It may not be the most fun part of packing for vacation, but your sun protection strategy is imperative to consider because the facts are scary. In the United States alone, there has been a 53 percent increase in melanoma cases for the past decade and “about 90 percent of non-melanoma skin cancers are associated with exposure to ultraviolet radiation from the sun,” according to the Skin Cancer Foundation (SCF).
And while most people think of sunscreen as the best defense against the sun’s harmful rays, institutions like the SCF and the Center for Disease Control say the first line of defense against UV radiation is actually your clothing. And unfortunately, a regular cotton T-shirt won’t really do much for you.
In fact, it’s estimated that your go-to white tee has an SPF rating lower than 15 and if that tee gets wet, then its rating plummets even further. That’s why your best bet to protect your skin is to invest in UPF clothing. While SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor and measures how long your sunscreen will protect you from ultraviolet rays, UPF stands for Ultraviolet Protection Factor and indicates how much of the sun’s UV rays are absorbed by the fabric instead of your skin. For example, if a piece of clothing is rated UPF 50, only two percent of the sun’s rays can make it through.
For that reason, UPF sunwear is made from tightly woven fabrics and is usually treated with some sort of chemical UV absorber, making them even more effective. And fortunately, a lot of brands — like Lilly Pulitzer, Lands’ End, and Athleta — have now launched special UPF lines that include a large range of items that go way beyond rash guards and swimwear.
Still not convinced? The benefits of sun-protective clothes aren’t just for your health but for that of the environment, as well. If you get in the habit of wearing sun-protective clothing on the beach, you will end up using a lot less sunscreen, which is one of the main culprits of ocean pollution and coral reef damage.
Here we rounded up 17 cute pieces, all of which have been rated UPF 30 or above for maximum sun protection.
Courtesy of J.Crew
J.Crew Long-sleeve Rash Guard SPF 50
This classic rash guard offers maximum coverage, has a close fit, and is perfect to wear while practicing your favorite water sport. It has a zipper in the back that makes it easy to take off.
Courtesy of Neiman Marcus
Cover Cropped Zip-front Floral-printed Swim Top UPF 50+
This short-sleeved swim crop-top could also be worn off the beach with shorts or a high-waisted skirt.
Patagonia has created the ultimate packable jacket for your next camping trip. Made from 100 percent recycled polyester, this lightweight zip-up has a water-repellent layer and packs into a small stow pocket. It also has two large zippered pockets that will keep your belongings dry and safe.
Wear this cool jacket over your bathing suit when you’re working out in the water. The fabric is chlorine- and salt water–resistant and dries really fast. The sleeves have thumb holes for extra coverage and protection.
This classic tee features a cowl neckline, short sleeves, and a straight fit. It is made with 95 percent soft Tencel, a cotton alternative, and five percent spandex. It is breathable and wicks away moisture.
Stay cool as a cucumber this summer thanks to Columbia’s Zero performance fabric, which lowers skin temperature, wicks away moisture, and blocks harmful UV rays. This tank dress has an empire waist for maximum comfort and knee-high side splits.
Whether you are headed for brunch or are exploring a new European city this summer, an easy-to-wear dress is a must-have. This V-neck Woolrich number has a fitted waist and an A-line skirt that hits just above the knee. It is the quintessential summer dress that wicks away moisture and dries fast.
Royal Robbins Spotless Traveler Tank Dress UPF 50+
This is the dress every traveler needs to have. Not only does the stretchy fabric shield your skin from UV rays, but it wicks away moisture and is also wrinkle- and stain-resistant. The adjustable self-tie waist lets you adjust the fit and silhouette of the dress to your preference.
Instead of sweating on the treadmill at the hotel gym, take advantage of the beautiful weather and go for a run outside. These tights are fitted through the hip and the thigh and offer exceptional stretch and moisture-wicking qualities.
If you’re planning on doing a lot of hiking this summer, these skinny, sun-protective pants are your best clothing option. They are made from breathable, quick-drying fabric and feature side pockets and an internal drawcord that lets you adjust the fit.