UPF Long Sleeve Shirts vs Sunscreen: Which is Better?

Rayward Apparel

Key Highlights

  • UPF long sleeve shirts provide long-lasting and reliable sun protection, eliminating the need for constant reapplication like sunscreen.
  • Even with the best sun protective apparel, it won't completely replace the need for sunscreen to apply to exposed areas of skin.
  • The fabric used in UPF clothing is specially designed to block harmful UV rays, providing superior sun protection.
  • UPF shirts are comfortable to wear in all weather conditions, thanks to their lightweight and breathable fabric.
  • Over time, investing in sun protective clothing can be more cost-effective than constantly purchasing sunscreen.
  • A UPF long sleeve shirt offers versatility for various outdoor activities and are a fashionable choice for sun protection.


When it comes to protecting our skin from the harmful effects of the sun, sunscreen has long been the go-to solution. However, a new contender has emerged in recent years - a UPF long sleeve shirt. These shirts are specially designed with fabric that provides sun protection by blocking harmful UV rays. But are they really better than sunscreen? In this blog, we will compare sun protective long sleeve shirts and sunscreen to determine which option is more effective in providing sun protection.

Comparing UPF Long Sleeve Shirts and Sunscreen

When it comes to sun protection, both UPF long sleeve shirts and sunscreen have their merits. While sunscreen is a convenient option that can be applied to all exposed areas of the skin, sun protective long sleeve shirts provide a more comprehensive and long-lasting solution. They block harmful UV rays from reaching the skin, offering reliable protection throughout the day. In contrast, sunscreen needs to be reapplied every few hours to maintain its effectiveness. Let's delve deeper into the benefits and features of both options to determine which is better for your sun protection needs.

The Essentials of UPF Clothing, Sun Hoodies, And UPF Accessories

UPF clothing is specially designed to provide sun protection by blocking harmful UV rays. The fabric used in UV protective clothing is designed specifically to enhance its ability to shield the skin from the sun's rays. UPF stands for Ultraviolet Protection Factor, which measures the amount of UV radiation that can penetrate the fabric - a similar rating scale to SPF for sunscreens. The higher the rating, the more effective the clothing is at blocking UV rays. The fabric type plays a crucial role in determining the UPF rating of the clothing and its overall sun protection capabilities.

It's also important to recognize that most standard t-shirts aren't designed for UV protection and allow far more UV radiation to penetrate the fabric than you may think. Many standard shirts only have a UPF rating of 5 or less, hence why the world of sun protective apparel exists - to keep you comfortable while keeping your skin safe.

How Sunscreen Works Against UV Rays

Guy running on beach in the sun

Sunscreen works by creating a physical or chemical barrier on the skin that absorbs or reflects UV radiation. Chemical sunscreens contain ingredients that absorb UV rays, while physical lotions use mineral-based ingredients like zinc oxide or titanium dioxide to reflect UV rays away from the skin. When applied correctly, it can provide effective sun protection. However, it requires frequent reapplication to maintain its effectiveness. Sunscreen can also be messy to apply, may cause skin sensitivity or allergies in some individuals, and uneven application can lead to areas of your skin being exposed unintentionally. Understanding how sunscreen works is essential in determining its effectiveness and comparing it to UPF clothing.

UPF Clothing Vs. Sunscreen: Effectiveness Over Time

One of the key advantages of UPF clothing over sunscreen is its long-lasting effectiveness. Once you put on a UPF long sleeve shirt, it provides continuous sun protection without the need for frequent reapplication. Sunscreen, on the other hand, needs to be reapplied every two hours or after swimming or sweating. This can be a hassle, especially when engaging in outdoor activities or spending long days in the sun. Additionally, sunscreen can wear off or be rubbed off, reducing its effectiveness over time. UV protective clothing offers peace of mind, knowing that you are protected from harmful UV rays all day long.

The Convenience Factor: Application and Reapplication

One of the factors that makes sunscreen a popular choice for sun protection is its convenience of application. You can simply squeeze out the desired amount and apply it to all exposed areas of the skin. Sunscreen also comes in various forms, such as lotions, sprays, and sticks, catering to different preferences. However, the convenience diminishes when it comes to reapplication. Sunscreen needs to be reapplied every two hours or after swimming or sweating to maintain its effectiveness. This can be challenging, especially when participating in outdoor activities or when wearing makeup. On the other hand, a UPF long sleeve shirt offer hassle-free sun protection with no need for reapplication, providing a more convenient option in the long run.

Skin Sensitivity and Allergies: Choosing the Safer Option

Woman taking allergy pills

For individuals with sensitive skin or allergies, finding the right sun protection can be a challenge. Some sunscreen ingredients can cause skin irritation, redness, or allergic reactions in certain individuals. Chemical sunscreens, in particular, have been known to cause skin sensitivity in some people. On the other hand, UPF clothing provides a safe and hypoallergenic solution for sun protection. The fabric used in UPF clothing is designed to be gentle on the skin and does not contain any chemicals that could potentially cause skin reactions. This makes sun protective clothing a safer option for those with sensitive skin or allergies.

