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Finding the perfect hat for sun protection: The ultimate guide

As much as everyone enjoys going outside, excessive sun exposure is dangerous.

To defend yourself against the the sun's harmful rays, you need sunscreen and the right apparel — including a hat for sun protection.

How hats actually protect you from the sun

Exposure to ultraviolet radiation occurs naturally from the sun as well as from artificial sources like tanning beds. UV radiation is non-ionizing radiation that can be harmful with excessive exposure.

A hat protects you against the sun's UV rays.

Risks of sun exposure

The higher the UV index (this is the scale that provides a daily forecast of the expected intensity of UV rays), the more dangerous sun exposure becomes.

Most places deal with the strongest UV radiation between the hours of 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. How harmful the sun is depends on your skin type. While all skin types require sun protection, people with fairer skin may experience irritation or burn after only five to ten minutes outside.

Do not go into the sun with minimal protection. Even brief unprotected exposure can result in painful burns and long-term skin damage.

Too much direct sunlight can also make you feel sick (i.e. sun poisoning).

Fortunately, wearing a hat provides instant shade, cumulatively adding to your total sun protection. Since skin on the face, nose, head, neck and ears is thinner, it’s particularly important to give yourself extra protection with a sun hat.

Your best bet is to wear a broad brim hat with a UPF50+ rating. 

Here are just a few reasons why making a hat a part of your daily routine will protect your skin in the long run. 

Skin conditions

Spending a lot of time in the sun can lead to the development of various skin conditions.

Skin cells with melanin may start to form clumps that result in freckles and moles. Melanoma is a rare skin cancer that can become lethal when left untreated. You can prevent skin cancer by using sunscreen and a hat for sun protection.

Sun exposure may also worsen skin concerns such as hyperpigmentation and melasma. A hat can be helpful in reducing your sun exposure, which may exacerbate these concerns.

Eye damage

Everyone knows what it feels like to be hit with the sun's bright rays after walking outside.

You probably catch yourself squinting and unable to see without sunglasses. Most people know that you cannot stare at the sun without damaging your eyes. But did you don’t even necessarily have to look directly at the sun to develop eye injuries? The UV rays can damage the tissue of your eyes, blur your vision and lead to the development of cataracts.

While a hat can’t block the UV rays being reflected off the ground (sunglasses are best for that), it helps to block rays that shine from above.

Immune System Issues

Not only is sunburn painful, but it can also weaken your immune system.

When your skin is burned, white blood cells create new cells to fight against the burn. However, as your body repairs that damage, you are more defenseless against other illnesses.

Skin aging

Healthy aging is beautiful, but sun damage can cause premature aging. For instance, too much sun can make skin tight and wrinkled, and cause early development of dark spots.

Ways to combat sun exposure

Once you know the risks, you're ready to embark on a protective journey.

If you want to experience the outdoors for long periods, you must be adequately protected against the sun's rays.


Before putting on a hat for sun protection, apply sunscreen. Sunscreen protects against UVA and UVB rays.

To ensure that you're protected, look for a sunscreen that is SPF 30 or higher. Cover all exposed skin with sunscreen to lower the risks from sun exposure. Remember that while sunscreen is effective, you should combine it with other methods for optimal results.


Try to cover your skin with protective clothing as much as possible.

Long sleeves, pants, and long skirts keep your body under cover. For days spent at the beach, use a coverup or long t-shirt to protect your skin when you aren't in the water. Tightly woven fabrics defend you the best. Loose, dark materials offer more protection and can also keep you cooler.

Look for UPF apparel that offers UV protection.

Hat for sun protection

Hats do more than protect your head from the sun; they can also protect your eyes, face, neck and chest area by blocking the sun’s harmful rays.

Bonus:  A hat's brim can improve your vision when you're out on a bright, sunny day.

Top qualities for a protective hat

The options for hats can be overwhelming. How do you know which hat to choose or which will best protect you?

While some hats do little more than serve as an accessory to your outfit, the right choice can be a vital shield against solar damage.

Hat shape

Different hat shapes can be  better or worse for sun protection.

For example, a beret or cap with a small brim won't do much, besides look chic. While it could keep the rays off your scalp, you don't want the sun shining directly on your face for extended periods of time. 

A typical ball cap may help your vision, but it does not offer as much protection as a broad-brimmed bucket hat or a wide, floppy sun hat.

Look for a hat that has a broad brim all the way around; this will provide shade across your face, neck, chest, and shoulders. 

Hat weight

The weight of your hat has more to do with personal preference than protection.

If you have a hat that feels too heavy on your head, odds are you aren't going to wear it for long. Lightweight hats are easier to wear for long hours and easier to store in a suitcase when you want to travel.


If you have a hat that can quickly lose its shape, it might not be a good choice for a vacation full of sun and sand.

Look for floppy hats that are lightweight, crush-proof and can be folded up without losing their shape. The ideal hat is sun-shielding enough to wear with your new swimsuit on the beach and flattering enough to wear to the café afterwards.

