25th Aug 2016
Why is sun protection clothing so important?
As with anything related to our everyday lives, when it comes to sun protection clothingand the many reasons why you should wear it; it’s generally a question of going back to the basics of sun protection. To do this, we can start with the primary cause of skin damage, sunlight, which contains invisible rays of ultraviolet (UV) radiation. If you are overexposed to these rays, it may result not only in a dose of sunburn but, accelerated skin ageing and even cancer. By using an appropriate sunscreen and wearing sun protection clothing you can achieve the primary forms of protection against dangerous UV rays.
The crucial UPF factor
While most fabrics offer a certain degree of protection against UV radiation, it is generally recognized that the most effective protective clothing is that with an Ultra Violet Protection Factor (UPF) rating. This is determined on a scale of between a 15 rating, which is good and a 50 plus, which is excellent. A crucial factor in the need to wear UPF-rated sun protection clothing includes those who are fair-skinned and sun-sensitive people, as well as children. In addition, this high concern factor is extended to people who spend significant amounts of time at high elevations, equatorial regions or on reflective surfaces; for example, water or snow. Although darker skinned people are less likely to suffer from sunburn, it is generally recognized that wearing UPF-rated clothing, offers everyone increased protection against UV-related health risks.
About the UPF factor
UPF is a rating system, used for wearing apparel similar to the SPF (Sun Protection Factor) for sunscreen products. It shows consumers how effective various fabrics perform in protecting their skin from ultraviolet (UV) rays and as stated previously, the higher the UPF rating number; the more effective is the sun protection clothing. The UPF process provides the capacity for gauging the effectiveness of a fabric in relation to protection against ultraviolet A (UVA) as well as UVB light. However, it is not only visible light and other spectrums that place our skin at risk. The light from the sun also includes invisible ultraviolet radiation or (UV-R), with overexposure to the UV spectrum being associated not only with skin cancer; but, also the acceleration of skin ageing and wrinkling, as well as weakening the immune system of our bodies.
Sun Protection Clothing
It is the opinion of various skin-care experts that sun protection clothing has the ability to shield our skin more effectively from UV light than sunscreen. The influencing reasons for this are that in many instances sunscreen lotions are applied too thinly. This can result in not giving our skin sufficient protection, in accordance with the available stated SPF rating. Another factor is that again in many cases, re-application is neglected. It could be argued that it was these factors that helped influence Australian researchers in developing the initial fabric testing procedures related to UV transmission and the creation of a sun protection clothing UPF rating system in the 1990s, which was subsequently voluntarily adopted by clothing manufacturers. It is a sequence of events that demonstrates the importance attached to the issues surrounding the need for awareness regarding protection from the sun and UV rays.
All fabrics in various manners can impact on the transmission of UV radiation, a statement that could be misinterpreted, is that “fabrics absorb UV rays.” Any impression that a fabric has the ability to literally “soak-up” UV rays is misguided. During the interaction between ultraviolet radiation and sun protection clothing, the energy generated by UV rays is altered by being converted into heat, which renders the majority of rays harmless. It is realistic that some clothing garments are more effective than others, which can be influenced by factors like dyes, garment construction and fabric treatments.
Clothing construction and child protection
When considering the construction of sun protection clothing; the density and tight construction of the weave or knitting can minimize the space between the yarns. This, in turn, reduces the volume of UV light able to pass through them, with thicker fabrics helping in the reduction of UV transmission. In certain instances, vents are utilised to boost the circulation of air in some tightly constructed UPF-rated clothing, which also has a cooling effect on the wearer. Thicker fabrics also help reduce UV transmission, with sun protection clothingbeingaccepted as a reliable degree of safety for children, especially those who do not accept sunscreen lotions.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the USA, report that the benefits for children who wear sun protection clothing are long term. By sustaining only a minimal number of serious sunburns, the risk of a child developing skin cancer later in their life, is increased.