material used to achieve a high rating because it can be tightly woven which naturally helps to block out UV radiation. Darker colours also offer better protection
Cotton is not usually effective at blocking out UV and offers limited sun protection.
What are the UPF ratings
The UPF rating of clothing indicates how effective it is at blocking UV radiation. For example:
UPF 50/50+: Blocks over 98% of UV radiation allowing only 1/50th of the UV rays to pass through the fabric and reach the skin. – excellent protection
UPF 30: Blocks about 96.7% of UV radiation. – good protection
UPF 15: Blocks about 93.3% of UV radiation. – minimal protection
Who provides the ratings?
The Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA) plays a pivotal role in ensuring the accuracy and reliability of UPF ratings for clothing in Australia. ARPANSA conducts the UPF testing at a cost of $150 per sample to the manufacturer.
The tests involve exposing the fabric to UV radiation and measuring the amount of radiation that passes through. The exposure mimics real-world conditions, considering factors like stretching and wetness.
Its important that suppliers of sunsmart clothing get all their designs tested because the colours/patterns on each design will effect the UPF rating.
The tests are performed in specialised laboratories under controlled conditions and the data is used to calculate the UPF rating.
How do we know if the clothing has been rated?
When selecting UPF rated clothing, it's important to look for reputable brands that adhere to the standardised testing procedures. Check their websites and labelling which will indicate the UPF rating and consider garments with higher ratings for enhanced protection.
Why is it important?
UPF rated clothing acts as a barrier, reducing the amount of UV radiation that reaches the skin.
UPF rated clothing offers comprehensive coverage to areas of your body that are typically exposed to the sun. This is especially important in situations where applying sunscreen to every exposed area may be impractical or insufficient.
Unlike sunscreen, which requires reapplication, UPF rated clothing provides consistent protection as long as you're wearing it. This is particularly useful during outdoor activities where reapplying sunscreen may be challenging.
High-quality UPF rated clothing retains its sun protection properties over time, even after multiple washes. This durability ensures that you're getting reliable sun protection every time you wear it.
As the importance of sun protection continues to grow, UPF rated clothing stands as a shield against the harmful effects of UV radiation.
Remember, staying protected from the sun doesn't mean compromising on style or comfort—UPF rated clothing offers both fashion and function, ensuring you can explore some more without worry.