Rayward Apparel

UPF Apparel 101

The most common questions and answers about UV Protection and sun protective apparel

This page aims to address some of the most common questions we receive about UPF products and the importance of UV protection. UV protection is crucial in safeguarding your skin from harmful sun exposure. UPF products play a significant role in providing an additional layer of defense against the sun's ultraviolet rays, reducing the risk of skin damage and potential health concerns.

If you have any further inquiries or require more information on UV protection, feel free to explore our resources or reach out to our knowledgeable team for assistance.

The importance of UPF apparel

UPF stands for Ultraviolet Protection Factor. It is a rating system used to indicate how much UV radiation a fabric is able to block. Just like SPF (Sun Protection Factor) measures the level of protection in sunscreen, UPF measures the amount of UV radiation that can penetrate a fabric and reach the skin. To learn more about UPF ratings, design, and testing procedures click here.

In order to publish a UPF level a fabric has to undergo lab testing to verify exactly how much UV radiation it blocks. The standard test method in the US is AATCC Test Method 183. The higher the UPF rating the better UV protection it provides, with a maximum rating of UPF 50+. To learn more about UPF ratings, design, and testing procedures click here.

When shirts don't have a UPF rating posted, it's unlikely they provide an adequate level of protection. Generally speaking, most basic cotton t-shirts have a UPF rating of 5 or less, providing little to no protection, hence why the world of UPF fabrics exist.

If it has been tested for it’s UPF rating you will see it somewhere on the fabric itself or perhaps the tag. It may also be fused onto the care label inside of the shirt, or on the tag - every brand is different. In addition, you can also find your shirt online to see if the UPF rating is listed somewhere in the product description. If you’ve checked all of those areas and still cannot find the UPF rating, it’s likely it was never tested and is not designed for the outdoors.

The reason UPF shirts exist at all is because the average cotton shirt has very little protective qualities. While it depends on a variety of factors, a standard shirt may have an average UPF rating of anywhere from 1-5. Although UPF is a little different from SPF, this is like protecting yourself with sunscreen having an SPF of anywhere from 1-5. That is certainly not a sunscreen you would use to protect yourself, therefore a shirt with that value is not something you should wear when outdoors. 

While they are very similar, there are some key differences:

  • SPF rates the UV protection effectiveness of sunscreens
  • UPF rates the UV protection effectiveness of protective fabrics
  • UPF is always broad-spectrum, SPF is not
  • Fabrics with UPF provide constant coverage, SPF and sunscreens need regular re-application to maintain protection

For more about the differences between UPF and SPF click here.

UPF 50+ is the highest possible rating for sun protective clothing. That means it protects you from more than 98% of the suns UV radiation. According to standard testing methods in the US, UPF 40-50+ clothing falls into the ‘Excellent’ protection category, the best possible category. Fabrics with a UPF rating of 25 - 39 have ‘Very Good’ protection, and fabrics with a UPF rating of 15 - 25 have ‘Good’ protection.

To learn more about what UPF 50 means click here.

Not at all, quite the opposite. If you shop with a reliable brand UPF clothing is often times far more comfortable than their standard cotton counterparts. UPF clothing is designed specifically to keep you comfortable in the outdoors. In order to achieve the perfect balance of protection and comfort, UPF clothing often utilizes higher quality fabrics and more advanced production techniques to make sure they remain comfortable even in the most extreme conditions.

With that being said, there are many brands that only care about their bottom line, producing low cost / low quality products, but if you shop at the right places you'll be amazed at just how comfortable UPF clothing can be.

The longevity of a UPF shirt can vary depending on factors such as how frequently it is worn, how it is cared for, and the quality of the material. On average, a UPF shirt can maintain its sun protection properties for approximately 40 washes, or maybe 2-3 years for the average wearer. This is simply because as a fabric ages it can sometimes become thinner, decreasing the UV protective quality. However, UPF cannot simply be "washed out" of the clothing, it just comes down to standard wear and tear - nothing lasts forever.

To ensure your UPF shirt lasts as long as possible, it is recommended to follow the care instructions provided by the manufacturer, such as washing in cold water and avoiding harsh detergents or bleach.

Clouds may filter some UV rays, but they do not block skin damaging UVA rays. Therefore, even in cloudy, overcast or foggy weather, sun protection clothing is paramount.

