Sun-protective clothing

J Cutan Med Surg. 1998 Jul;3(1):50-3. doi: 10.1177/120347549800300115.


Background: Topical sunscreens have been used for many years on exposed areas (i.e., hands, face) to protect the skin from the damaging effects of ultraviolet radiation. Most people do not use sunscreens on their bodies when they are wearing clothes. An average weight cotton T shirt gives only a sun protection factor (SPF) of 7. This is inadequate protection when out of doors. Therefore, clothing with adequate sunscreening properties should be worn.

Objective: The purpose of this study is to identify the factors in clothing fabrics that contribute to or detract from blocking ultraviolet radiation and to recommend criteria for establishing a standard for sunprotective clothing.

Method: The study involves a review of the dermatologic and textile literature to identify various factors in fabrics that contribute to blocking ultraviolet radiation through textiles.

Conclusion: For fabrics, the term ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) is used as the measure of ultraviolet radiation penetration through the fabric. The UPF of a fabric depends upon fiber content and weave, fabric colour, finishing processes, and the presence of additives. The performance of a fabric depends upon stretching, shrinkage, hydration, laundering, and wear of the fabric over time. Based upon these criteria the minimum CDA standard UPF for clothing should be 40 to 50+.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Clothing / standards*
  • Humans
  • Sunburn / prevention & control
  • Sunlight / adverse effects*
  • Textiles
  • Ultraviolet Rays / adverse effects