A good, packable hat can also handily stay in your bag for any occasion.

UPF rating

Did you know that clothing can have a protective rating, much like sunscreen?

When shopping for a hat, make sure it has a UPF rating. Certain fabrics can protect you better. Some sun protective hats boost a UPF rating of 50+.


Think about the fit, too. If you live in a windy environment or share your hats with friends or family, you don't want a hat that will fall off your head or fly away in the wind. An adjustable hat for sun protection allows you to tighten it when necessary.

Additionally, some hats come with chin straps that make it difficult for the wind to blow your hat off your head. 

Types of hats for sun protection

If you’re worried that sun-protective hats are boring or won’t work with anything in your wardrobe, think again: When it comes to hats, there’s truly a style for everyone.

Derby Hat

When you think of the Kentucky Derby, the hats may be the first thing that comes to mind.

Derby hats serve two purposes. Along with protecting against the hot sun when out on the track, they tend to be high fashion and can come in dramatic colors with wide brims. Straw and polyester tend to be the most common materials.

Bucket Hat

Bucket hats have gone in and out of fashion for years.

Not only is a bucket hat for sun protection a great choice, but because of its shape, it can also protect you from the rain. However, bucket hats offer less protection around your neck and shoulders because of their small brim.

Sun Hat

The typical sun hat features a large, floppy, wide brim.

When you go to the beach, you'll likely spot various sun hats. Usually made from straw or cotton, they typically come in multiple fun colors. You can wear a sunhat with a swimsuit at the beach or dress it up for an after-hours party on vacation.

Visor Hat

A visor is commonly used at sporting events and beaches.

The brim is long and wide to protect your face and eyes, but the visor does not protect your crown. The purpose of a crownless visor is to facilitate heat loss from the top of your head during sports and other events that may make you sweat.

Unfortunately, the visor does not give optimal sun protection over your scalp. Only pick this option if you plan to spend most of your time in the shade.

Water Sport Hat

Sun protection is always essential, but it becomes even more imperative on the water.

When sunlight reflects off the water, it becomes amplified. Polyester and nylon hats do better with water because they don't lose their shape if they become wet.

In addition to water sport hats, you may also use a balaclava. Balaclavas cover your face but leave room for your eyes, nose, and mouth. Some people wear them under helmets or water sport hats. Not only do they protect the face, but they can also cover the neck and shoulders.

There are also hats with neck flaps that make it easy to incorporate protection for your delicate neck area (which is often forgotten in sunscreen applications!).

Gardening Hat

When gardening, you require a hat that doesn't fall off while working and will also protect your face and neck.

Gardening hats are a common hat for sun protection. Typically made of straw for better air circulation, these hats are lightweight and often come with chin straps. They have broad rims that shade the face, shoulders, and neck.

Fedora and Panama Hats

Fedoras are fashionable hats with a wide brim but a pinched crown, and usually a ribbon.

While felt and wool are common materials, you can also find fedoras made of straw and paper that are lighter weight and offer better ventilation on hot days. The type of material you choose depends on the time of year.

Panama hats are similar to the fedora hat. They have a similar shape but are made from lightweight materials from the toquilla palm. You can also find Panama hats in a boater style.

How To Care for Sun Hats

Sun hats require care to keep them clean and appropriately shaped. Without adequate care, your hat may bend or warp out of shape.

Taking care of your hats allows you to wear them for years.

How To Clean

When you spend a lot of time outdoors, you'll need to clean your hat now and again.

Before you begin cleaning, check the label. Some hats will have cleaning labels instructing you on care. Follow the label first. For example, if your hat tells you to dry clean it, dry clean it.

Make sure you know the type of material your hat is made of so you don't risk ruining it.

Most people choose to wash their hat for sun protection by hand. Fill a small bowl or sink with cold water, as using hot water can cause some fabrics to bleed. Use a mild detergent and do not let the water overflow with suds.

Scrub the areas that require the most attention. For instance, focus on the sweatband where the most oils build up.

If your hat can be submerged without discoloration, dip it for about 30 minutes before rinsing it under cold water until all the soap rinses clean.

Most hats should be air dried right side up on a towel. Dry your hat indoors to reduce fading.

How To Store

Sunhat storage depends on the type of hat you own.

For large-brim hats, you can stack them upside down together. Do not rest a hat on its brim because it can bend over time. If you have wig heads, you can also put your hat on one to help it maintain its shape.

There are hat boxes specifically made to keep hats protected and safe. You can stack hat boxes on top of one another for easy storage. For large, floppy hats, you can also hang them on the wall.

Hats with chin straps can hang on a tack or nail to add decoration to your room and to keep them safe and available to wear in the future.

Find a Hat for Sun Protection

At Clair Obscur, we are dedicated to skin protection. For healthy skin, you need sun protection throughout the year. Our apparel is UV-blocking and designed to fit anyone's style. A hat for sun protection should be a must-have on anyone's list.