Someone who is at high risk of skin cancer should certainly do everything possible to avoid UV exposure, and UPF clothing is a great way to achieve that. However, that's not to say younger people shouldn't also be keeping their skin protected. Skin damage is cumulative, meaning that every sunburn, even after it heals, increases the chances of skin cancer in the future. For more information on how UV exposure can impact your health click here.

UV protective fabrics and treatments

Different fibers have different UV protection qualities. Synthetic fibers such as nylon and polyester generally have a higher UPF value than other popular fibers such as bleached cotton. Bamboo fibers (when purchasing bamboo shirts, it’s generally labeled as viscose from bamboo) also tend to have more UV protective qualities. Other highly protective fibers include Nylon, Wool, and denim.

However, it's always safest to avoid the guessing game and simply wear products designed for UV protection, products that have been tested for their UPF values. To learn more about how different fabrics can impact UV protection click here.

Unlike sunscreen, all UV protective clothing effectively blocks both UVA and UVB rays, reducing the risk of sunburn and long-term skin damage. For sunscreen, you need to make sure it's labeled as "broad spectrum" to ensure you are being protected from both types of UV radiation. To learn more about UV protective fabrics click here.

Dark and bright colors attract and absorb more light than their lighter counterparts, providing more UV protection. However, they can be a poor choice as they also generate more heat. 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.

The viscose fibers in bamboo clothing provides a natural UV protection. In terms of sun protection, bamboo blends allow for a lighter weight fabric to achieve the same or better UPF rating than alternative cotton counterparts. As an added bonus, bamboo is also softer and more comfortable - a win / win. To learn more about the benefits of bamboo clothing click here.

While polyester is a naturally UV protective fiber, it does not mean that all polyester shirts provide the level of UPF protection you need. When in doubt, you should always lean towards products that were specifically designed for UV protection - those with an established UPF rating. But if you are choosing between cotton and polyester, it's likely the polyester shirt will provide a higher level of protection.

It depends on the specific product, but here at Rayward all of our shirts are made naturally, without any chemical additives.

There are many ways to create UV protective clothing. Often times, UPF ratings can be achieved through fabric composition and design without having to involve any chemicals. By using a specific blend of fibers, it's possible to achieve a greater UPF rating without any type of fabric treatment.

Alternatively, some products achieve their UV protection level through a chemical fabric treatment. This technique applies a chemical UV treatment to the yarn before the clothing is produced. It's done in a way that infuses UV protective qualities into the yarn, preventing it from being washed out or diminished with normal wear.

To learn more about UPF ratings, design, and testing procedures click here.

It depends, people can have sensitivity for a variety of reasons, so unfortunately this is probably a question better suited for a doctor. However, to play it safe, for those with sensitive skin we generally recommend you lean towards products that achieve their UV protectiveness through natural means (fabric type, weave, thickness, fabric color) and not chemical additives.

Sunscreen Questions

Broad spectrum refers to a type of sunscreen that provides protection against both UVA and UVB rays. UVA rays penetrate deep into the skin and are associated with skin aging, while UVB rays primarily affect the outer layer of the skin and are the main cause of sunburn. By using a broad spectrum sunscreen, you can help protect your skin from both types of harmful rays, reducing your risk of skin damage, premature aging, and skin cancer.

Chemical sunscreens work by absorbing the UV rays and converting them into heat, which is then released from the skin. These sunscreens usually contain ingredients like oxybenzone or avobenzone. On the other hand, physical sunscreens create a barrier on the skin that reflects and scatters the UV rays away from the skin. They typically contain active mineral ingredients like zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. Both types of sunscreen are effective, so choosing between them often comes down to personal preference and skin sensitivity. To learn more about physical, or natural, sunscreens and how they differ from chemical sunscreens click here.

As of now, the FDA isn’t saying sunscreen is unsafe, but they are requesting more research on the potential dangers of absorbing sunscreen chemicals through your skin. If this concerns you, choose a topical mineral sunscreen that sits on the surface of your skin. To learn more about physical, or natural, sunscreens and how they differ from chemical sunscreens click here.

At a minimum, regardless of your activity, you should be re-applying sunscreen at least every two hours. If you are sweating or swimming, that time is reduced - often down to every 80 minutes. However, every sunscreen is different, but these are the maximum numbers. So always check your sunscreen bottle to be sure.

