A Head-To-Toe Guide to Sun-Protective Clothing

Let the sun know that you’re not playing games anymore.


So the sun gotcha good even though you were wearing sunscreen. Happens to the best of us! It sounds like you need to step up your sun-protection game, though, and that may mean investing in some sun-protective clothing. If you need guidance, tag along — we asked a couple dermatologists for their head-to-toe recommendations.

For Your Head
Bigger is better when it comes to the sun protection provided by hats. Baseball caps may look nice and casual, but dermatologist Anthony Rossi says they provide no protection for your ears, and therefore wide-brimmed hats are a safer choice. Robert Brodell, chairman of the Department of Dermatology at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, adds, “A full-brimmed hat offers a lot more sun protection to the cheeks and chin than a baseball cap.”

You should also have sunglasses with UV protection as part of your anti-sun wardrobe, since Rossi warns that bare eyeballs are susceptible to cataracts (clouding of the eye lens), macular degeneration (deterioration of the retina) and even skin cancer around the eyes.

For Your Torso and Legs
Longer sleeves and pants provide more sun protection than shorter sleeves and shorts, obviously. Rossi says you can purchase long-sleeve shirts and sun-protective pants designed to provide sun protection, usually by being made up of a tight weave that blocks the sun. He recommends companies like Coolibar, Solbari or Solumbra. “The reason why sun-protective clothing is nice is because it’s more lightweight and faster drying than traditional cotton-based fabrics,” Rossi explains. Brodell warns, however, that sun-protective clothing can lose its protectiveness over time, so you may need to replace it every couple years.

The clothes you already own may also get the job done. “Darker colors and tighter weaves of fabric block out more ultraviolet radiation,” Rossi explains. For example, as the American Academy of Dermatology explained in a recent press release, “A long-sleeved denim shirt provides an SPF of about 1,700, while a white T-shirt provides an SPF of about 7.” Keep in mind also that wet clothes provide less sun protection than dry clothes.

For Everywhere Else
Socks and shoes will keep your feet protected, and if you want to go full screw-the-sun mode, you could don gloves. But even with an entire outfit designed to protect you from the sun, Rossi says, “Using sunscreen on the exposed areas is a must.”

It might seem like a lot of work, but hey, that’s what you gotta do when you’re dealing with a giant space fireball.