One of the greatest barriers you can erect in the face of the sun's dangerous UV rays is a covering of clothing: wide-brimmed hats and long-sleeved shirts and pants. While any kind of fabric offers some degree of defense from ultraviolet (UV) radiation, UV protective clothing is specially manufactured and treated for optimum shielding and is an option worth considering for anyone who spends much time outside.
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The danger is real. Some 90 percent of skin-cancer cases in the U.S. stem from sun exposure. Other effects of prolonged sun exposure include sunburn and photo-aging. Two kinds of UV radiation, distinguished by their wavelengths, threaten humans: ultraviolet A (UVA), the most common, and ultraviolet B (UVB), much of which, but not all, is absorbed in the planet's ozone layer (a third kind of radiation, ultraviolet C, is exceedingly harmful, but the ozone layer absorbs it before it reaches the surface).
Sunscreen - chosen and used appropriately - can make a big difference in repelling UV radiation, but many people fail to apply it liberally and frequently enough to adequately protect themselves. We may also neglect to apply protection on overcast days, although dangerous reflected UV radiation can still be a factor then.
When UV radiation hits fabric, it tends to dissipate in destructive power, but that fabric's make and design hugely influence how well it shields. Specialized features exhibited by UVprotective clothing may include particularly dense knits or weaves and radiation-blocking dyes and chemical treatments. Certain fabrics, such as polyester and nylon, are better than others at shielding skin from UV light.
Garments are rated with an Ultraviolet Protection Factor, or UPF, that reflects the extent of their UV-shielding capabilities. The higher the rating, the better. The UPF categories range from "good" (UPF 15-24); “very good” (UPF 25-39); and "excellent" (40-50+). The actual numbers used relate to the proportion of available UV radiation that can penetrate through the fabric.
Here at drugstore.com, we provide a broad selection of UV protective clothing in the sun care collection. Look above all for the UPF rating. Don't neglect head covering: wide-brimmed and “legionnaire-style” billed hats protect your hair, the crown of your head, face, neck, and shoulders - critical areas that often receive the brunt of sun exposure.
While UV protective clothing is a fine choice for shielding yourself from the sun, it's not the only line of defense you should pursue. If you can, stay inside or in shade between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., the interval when radiation is typically most intense. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends a handy rule of thumb if you're without a timepiece: if you're taller than your shadow, you should get out of the sun. Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen of adequate strength, and reapply regularly. Remember that surfaces such as water and snow reflect sunlight with particular intensity, so take extra care to swath yourself in protective clothing and sunscreen when boating, skiing and the like.
Don't take chances with UV radiation. Alongside sensible behavioral practices and the use of sunscreen, consider UV-protective clothing so you can enjoy some peace of mind when adventuring - and relaxing - in the great outdoors.
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