UV Protection Clothing like sun shirts, sun hats, UV swimwear, and UV clothing for children is rapidly gaining popularity. Due to this increased co nsumer demand, clothing companies are viewing UV clothing as new profitable niche in which to expand. For this reason, many clothing companies are beginning to offer products that they market as "sun" clothing or "UV protection" clothing.
As a consumer, you have to choose wisely when shopping for sun shirts and other UV Protection clothing, both for yourself and for your family. Not all brands of sun protective clothing are created equal in terms of the actual UV protection these products provide. In fact, there is a wide variation in their effectiveness.
So, how can you be sure the sun shirt and other UV Protection clothing you are considering buying will actually work the way it is advertised to work?
The answer: look for ARPANSA certification!
ARPANSA is an acronym that stands for Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency. While ARPANSA is a governmental agency in Australia, this Australian agency provides independent testing of UV protection clothing sold all over the world! Furthermore, you can trust the ARPANSA's UV testing because UV radiation exposure is a very serious threat in Australia so they have become experts at protecting against it. As a country, they have one of the highest levels of UV radiation combined with a population of mostly fair-skinned people.
ARPANSA has a team of long standing scientists who have developed rigorous testing methods and continue to hone these methods. When they evaluate a material for its UV protection abilities, they use standardized scientific testing so that each product is evaluated in exactly the same way. The mean (average) UVA transmittance and mean UVB transmittance is carefully measured using scientific tests. Further, there is no commercial influence over the results they provide as there is no profit motive.
When UV clothing manufacturers send their fabrics to the ARPANSA to be tested, they are given a "UPF" rating. UPF is an acronym for "Ultraviolet Protection Factor." Ratings are given in increments of five and are based on the amount of UV radiation that can penetrate the fabric. Each UPF tested garment is issued a UPF label indicating that the garment has been certified by the ARPANSA and what rating it has received.
The UPF label comes with a number and a verbal description as follows:
- UPF 15 and UPF 20 are labelled as "Good" protection from UV radiation.
- UPF 20, UPF 25, and UPF 30 are labelled as "Very Good" protection from UV radiation.
- UPF 35, UPF 40, UPF 45, UPF 50, and UPF 50+ are labelled as "Excellent" protection from UV radiation.
Once a certification has been issued by ARPANSA for a specific garment, it is valid for one year. UV clothing manufacturers must re-certify their garments every year since fabric sources and methods of treating those fabrics do change over time.
VERY IMPORTANT: while we can all hope that UV clothing manufacturers will be ethical and only label their clothing as ARPANSA certified, and with the correct UPF rating, we also know that not all companies are ethical. For this reason, the only way you can be certain that a particular line of clothing for a particular brand is actually ARPANSA certified and correctly labelled is to actually go to the ARPANSA website and see if that product is listed on the website. Here is the URL:
There are several factors that affect UV transmittance through a fabric. These include how closely the fibers are woven together, the type of fabric, the color of the fabric, and if the fabric has been treated with chemicals that actually absorb the UVA and UVB radiation and thus prevents it from hitting the skin.
Some fabrics like corduroy and denim are so tightly woven and so thick, it's obvious they would have a high UPF rating without even testing the material. However, these materials are also very bulky and hot for the summertime. For this reason, they not may not feel good while walking along a beach or while siting in the stands at a ballgame. The trick to designing a good sun protection garment is to create it from lightweight comfortable material that will still block most of the UV radiation. However, you would not be able to "eyeball" the UV protection factor for such a thin lightweight garment. Thus, this is why the ARPANSA certification is so valuable!
There was a period of time when covering up your bikini with a sun swim shirt would have gotten you mocked and ridiculed at the beach. However, attitudes on this have changed dramatically as medical research has shown conclusively that overexposure to UV radiation can make you age much faster and develop skin cancers, even many years after exposure.
So, if you want to be trendy now, as well as remain as healthy as possible, get a loose fitting cool ARPANSA certified sun shirt with a UPF 50+ rating!