Jun 18, 2018, 10:40:13 AM CDT Jun 10, 2024, 2:21:02 PM CDT

A guide to sun protection clothing for children

Protect your child's skin from sun damage with UV-protective clothing.

Little boy in rash guard outside wearing sunglasses Little boy in rash guard outside wearing sunglasses

The hot summer months are a good time to take stock of how to best protect your child's skin. One option is to wear sun protective UPF (ultraviolet protection factor) clothing, which reduces exposure to harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays and minimizes your child's risk of sunburn. However, it's still important to use in combination with other sun protection measures, such as applying sunscreen and seeking shade during peak sun hours.

What is UPF clothing and sun protection clothing?

All clothing offers some degree of sun protection. But sun protection clothing offers more protection because it's made using a tighter weave that scatters UV rays and prevents them from hitting the skin.

UPF clothing is rated similar to sunscreen, using a "UPF" instead of "SPF" (sun protection factor). UPF refers to how many UV rays can pass through clothing and reach the skin.

The difference between a cotton shirt and a UPF shirt is:

  • A white cotton shirt has a UPF rating of about 5, which means it allows 20% (or 1/5th) of the sun's UV rays to pass through the fabric.
  • A UPF shirt with a rating of 50 blocks 98% of the sun's UV rays, only allowing 2% (or 1/50th) to pass through the fabric.

Does sun protection clothing for kids work?

Sun protection clothing does work. Sun protection clothing is especially effective for babies and kids who may have sensitive skin. It is also a great option for kids who spend a long time outside. But keep in mind that it may not cover important areas that can get burned like your child's neck or ears.

UPF protection does go down when the clothing gets wet. But if you use clothing with a UPF of 50 or higher, it should still provide plenty of protection while swimming.

Where can I find sun protection clothing for kids?

You can find sun protection clothing at major retailers, specialty stores, sporting goods stores, children's clothing stores, swimwear stores and online. Some brands even offer sun protective blankets.

Did you know? Sun protection clothing is lighter weight and breathable, so it's more comfortable in hot and humid weather. It's also more stylish – so your kids may not mind wearing it.

How else can I protect my child from the sun?

Sun protection clothing should be worn in combination with these other sun safety measures to prevent sun damage:

  1. Apply (and reapply) sunscreen: Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a high SPF (sun protection factor) of 30 or above. Apply it generously to all exposed skin, including the face, neck, arms and legs. Reapply at least every two hours if your child is sweating or swimming.
  2. Seek shade: Encourage your child to stay in shaded areas, especially during peak sun hours between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. when the sun's rays are the strongest.
  3. Wear a hat and sunglasses: Have your child wear a wide-brimmed hat that shades their face, neck and ears. And have them wear sunglasses with UV protection to shield their eyes from harmful rays.
  4. Limit sun exposure: Try to minimize your child's exposure to the sun, especially during those peak hours. Plan outdoor activities earlier in the morning or later in the afternoon when the sun is less intense.
  5. Use protective accessories: Consider using a beach umbrella or a sunshade when you're at the beach or other sunny places.
  6. Boost sun protection to regular clothes: SunGuard is a laundry additive that can add temporary UPF protection to regular clothes. The protection usually lasts for about 20 washes. SunGuard can be found online and at several major retailers.

Learn more

For more information about keeping your child safe and healthy during the hot summer months, read more summer safety articles.

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