Wearing UPF fabric is one of the very best ways to protect yourself from the harmful UV rays emitted by the sun. But what is UPF fabric, and how do you find clothes made with highly-rated UPF fabric? I’m going to go over everything you need to know about UPF fabric, including why hemp is the ultimate choice when it comes to safely protecting your skin from UV rays.
WHAT IS UPF FABRIC?
UPF fabric is a fabric that helps to protect your skin from harmful UVA and UVB rays from the sun. UPF stands for “ultraviolet protection factor” and offers a rating system for how well a fabric can protect your skin from UV rays. The higher the UPF rating, the better protected you are from the sun.
The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends wearing clothing with a 50+ UPF rating, like clothing made with natural hemp fabric. A 50+ UPF rating means that less than 1/50th of UV rays can penetrate the fabric, or less than 2 percent. Here’s an easy-to-understand breakdown of UPF ratings:
UPF FABRIC VS SPF FABRIC?
While you may encounter the term “SPF fabric,” there’s actually no such thing—SPF refers to sunscreen, and UPF is what we use to rate sun protective clothing. SPF stands for “sun protection factor,” and measures how long it takes for skin exposed to UV-rays to redden. Another distinction: SPF only refers to UVB rays, while UPF measures both UVA and UVB rays.
Of course, wearing sunscreen is a great way to protect yourself from the sun. So be sure to lather up when you’ll be outside catching rays, especially between peak daytime hours (9 am-3 pm). However, experts consider proper clothing, like those made from hemp fabric, one of the best ways to protect yourself from the sun.
THE BEST UV PROTECTIVE FABRIC OPTIONS
There are quite a few factors that affect the exact UPF rating of a garment, which we’ll get into shortly, but there are still a few fabrics that offer better UPF than others. Here are some of the top UPF fabric options available today, ranked from third to first place:
3RD PLACE: WOOL & DENIM
Both of these fabric options are relatively natural and offer decent UPF protection. In fact, one study found that over 70 percent of wool fabric samples offered 50+ UPF. Wearing denim or wool to protect yourself from the sun is a great way to do so healthily and naturally, but there’s one major downside.
While these two fabrics can protect your skin really well from UVA and UVB rays, they’re also way too heavy for warm weather. If I had to throw on wool and denim every time I went outside, you’d probably find me holed up inside rather than sweating it out in my thick wool sweaters!
2ND PLACE: SYNTHETIC FABRICS
Nylon and polyester are two popular synthetic fabric options for good UPF protection. Polyester in particular is a strong contender; the same study as before found that over 76 percent of polyester fabric samples offered 50+ UPF—even better than wool!
- Polyester is partially derived from petroleum and not biodegradable at all.
- Manufacturing nylon produces heavy amounts of nitrous oxide, a pollutant 300 times more potent than CO2.
- Both synthetic fabrics require lots of energy and water to make, which contributes to global warming and environmental pollution.
1ST PLACE: HEMP
Hemp is known for its natural sun protective qualities, plus it offers the best of both worlds: natural just like wool, and even more breathable in heat than synthetics. Don’t take my word for it though, just take a look at the independent, third-party testing WAMA had done by SGS testing.
Hemp fabric turned out to be 99.9 percent effective in blocking UVA and UVB rays! This means that hemp is officially 50+ UPF and ranked “excellent” for sun protection. Even better? Results didn’t change when the fabric was wet, which is pretty major. No need to worry about sweat ruining your sun protection, or wearing hemp for a swim and losing all those protective benefits.
For a detailed breakdown of just how awesome hemp is when it comes to UPF, download the full report here.
FACTORS THAT AFFECT FABRIC UV PROTECTION
While clothes may come with an established UPF rating, there are a few factors that’ll change exactly what quality of sun protection you get. Here’s what to be aware of when looking for sun protection fabric:
- Weave: fabric with a tighter weave provides better sun protection because it allows less sunlight through the tiny holes in the fabric. Hemp fabric has a nice, tight weave that keeps your skin well-protected.
- Weight: a thicker, heavier weave will also make for better UV protection fabric for the same reason; that’s why wool and denim are so effective at blocking the sun.
- Color: darker colors are better at refracting sunlight and keeping it from reaching your skin than lighter colors.
Durability: the more you wear out your UPF fabric, the less effective it’s going to be at protecting you from the sun. That’s one reason hemp is the top choice for UV protective fabric—it gets softer with every wash, but is much more durable than most other fabrics!
5 TIPS TO MAKE YOUR SUN PROTECTION FABRIC WORK BEST
Because there are so many factors affecting your UPF fabric, it’s important to heed the following tips to ensure you stay protected from harmful UVA and UVB rays.
1. CHOOSE FABRICS WITH A PROVEN, TESTED UPF RATING.
As more people become aware of UV protective fabric and the role it plays in protecting you from the sun and preventing skin cancer, the more misinformation spreads about the best UPF fabric options. To make sure you’re getting the facts, always look for clothing and products with a proven, tested UPF rating, ideally from a non-partial third party.
That’s why we use SGS testing on our WAMA Underwear hemp fabric, so we can be completely transparent with you so you can make the best decision for your own sun protection.
2. SIZE UP, NOT DOWN.
For the best UPF protection, you want to make sure that your clothing isn’t too tight. If UPF fabric is stretched tightly over your body, it’ll lengthen the weave of the fabric and decrease the UPF rating.
Always check the size chart when ordering clothes with UPF protection to make sure it’ll fit you properly and not too tightly. The good news? WAMA hemp underwear is inclusively sized from S to 3XL for mens underwear and XS to 2XL for women, so you’re guaranteed to find your perfect fit!
3. BE MINDFUL OF MOISTURE.
Unfortunately, not all fabric is as incredible as hemp. While goodies like mens boxers and bikini underwear made with hemp can get wet from water or sweat and protect you just as well from the sun’s rays, many fabrics decrease in UPF rating when damp or wet. If you’re going to be sweating a lot, definitely opt for hemp, or at least have a change of clothes at the ready!
4. GO TO THE DARK SIDE.
Dark colors protect your skin better than light colors because they more effectively absorb and reflect sunlight. So for the best UPF fabric, go for dark colors like black, navy, and deep gray. The good news? All hemp underwear from WAMA is available in black—so whether you’re partial to thong underwear or high waisted underwear, you’re good to go.
5. WASH GENTLY.
UPF fabrics treated for sun protection wear out the more that they’re washed, so treat them carefully for longer-lasting UV protection fabric. Overall, if an item of clothing is super worn out, it’s less likely to protect you as effectively. To keep your fabric UV protection at it’s best, I recommend hand washing. Here are quick and easy guides for how to hand wash bras and how to hand wash underwear.
Luckily, hemp is one of the longest and strongest fibers in the world, so UPF clothing made from hemp is bound to last far longer than most options!
CONCLUSION: BEST UPF FABRIC OPTIONS FOR ULTIMATE SUN PROTECTION
Wearing UV protective fabric is scientifically-proven as one of the best ways to protect your skin from sun exposure, premature aging, and even skin cancer. But not all UPF fabric is created the same: most options available today are either too heavy to be worn out in the sun, or highly synthetic and not good for your skin or the environment.
For the very best fabric UV protection, choose hemp! It’s all-natural, biodegradable, breathable, and extremely durable. From hemp shorts to a hemp face mask, there are so many ways to incorporate hemp fabric into your daily life to be both more sustainable and better protected from UV rays.
Did you know about hemp’s natural sun protection qualities? What kind of UPF fabric is your favorite? Let me know in the comments!