Summer is around the corner, which means more time spent outdoors in the sunshine. And whilst that is definitely something to look forward to, it’s important to make sure that we look after ourselves and our skin. In addition to sunscreen, sun protective clothing can be a great way to shield your skin from harmful rays. Below, we’ll cover everything you need to know about sun protective clothing, including the differences between UPF and SPF, what UPF ratings mean, and common features of sun protective clothing.


UPF vs SPF: What’s the difference?

Most of us are familiar with the terms UPF and SPF, but we might not know exactly what they are and how they differ.


SPF: All About Your Sunscreen

SPF is the well-known rating for sunscreens and other protective creams. Ratings typically range between 15 and 50, signifying the level of sun protection it provides. This rating indicates how effectively your sunscreen shields you from UV radiation when applied as recommended. It is based on the time it takes for UV-exposed skin to burn. For example, if you burn after 10 minutes, an SPF 15 sunscreen should protect your skin 15x longer (when applied correctly) for 150 minutes.


While sunscreen plays a part in sun protection, it’s essential that you use it responsibly. Always check the expiry date before use, make sure to apply the recommended amount, and reapply at least every two hours. Make sure to opt for a broad spectrum sunscreen which protects from both UVA rays, responsible for skin aging, and UVB rays, which cause sunburn.


UPF: Wearable Sun Protection

Now, let’s talk about UPF—Ultraviolet Protection Factor. UPF is the sun protective rating for fabrics, primarily associated with sun protective clothing. Unlike SPF, which is based on the time it takes for UV-exposed skin to burn, UPF measures the amount of UV radiation that can penetrate the fabric and reach your skin. Another important difference is that UPF also measures both UVB and UBA rays, whilst SPF only measures UVB.


UPF Ratings Explained


In simple terms, the higher the UPF rating system, the greater the sun protection. The 2020 Australian standard for sun protective clothing has three UPF classifications, depending on the amount of solar UVR blocked. Each UPF classification has corresponding UPF ratings:


UPF classification UPF rating
Minimum protection 15
Good protection 30
Excellent protection 50, 50+


The UPF rating indicates how well the material blocks ultraviolet radiation from the sun. A UPF rating of 30 means that the fabric will allow 1/30th (around 3%) of UV radiation through, whilst UPF 50+ is the highest rating, blocking at least 98% (1/50) of UV radiation.


Because UPF50+ sun protective clothing is a reliable barrier that doesn’t require reapplication, dermatologists agree that wearing UPF50+ clothing is the best way to prevent sunburn, skin ageing and skin cancer.


Features of UPF Clothing

Many factors can contribute to the UPF rating or sun protectiveness of a garment. When shopping for sun protective clothing, keep an eye out for the following features:


Colour: Darker or brighter colours are better than lighter shades, because they absorb more UV rays.


Weave density: Denser fabrics like wool and synthetics are more protective than sheer or thin fabrics. If you can see light through the fabric, it is likely not very sun protective.


Content: Certain fabrics offer better protection than others. Synthetic materials like polyester and nylon reflect more UV, as does unbleached cotton as it contains natural lignins that act as UV absorbers.


Coverage: Long sleeved clothing and long pants will offer cover more skin and in turn offer more UV protection.


UPF Rating: Of course, the best way to determine the sun protection of a garment is by purchasing an item that has a clear UPF rating on the label. Solbari is the leading sun protective clothing brand in Australia with customers in over 70 countries. They offer a range of UPF 50+ sun protection products including sun protective clothing, broad brim sun hats, UV arm sleeves and sun umbrellas. 


It’s also worth noting the factors that can affect the UPF rating of an item even after you have taken it home:


Moisture: UPF will reduce when your clothing gets wet, so be mindful of this when engaging in water-based activities.


Condition: Clothing fibres will deteriorate with age, which can also reduce the UPF rating.


Stretch: Stretching an item will pull the fibres away from each other and allow more UV rays through. Opt for looser fitting fabrics where possible.


Want to level up your sun protection? Stay shielded from the sun this summer with our range of UPF50+ Solbari clothing at Paddy Pallin.


Disclaimer: All content and media on the Paddy Pallin website is created and published online for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice and should not be relied on as health or personal advice. If the reader or any other per­son has a med­ical con­cern, he or she should seek professional advice.

About The Author


Some 80 years ago, a young bushwalker's dissatisfaction with the limited and heavy bushwalking equipment available prompted him to design and make his own. Before long, word spread, and Paddy Pallin's lightweight, functional designs were soon in demand among fellow bushwalkers. From its early days the company has concentrated on supplying bushwalkers, travellers and adventurers with the highest quality and most advanced products and knowledge. Since 1930 the company has grown to become Australia's leading supplier of specialist outdoor and travel gear. The company, still owned by the Pallin family, now has thirteen stores throughout Australia as well as online, mail order and corporate sales divisions. We are using our vast wealth of knowledge, and experience, to build an online community where we can share our stories, reviews and tech tips to help you research and plan your next adventure.

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