Cost Analysis Over Time

When comparing the cost of UPF clothing and sunscreen, it's essential to consider the long-term investment. While UPF clothing may have a higher upfront cost compared to sunscreen, it can be more cost-effective over time as it can last for years. Sunscreen needs to be regularly purchased to maintain its effectiveness, especially if you spend a lot of time outdoors. On the other hand, investing in UV protective clothing allows for long-lasting sun protection without the recurring expense of purchasing sunscreen. Additionally, UPF clothing is often made from durable materials that can withstand frequent use and washing, making it a more durable and cost-effective option in the long run.

UPF Clothing


Long Term Investment

Short Term and Frequent Expense

Protects from both UVA and UVB rays

Only products labeled as "broad spectrum" protect from both UVA and UVB rays

24/7 UV protection for areas of the skin it covers

Needs to be reapplied at least every 2 hours to maintain its effectiveness

Chemical Free

Many are loaded with chemicals, depends on the exact brand.

Top Benefits of a UPF Long Sleeve Shirt

A UPF long sleeve shirt offer a range of benefits that make it a superior choice for sun protection. First and foremost, they provide reliable and continuous sun protection, eliminating the need for constant reapplication. The lightweight fabric used in sun protective shirts ensures day-long comfort, even in hot weather. They also offer extended protection without the need for reapplication, making them ideal for outdoor activities such as hiking, fishing, and beach trips. Whether you're spending hours in the sun, a UPF sun shirt or a quality fishing shirt is a must-have for ultimate protection and comfort.

Extended Protection Without Reapplication

One of the significant advantages of a UPF long sleeve shirt is its ability to provide extended protection without the need for constant reapplication. Once you put on a sun protective shirt, it offers reliable sun protection for the entire day. This is especially beneficial for individuals who spend long hours outdoors or participate in outdoor activities. Unlike sunscreen, which needs to be reapplied every two hours, sun protective clothing provides peace of mind knowing that you are continuously shielded from harmful UV rays. This allows you to focus on enjoying your day without the worry of sunburn or skin damage. However, keep in mind you'll still need sunblock lotion to cover exposed areas of skin like your face and neck, but a quality UPF shirt will significantly reduce that burden.

Breathability and Comfort in Hot Weather

One common concern when it comes to wearing a UPF long sleeve shirt in hot weather is the lack of breathability and comfort. However, a UPF long sleeve shirt is specially designed with lightweight and breathable fabric that allows for optimal airflow, keeping you cool and comfortable even in the heat. The fabric used in sun protective clothing wicks away moisture from the skin, keeping you dry and comfortable throughout the day. This breathability ensures that wearing a UPF long sleeve shirt, even in hot and sunny weather, does not cause discomfort or make you feel overheated, making them a practical choice for sun protection in any climate.

Lightweight Versatility and Thumbholes for Outdoor Activities

Hand holding a feather

UPF long sleeve shirts offer versatility for a wide range of outdoor activities. Whether you're hiking, fishing, running, or golfing, these shirts are designed to provide optimal sun protection without hindering your movements. The lightweight and flexible fabric used in UPF clothing allows for unrestricted motion, making them ideal for active pursuits. Additionally, sun shirts often come with features like thumbholes, which provide added protection and coverage for the hands. This versatility makes sun shirts a practical choice for anyone who enjoys spending time outdoors and wants reliable sun protection and all-day comfort.

Fashion and Function Combined

Gone are the days when sun protection meant sacrificing style. Long sleeve UPF shirts combine fashion and function, allowing you to stay protected from the sun while looking stylish. These shirts come in a variety of colors and designs, including 100% polyester options that are machine washable, giving you the freedom to express your personal style. Whether you prefer a classic solid color or a vibrant pattern, there's a sun protective shirt to suit your taste. Additionally, UV protective clothing is often designed with a relaxed fit, providing comfort and ease of movement. This combination of fashion and function makes a UPF long sleeve shirt a versatile and practical choice for any outdoor adventure.

When Sunscreen Is the Better Choice

While UPF shirts offer excellent sun protection, there are certain situations where sunscreen is the better choice. For example, when you're spending time in the water, UV protective shirts may not provide sufficient protection as the fabric can become saturated. Water-resistant sunscreen formulas are specifically designed for activities like swimming, providing longer-lasting protection even when exposed to water. Additionally, sunblock lotion allows you to easily apply it to exposed areas that UPF clothing can't cover, such as your face, neck, and hands.

Areas UPF Clothing Can't Cover

While a UPF long sleeve shirt offer excellent sun protection, it's crucial to note their limitations. UPF clothing typically shields areas it covers, like the torso and arms, but leaves areas like your face, neck, and hands exposed to UV rays. However, a hooded sun protective UPF long sleeve shirt can tackle that problem allowing you to cover those areas with a light weight protective fabric as well as a hood for extra coverage. In such cases, sunscreen becomes essential to safeguard uncovered areas. Understanding these limitations can help you make informed choices.

