What Color Is Best For Sun Protection?

Rayward Apparel

There are a lot of different factors that play into the UV protective rating of a shirt. Fit, fabric composition, weight, density, and sometimes even color. However, determining whether or not specific colors are more protective than others is not as easy as it seems. Continue below to see how color impacts the UPF of sun protective clothing.

Darker or Brighter is Generally Better

Hot coals

Dark and bright colors attract and absorb more light than their lighter counterparts. So if you don’t own any sun protective clothing and want to get as much protection as possible - lean towards the darker and brighter clothing options. However, this also comes with a downside. The darker the color, generally this also means it will generate the most heat. This can be particularly uncomfortable if you live in the south during a hot summer. The following YouTube video does a great job representing this dynamic using various colors of crayons in the sun:

So you want to stay protected, but you don’t want to bake inside your own shirt. Especially when you are actively exercising or playing sports, this can be a deal breaker. Good news is, you don’t have to choose between being protected and being comfortable. There are plenty of light colored sun protective clothing options out there providing excellent protection. You just have to make sure it has the UPF rating listed. Here at Rayward Apparel all of our products are certified at UPF 30 or greater.

Color Can Sometimes Be Misleading

As mentioned previously, there are many different factors that play into the UPF rating of a fabric. If the shirt is too thin or stretched extremely tight you are likely not going to receive proper protection regardless of the color. The same goes with many of the other factors - if a shirt is severely lacking in one it’s possible the color will have very little impact. If your white shirt is UPF 3 and black shirt is UPF 4, that’s still well below the recommended protective value. Although it may seem odd, In these circumstances it’s best to simply wear sunscreen underneath your shirt to stay protected.

Color dye sun protective shirts

Also, while different colors have different UV absorption qualities, it’s not always that straightforward. The color of a shirt is made through a variety of color dyes. Sometimes the dye itself can have a bigger impact on the UPF rating than the color - so it’s possible your light grey shirt has a better protection rating than your black shirt. However, the only true way to determine the true UPF value of a fabric is to have it lab tested. All sun protective clothing with a listed UPF value should have been tested and certified accordingly.

UPF-Rated Sun Protective Clothing Protects Regardless of Fabric Color

In summary, while the color of a fabric certainly has an impact on the UPF rating it’s difficult to determine its true protective value without knowing its UPF rating. While all clothing has some level of UPF, oftentimes it’s far less than needed. If you are trying to make sure you get proper coverage, your best bet is to simply purchase clothing that has been tested for its UPF rating. Regardless of the color, if your sun protective clothing has been properly tested at UPF 30 or better, you can rest assured knowing you are well protected.