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Why Sun Protective Clothing Is So Special

UPF Clothing (also called Sun protective clothing) is not just for people concerned about skin cancer. It is not just for those whose sun-worshipping days are over. No, throwing on a sun protective shirt with a UPF 30+ value is a proactive decision wise consumers are making simply to live healthier. Sun-protective clothing is an investment in oneself. It is preventative, similar to dedicating a portion of one's day to diet or exercise.

With 1.3 million Americans expected to be diagnosed with skin cancers this year (including deadly melanoma), health professionals are starting to drop the word "epidemic" in sun vs. skin reports. Aside from cancers, excessive ultraviolet radiation comes with a slew of consequences, including premature wrinkling, immune suppression, cataracts, and the "fever blister."

Although the greatest defense against the sun is to simply avoid it, especially during the hours when the UV index is at its highest, this is not always possible or a popular choice. According to a recent article in the BBC News, a team of Swiss researchers reported that sun-protective clothing is the healthiest option aside from simply staying out of the sun. UK scientists agreed in urging that sunscreen should only be used as a "last line of defense."

Were these scientists sunscreen haters? Of course not. They simply found (in the course of their 500 studies of how people protect their skin around the world) that sunscreen was virtually ineffective. This is due mostly to consumer misuse. People put on sunscreen only after they notice themselves turning red or use it as an excuse to stay in the sun all day. Also, of those who do apply it, most neglect to use a liberal enough amount or coat the sunscreen evenly across the skin's surface.

More foolproof and more protective are technologically advanced sun-protective clothes. Although all clothing would logically seem to be sun-protective, the degree to which this is true varies greatly depending on the type of fiber, fabric thickness, color, and tightness of weave/knit. For example, an ordinary a summer weight light-colored cotton shirt may afford a sun-protection-factor (SPF) of 6. This number is decidedly insufficient to be spending all day outdoors.

What happens when the sun's rays strike a fabric's surface? The ultraviolet radiation is broken down. A portion is reflected from the fabric, another portion is absorbed, and the remaining portion reaches the skin.

Studies performed by Gambichler et al. showed that while 70% of wool, polyester, and fabric blends may provide an ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) of 30 or greater, less than 30% of cotton, linen and rayon provide up to a value of 30. Fabrics colored black, navy-blue and green fare better than lighter colors of the same fabric. Also, dry fabrics protect more than do moist or wet.

On the basis of this study, conducted in 2000-2001, scientists concluded that the average consumer, even if armed with this knowledge, would be confused as to what garments to purchase. In response, a standard guide was developed for the labeling of ultraviolet protective textiles called Ultraviolet Protection Factor or UPF.

The UPF method is the standard technique for measuring the protective value of textiles. American producers are not required to follow these standards; if they do they do so voluntarily or out of a sense of ethics.

UPF is a measure of total ultraviolet radiation blocked, both UV-B and UV-A. The measurement of UV-A protection in clothing offers an improvement over the traditional SPF rating of sunscreens, which measures only UV-B radiation. The total radiation penetration is measured by a radiometer. If a garment has a UPF factor of 50 attached to it, this means that just 1/50th of the sun's radiation will reach the skin.

As studies show, aside from staying indoors, UPF clothing offers the best form of protection from the sun's harmful ultraviolet rays. The good news is that you don't need to sacrifice fashion and comfort to keep you and your loved ones safe under the sun.

SunGrubbies.com searches the globe over for unique and stylish sun protective clothing and accessories of the highest quality to satisfy your special sun protective needs. Noted by each product is it UPF/SPF rating and the percentage UV blocked by the fabric. Sun concerned inventors and designers from Canada to Australia to the good old USA are showcased on our SunGrubbies.com website.

This material is provided for information only. It is not a substitute for your doctor or health care provider. If you have any health questions or concerns you should see your doctor or health care provider.

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