Sun protective clothing can be a great alternative to sunscreen if used correctly. It provides a high level of protection against both UVA and UVB rays. However, even with the best sun protective clothing you'll still need some sunscreen on hand to cover any areas of your skin that the clothing leaves exposed - often times this means your hands, face, head, and neck (which many of these areas can also be covered with UPF accessories like bucket hats and neck gaiters).

When it comes to sunscreen, not all products are waterproof. Sunscreens are typically labeled as water-resistant, which means they provide protection for a specific amount of time while swimming or sweating. However, it's important to reapply these water-resistant sunscreens after swimming or excessive sweating to ensure continued protection. If you're looking for a sunscreen that offers long-lasting water resistance, look for products labeled as "very water-resistant" or "waterproof." These formulations provide more extended protection even when exposed to water activities.

When looking for a reef-safe sunscreen, it's important to check the label for specific ingredients. Avoid sunscreens containing oxybenzone, octinoxate, and octocrylene, as these chemicals have been found to harm coral reefs. Look for mineral-based sunscreens with active ingredients like zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, which are considered safe for marine ecosystems. Additionally, seek out products labeled "reef-friendly" or "biodegradable" to ensure they are environmentally conscious

Skin Cancer Prevention

UV radiation plays a significant role in the development of skin cancer, which is the primary reason why you always want to ensure you are properly protecting your skin when outdoors. When skin is exposed to UV rays from the sun or tanning beds, it can damage and cause mutations in the DNA of skin cells. Over time, these mutations can lead to uncontrolled cell growth and potentially result in skin cancer. To learn more about the effects UV exposure can have on your health click here.

UV radiation is a well-known risk factor for skin cancer, and it's never too early to start thinking about prevention. While skin cancer can affect people of all ages, the damage caused by UV rays accumulates over time, increasing the risk with prolonged exposure. Therefore, it's crucial to start practicing sun safety habits from a young age to minimize the risk of developing skin cancer later in life.

UV protection is important for everyone, regardless of skin color. While it is true that individuals with darker skin have more natural protection against UV rays due to higher levels of melanin, this does not mean they are completely immune to the harmful effects of sun exposure. People with darker skin can still experience sunburn, premature aging, and an increased risk of skin cancer if exposed to UV radiation without protection.

Skin cancer can indeed develop in the eyes, particularly on the eyelids or the thin skin around the eyes. This type of cancer is known as ocular melanoma or eye melanoma. It is crucial to protect your eyes from harmful UV rays by wearing sunglasses that block both UVA and UVB rays to reduce the risk of developing skin cancer on the eyelids and surrounding areas. Regular eye exams can also help detect any abnormalities early on. If you notice any changes in your vision, eye color, or size of your pupils, it's essential to consult an eye care professional promptly for further evaluation and management.

If you ever have any concerns, you should always consult with a dermatologist or medical professional first. While skin cancer is sometimes obvious, often times it may appear to look like a normal mole to the untrained eye.

With that being said, one of the easy ways we’ve learned to check for potentially cancerous spots on the skin is The ABCs of Skin Cancer. Look for things like:

  • A: Asymmetry, a spot with one half that is very different from the other
  • B: Border, blurry or uneven edges
  • C: Color, potentially cancerous moles often have a wide variety of colors, sometimes looking more like a bruise than a spot.
  • D: Diameter, melanomas are often larger in size, usually about 1/4" or larger in diameter.
  • E: Evolving, spots that are actively changing in size, color, or anything else.

To learn more about the ABCs of skin cancer and best practices in recognizing early signs of skin cancer click here. But again, if you have concerns you should always seek the opinion of a medical professional.

While a tan may give the appearance of protection against UV damage, it is important to understand that it is not an effective method of preventing future harm from UV exposure. It's actually the opposite - UVA rays, the ones which cause skin tanning, directly contribute to the development of skin cancer.

Seeing a dermatologist regularly is essential for maintaining healthy skin. For most people, it is recommended to schedule a visit with a dermatologist at least once a year for a general check-up and to address any specific skin concerns. However, if you have a history of skin conditions or are experiencing new issues such as acne, unusual moles, or persistent rashes, it's best to consult with a dermatologist more frequently.