Updated on November 24, 2022 by Sarina Tariq
In my younger days, I never thought of the sun as something from which I needed any protection. It was just there. A constant in my life that I never particularly bothered about. But today my young daughter advises me that Sun is the enemy no.1 in skincare.
She says that I should put on sunscreen by 8 in the morning and then reapply every 3 hours or so and that covering my face with a thin scarf (which I do mostly) in the sun is not enough protection from anything. She is a bit of a beauty info nerd so anything she says about beauty care goes in our house. And I suppose with time I have also become somewhat solar wise and know that my skin needs a little bit more protection from the harmful rays of the sun than I normally give.
Sun’s UVA & UVB can cause premature skin aging. UVA is there throughout the day but UVB is impactful mostly from 10 am to 4 pm. Both are potentially dangerous, but I dread UVA more as it is said to penetrate skin far deeply, causing lasting damage.
There are also health concerns. Damage from daily sun exposure is well documented in most health news articles today. Skin diseases like skin cancer and painful rashes on skin due to sun allergy can be prevented to a great extent by being proactive – not getting into the sun too often and by wearing protection.
Sun protective fabrics are supposed to protect your skin from the harmful UV radiation. You can make tops, pants, jackets, hats and accessories, swim wear as well as window panels, sun shades, umbrellas with these fabrics. Your typical summer fabrics made of regular fabrics usually provide less than 10 SPF of protection where at least 30 SPF is needed for good results. Go for 50 SPF and higher for better results.
So What are the options in full-on UV protective fabrics for clothing?
Pre-treated Sun-protective Branded fabrics
UV absorbing chemicals are added to these fabrics to give constant protection against the sun’s rays.
These fabrics should have UPF (Ultraviolet Protection Factor) ratings and agency-wise / country-wise approvals to be authentic. UPF with 50+ is considered the best in sun protection from UVA and UVB rays. An ok UPF would be above 15.
Solumbra is a patented fabric in this category with FDA approval regarding its sun protection capabilities. It is owned by Sun Precautions, one of the world’s leading manufacturers of sun-protective clothing. It is supposed to block 97% of the sun’s harmful UVA and UVB rays. Read more about Solumbra on the Wikipedia page here.
Textililene is a branded fabric of Twitchell Corporation made of polyester fibers coated with poly-vinyl chloride (PVC). Textililene90 is claimed to block 90% of sun’s rays.
Other brands include Phifer SheerWeave fabrics, Omni-Shade by Columbia, UPF sun protection clothing from Patagonia, and Coolibar with UPF 50+ fabrics and UPF clothing designed to block 98% of UV rays, SolarWeave® UPF Supplex Nylon Fabrics, a lightweight woven nylon fabric, Sun protection fabrics from Sattler, USA.
What are the other options for sun protecting fabrics?
Fabrics applied with Sun Protection Sprays
Sun protective coatings (water based /solvent based) can be applied on the fabric. They are usually applied on Nylon and polyester fabric (goes under the name Umbrella fabrics)
Tightly woven/knitted fabrics
When the fabric is tightly woven or knitted they do not have holes between their fibers for the sun’s rays to pass through. Synthetic fabrics like nylon and polyester are very tightly woven and hence they are favorites as sun-blocking fabrics. Good quality tightly structured Nylon fabric is used to make UV resistant umbrella fabric.
Cotton denim fabric has a twill weave which is strong and very tightly woven which makes it a good barrier against sun rays.But usually synthetic fabrics have more UV protection than natural fibers.
Dark colored fabrics
Dark colors can block sun rays. This is why most of the umbrellas are black. Dark colors include colors like black, navy blue, Indigo, dark green, dark maroon etc.
Garment construction suitable to give sun protection
This refers to garment construction details to make sure that the sun’s rays are not in contact with skin by including long sleeves, full length trousers, skirts, high neck collars, wide brims on head coverings etc.
Use additives in laundry
There are laundry additives that can add an extra UV coating on the surface of fabrics. Eg. products like Sun Guard. The effect of these additives is not permanent and can wear off after a specified number of washes.
Buy Fabrics with Nano technology.
At the production stage Nanoparticles of titanium dioxide or zinc oxide are added to textiles to give them superior sun protective qualities. Read this article for details.