The Advantage of Water-Resistant Formulas


One advantage of sunscreen is the availability of water-resistant formulas. These formulas are specifically designed to stay on the skin even when exposed to water, making them ideal for activities like swimming or water sports. Regular sunscreen may wash off or lose its effectiveness when exposed to water, but water-resistant formulas provide extended protection. They create a barrier that helps to repel water and maintain the sunscreen's effectiveness. However, this will often shorten the lifespan, requiring even more frequent reapplication.

When using water-resistant sunscreen, it's still important to reapply it after swimming or excessive sweating, as the water-resistant properties can diminish over time. Additionally, it's essential to follow the recommended reapplication frequency for the specific sunscreen product you are using. Water-resistant sunscreen can provide peace of mind, knowing that you are protected even in the water.

Variability in SPF Levels for Different Skin Types

Sun protection factor (SPF) is a crucial factor to consider when choosing a sunblock lotion. The SPF level indicates the level of protection the sunscreen provides against UVB rays. However, it's important to note that SPF levels are not the same for everyone. Different skin types have different sun protection needs.

Fair-skinned individuals who are more prone to sunburn may require a higher SPF, such as SPF 50 or above, to adequately protect their skin. On the other hand, individuals with darker skin tones may be able to use a lower SPF, such as SPF 30, while still getting effective protection. It's important to choose a sunscreen that suits your skin type and offers the appropriate level of protection. Consulting with a dermatologist can help determine the best SPF level for your skin's specific needs.

Finding the Right Balance Between UPF Apparel and Sunscreen

Finding the right balance between UPF shirts and sunscreen is crucial for optimal sun protection. While UV protective clothing provides excellent coverage, it's important to remember that it doesn't cover every inch of exposed skin. This is where sunscreen comes in. By applying sunscreen to the exposed areas not covered by UPF clothing, you can ensure comprehensive protection.

When planning your outdoor activities, consider the level of sun exposure you'll be facing. If you'll be in direct sunlight for extended periods, it's a good idea to wear both UV protective clothing and sunscreen for maximum protection. It's all about finding the right balance between the two, based on your individual needs and the specific conditions you'll be facing.

Situations Where Both Are Necessary

There are certain situations where both UPF shirts and sunscreen are necessary for optimal sun protection. For example, if you're spending a long day outdoors, especially during peak sun hours, wearing protective clothing in conjunction with sunblock lotion can provide comprehensive protection. This combination ensures that both your covered and exposed areas are shielded from harmful UV rays.

Additionally, if you're participating in activities that involve water or excessive sweating, such as swimming, hiking, or outdoor sports, using both UPF clothing and water-resistant sunscreen is essential. While UV protective clothing can provide initial protection, the water-resistant properties of sunscreen help maintain its effectiveness even when exposed to salt water or sweat. By using both, you can enjoy your outdoor activities with peace of mind.

Tips for Maximizing Protection

To maximize sun protection, here are some tips to keep in mind:

  1. Wear UPF clothing: Choose clothing that covers as much of your body as possible. Look for garments with a high rating and consider accessories like hats and sunglasses. Thumb loops on the sleeves and sun hoodies can be life savers.
  2. Apply sunscreen correctly: Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a high SPF on exposed areas not covered by UV protective clothing. Apply it liberally and reapply every two hours or more frequently if sweating or swimming.
  3. Seek shade: When the sun is at its strongest, between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., try to seek shade whenever possible. This reduces your overall sun exposure and lowers the risk of sunburn.
  4. Stay hydrated: Drinking plenty of water helps keep your skin hydrated and can enhance your body's natural defense against the sun.
  5. Check expiration dates: Make sure your sunscreen and UV protective clothing are not expired, as their effectiveness may diminish over time.


In the debate of UV protective shirts vs. sunscreen, the choice ultimately depends on various factors like convenience, skin sensitivity, cost, and environmental impact. While UV protective clothing offers extended protection and comfort, sunscreen provides flexibility and water resistance. The ideal approach is to strike a balance between both for comprehensive UV protection. Consider the nature of your outdoor activities, skin type, and coverage needs to make an informed decision. Embrace the benefits of UPF shirts and the reliability of sunscreen to shield your skin effectively against harmful UV rays. Prioritize your skin's health without compromising on style and comfort.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can UPF Clothing Replace Sunscreen Entirely?

While UPF clothing provides excellent protection against UV rays, it cannot replace sunscreen entirely. There are areas that the clothing may not cover, such as the face, hands, and feet. Applying sunscreen to these exposed areas is essential for comprehensive sun protection.

How Do I Choose the Right Long Sleeve UPF Shirt?

When choosing a UV protective shirt, consider factors such as the UPF rating, fabric type, and comfort. Look for shirts with a high UPF rating, moisture-wicking properties, and lightweight, breathable fabrics for optimal protection and comfort during outdoor activities.

Is UPF Clothing Suitable for All Outdoor Activities?

UPF clothing is suitable for a wide range of outdoor activities, including hiking, fishing, running, golfing, and more. Its versatility and UV protection properties make it an excellent choice for any outdoor activity where UV exposure is a concern.