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How to choose summer long sleeve shirts for sun protection

Sun protection is most effective when you take multiple approaches, such as wearing high-quality sunscreen, sun-protective clothing, and hats. We love summer long sleeve shirts for the protection they offer. They can be fashionable and don’t have to overheat or constrict you. Not just any regular long sleeve shirt works, though. For the best safeguards against the sun, take these eight factors into account when selecting a shirt:

1. UPF rating

UPF numbers on clothing labels are similar to the sun protection factor numbers with sunscreen. A higher number equals more protection. A UPF rating of 15 offers minimum protection with about 6.7% UV radiation pass-through. A rating of 30 offers good protection with about 3.3% UV transmission. UPF ratings of 50+ are excellent with less than 2% UV transmission.

You do not see ratings that go under UPF 15 because these garments do not offer sun protection per se. White cotton T-shirts, for example, have UPF 5 ratings with about 20% UV transmission. The UPF drops to 3 if the shirt gets wet. (Conversely, the UPF of a dark, long-sleeved denim shirt is about 1,700.)

The Skin Cancer Foundation says that fabrics must be UPF 30 or above to qualify for its seal of recommendation. In other words, avoid shirts with ratings under UPF 30 when looking for sun protection. We look for UPF 50+ when possible.

When you shop for summer long sleeve shirts, look for the UPF rating on labels or hangtags. If you do not see a rating, there are other ways to estimate how well a particular garment protects against the sun.

2. Shirt construction, fiber type, and color (if there’s no UPF rating)

Choose thicker over thinner fabrics, since density typically means less UV transmission. Hold a shirt up to the light to test its density. If you can see through the fabric, get another shirt. UV rays transmit too easily through cloth that lets light pass through.

Darker colors offer more UV protection than lighter colors do, and brighter colors offer more protection than paler colors. The composition and treatment of your shirt are important, too. For example, fiber, polyester, and nylon do well in blocking UV rays. Shiny polyester can reflect radiation and be highly protective. Silk and wool do OK, while hemp, cotton, and rayon are not that great.

3. Loose fit

Loose-fitting shirts keep fabrics intact and allow for more air movement and cooling. On the other hand, tight shirts are prone to allowing more light through as the fibers stretch.

However, if a shirt is prone to shrinkage when you wash it, that is a good thing for UPF. Shrinkage means a tighter weave.

4. Activity

Many activities cause clothes to stretch or get wet. Both decrease the protectiveness of shirts. Consider changing summer long sleeve shirts every few hours if you are out all day moving and getting constantly wet or sweaty.

That said, you can get shirts with high UPFs that also feature insect repellency, water repellency, and grid mesh construction for comfort and a cooling effect.

5. Newness

The effectiveness of summer long sleeve shirts for sun protection decreases when the shirts are faded, worn, or stretched. Shirts that are a few years old typically offer significantly less protection than a comparable brand-new shirt.

Fortunately, the inherent properties that give a shirt a high UPF rating generally stay stable. Clothing with displayed UPF numbers should retain that rating until it gets faded or worn out.

6. Extensions for more coverage

Some shirts have neck gaiters, cuffs that you can flip out to cover your hands, and/or flip-up sun collars. It’s also possible to get lightweight shirts with hoodies. These options for extended coverage and sun protection offer extra flexibility.

7. Cleanliness

Opt for clean shirts over dirty shirts. In fact, you should wash all your sun protective clothing regularly. The process cleans the fabrics of body oils, dirt, sunscreen, and other contaminants that could hinder the effectiveness of inherent fabric properties.

8. The rest of your outfit

A sun-protective outfit typically includes a hat and sunglasses in addition to summer long sleeve shirts. You can buy them all at the same time for fashion coordination purposes or ease of use.

A broad brim hat with a UPF 50+ rating typically offers the most reliable sun protection. If you’ll be in windy conditions, look for a hat with a chin strap. Ideally, the hat brim should offer 3 inches of shade for your face, scalp, neck, shoulders, and upper back. As with shirts, look for tightly woven hats over those with loose construction.

For sunglasses, look for shades that block 99 to 100% of ultraviolet A and B light (UVA and UVB light). Also be sure not to forget the sunscreen on any exposed skin.

Wearing summer long sleeve shirts as part of maximum sun protection

People have used summer long sleeve shirts for years to protect their skin. Sunscreen is relatively new to humankind, so take a look at how people have shielded themselves from the sun over the years and learn better ways to protect yourself today.