Ultraviolet rays are really good at penetrating through different materials. You might think that you are safe from sunburn wearing a cotton shirt while walking on the beach, but you could be putting your skin at risk of sunburn, even fully covered in clothing.
Can you tan through clothing? The simple answer is yes, you can. While all materials are different, clothes should not be relied on to prevent the sun’s harmful rays from reaching your skin. When it comes to skin damage, UVB rays are to thank for that. This specific type of ultraviolet radiation cannot make it through most clothing, but UVA rays can, and they can cause damage to the skin.
Tanning Through Clothing – What You Need To Know
Most clothing offers protection of around SFP 4-7, but this is not adequate for extended periods out in the sun. However, there are ways to better your protection when wearing clothes outside in the sun.
Matte Fabrics Absorb Less
Rather than wearing shiny synthetic fabrics, opt for matte fabrics. Shiny fabrics reflect the sun’s rays instead of absorbing them, which in no way helps reduce exposure.
Synthetic material tends to provide better protection. The material is usually tighter knitted or weaved, meaning less UV radiation passing through. Choose to wear fabrics like lycra, polyester, and acrylic instead of cotton when in the sun. Check the denier rating of a fabric to see how thick or tight the weave is.
If you can handle the heat, wearing a few layers of clothing helps the skin’s exposure to the sun. Lighter materials can be layered to help protect your skin, and still feel cool.
Wetting your clothing can reduce the materials UPF protection. Keep dry to reduce your exposure.
Widen Your Hats
A cool-looking peak hat does not provide as much protection as a wide brim hat. The wider the brim, the more protection you have on your forehead, ears, neck, and back. A baseball cap only provides limited protection to your forehead.
Wear Darker Colors
Thinking of wearing darker clothing in summer may make you feel hot on its own, but darker fabrics actually provide more protection than lighter pastels and whites. The darker colors absorb the UV rays which reduce UV exposure. Sun-protective clothing is usually made using darker dyes.
How Do You Tan Through Clothing?
So now that we have established that you can get sunburned through your clothing, it is important to understand why and how it happens. Certain clothing offers more protection from the sun than others, and each item has its own SPF rating.
There are three factors that affect the UPF protection your clothes offer – material, weave, and color.
- Material – The more the material absorbs UV light, the more protection it offers. Material such as polyester absorbs more UV light than cotton, making it a better when out in the sun.
- Weave – A tighter weaved material will let through less UV light than a loosely weaved material. The less light that gets through means the less your skin is burned.
- Color – Darker colors absorb more UV light than light colors. Dyes absorb different frequency of visible light and absorb some UV light as well. Lighter colored or white fabric lets through more UV light and therefore increases the exposure to the sun.
The amount of UV light let through by your clothing will affect the damage done to your skin. It isn’t a good idea to venture into the sun without any sun protection like sunscreen, as your clothes only offer limited protection.
Clothing Is Not Protection From The Sun
While you might be excited at the fact that you can now tan while strolling along the beach in full clothing, it isn’t necessarily a good idea. You will still be able to be burned through your clothing, and you could land up with damage to your skin.
Regular time spent in the sun without protection can lead to lasting damage to your skin, and this could all be from wearing clothes in the sun.
You don’t have to sit in your bikini under the flaming sun on a hot day to get sunburned; simply being in the sun with clothing on is enough to cause significant damage to your skin. Remember to always wear sunscreen, even on cloudy days, if you are going to be spending time outdoors.
SPF vs UPF
Sometimes SPF and UPF can be confused with each other. UPF (Ultraviolet Protection Factor) is the rating system used for the protection provided by fabric or material. SPF (Sun Protection Factor) is the rating system used to measure the protection factor of sunscreens. When looking for the protection your clothing offers from the sun, you will need to look at the UPF rating.
Stock Up On Protection
If you spend quite a bit of time in the sun, it might be worth investing in some sun-protective clothing. These items have a higher ultraviolet protection factor, of up to UPF 50, which really does help reduce the amount of sun reaching the protected areas of skin.
Luckily for those who spend lots of time in the sun, there is sun-protective clothing available. Certain brands have been created specifically to cater to people who need higher clothing protection for the outdoors. These fabrics are densely weaved and are treated with UV-inhibiting ingredients that help them be more effective in reducing exposure.
My absolute favorite brand of sun-protection clothing is Coolibar. You can check out the Coolibar storefront on Amazon. They offer clothing for women, men, kids, and babies, so everyone in your family will be protected.
When looking at buying sun-protective clothing, it is important to remember that the more skin you cover, the less exposure your skin will have. Long-sleeved or full swimming suits will give your body more coverage and protect a larger surface area.
Dyes and fiber structures also play a role in how protective these specialized clothes are, which is why most protective clothing comes in darker colors such as black or indigo. These colors are the most effective when absorbing UV rays.
Sun-protective clothing was designed to be worn during warmer weather, and are usually well-ventilated and have antibacterial properties which help when the material gets wet or when it is exposed to excess sweat. The material is still effective when in contact with sunscreen, and it is always advised to wear sunscreen even when you are covered by sun-protective clothing.
How do I know how much sun protection my clothes have?
The best way to know the UPF rating your clothing has is to read the label or tag. If you can’t find out this way, there is a quick fix way to estimate how much light is getting through. Hold your clothing up to the sun, you will be able to see how much light shines through the material. The more light let in through the material, the less UV protection your clothing has.
How do I make my clothes more UV resistant?
There are ways to make your clothing more UV resistant. There are off-the-shelf laundry detergents that you can purchase that do increase UV protection of clothing. The detergents are sold either as an additive optical brightener or as an additive UV-absorber. These both increase the UV protection of your clothing.
Can I tan under a beach umbrella?
Many people think that beach umbrellas offer enough protection from the sun’s rays, but this isn’t true. While the beach umbrellas are usually made with a thick weave material that doesn’t let UV rays through, it doesn’t take into account scattered or diffused UV rays, which could be plentiful in environments such as a beach.
Will sunscreen under clothing work?
Definitely yes. You should always wear a layer of sunscreen when you leave the house to spend time in the sun. Some moisturizers and makeup have effective SPF ratings. Using these daily can drastically reduce the effect the sun has on your skin. While you might not notice a little bit of sun exposure here and there, it does take its toll on your skin.
Does tan-through clothing exist?
Some costumes have been designed to be tan-through. This allows women and men to sit in the sun and tan their skin without having any costume tan lines. This is a growing phenomenon, but it is not the best option for the skin. Elevated exposure to UV rays can permanently damage your skin. It is better to opt for a spray tan or self-tanner to get your desired look.
Keep Yourself Protected
Unless you are wearing a super-thickly weaved denim bodysuit, you will tan through your clothing. Never underestimate the power of the sun, even in winter.
Rather take the precaution of always wearing sunscreen and opt for wearing clothing that has a high UPF rating. You will look back and thank yourself for it, and you will avoid any incredibly painful sunburn!