Jun 18, 2018, 10:40:13 AM CDT Jul 24, 2023, 4:08:23 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

Research shows that just five serious sunburns can greatly increase a child's risk of developing skin cancer later in life. The hot summer months are a good time to take stock of how parents can best protect their children's skin.

One product getting a lot of buzz is sun-protective clothing, also known as UV (ultraviolet) swimwear or UPF (ultraviolet protection factor) clothing. Parents often wonder if UPF clothing works to protect the skin.

Sun protective clothing is designed to provide a physical barrier between the skin and harmful UV rays from the sun. By wearing sun protective clothing, children can reduce their exposure to UV radiation and minimize the risk of sunburn. However, it's still important to use, in combination, other sun protection measures such as applying sunscreen and seeking shade during peak sun hours.

What is UPF clothing and sun protection clothing?

Sun-protective clothing protects the skin from damaging UV rays and sunburn. It is manufactured using a tighter weave or thread that scatters UV rays and prevents them from hitting the skin.

Clothing is rated similarly to sunscreen, but by using a "UPF", instead of the more familiar "SPF" (sun protection factor) rating. UPF refers to how many UV rays can pass through clothing and reach the skin. For example, a shirt with a UPF rating of 70 means the clothing blocks 70% of the sun's ultraviolet rays.

Sun-protective clothing provides a greater level of protection against UV rays compared to regular clothing, although all clothing does offer some degree of sun protection. For instance, a white cotton shirt has a UPF rating of about 7, which means it only blocks out 7% of the sun's UV rays. Compare that to a shirt with a UPF of 70, or even 30, and it's easy to see how much better sun protective clothing can help protect the skin.

Does sun protection clothing for kids work, and how long does UPF clothing last?

Sun protective clothing is very effective but it's important to keep a few things in mind when wearing sun-protective clothing and caring for it.

While UPF doesn't wear off like sunscreen, consumers should keep in mind that while wet, UPF is usually cut in half.

A shirt with a UPF of 70 provides sufficient protection while swimming in a pool or lake, although the level of protection is reduced by approximately 50%.

How else can I protect my child from the sun?

Sun-protective clothing is one way to protect the skin, however there are other tips parents can follow to help prevent sun damage and keep your kids' skin healthy. Here are six tips:

  1. Apply 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 every two hours or more frequently 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 am and 4 pm 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. Additionally, provide 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 the peak hours mentioned earlier. 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 for added protection when spending time at the beach or in open areas with limited shade.
  6. Boost sun protection: Add SunGuard, a laundry additive that can add UPF protection to regular clothes. The protection is temporary and usually comes out after 20 washes. SunGuard can be found online and at several major retailers.

What's some advice for kids who don't want to wear sunscreen or protective clothing? Make putting on sunscreen part of your everyday routine – just like brushing teeth, making the bed or getting dressed, it becomes routine and something they know they can't fight every day.

Also, parents can set an example by also applying sunscreen each day. When your children see you wearing sunscreen, they understand the importance even more.

Where can I find sun-protective clothing for kids?

Sun-protective clothing is more widely available through major retailers, specialty stores, sporting goods stores, children's clothing stores, swimwear stores and online. Some brands even offer sun protective accessories such as blankets.

Sun protective clothing has undergone changes and advancements over the years. Manufacturers have improved the design, fabrics and technology used in sun protective clothing to enhance its effectiveness.

Sun protective clothing now offers more lightweight and breathable options, allowing for greater comfort, especially in hot and humid weather conditions. Manufacturers recognize the importance of making sun protection fashionable and appealing, especially for children. This makes it more likely that kids will wear sun protective clothing willingly

Remember to check the labeling or product descriptions for information on UPF ratings and UV protection features when shopping for sun-protective clothing.

Learn more

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

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