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How can I choose clothing that will protect me from the sun?

The tightness of the weave, the weight, type of fiber, color, and amount of skin covered all affect the amount of protection that clothing provides from the sun. In general, clothing made of tightly woven fabric best protects skin from the sun. The easiest way to test if a fabric can protect your skin is to hold it up to the light. If you can see through it, then UV radiation can penetrate it -- and reach your skin. Clothes may also be treated with UV-absorbing chemicals, such as titanium dioxide, providing additional protection.

Clothing is rated according to its UPF - Ultraviolet Protection Factor. The UPF rating indicates how much of the sun's UV radiation is absorbed. A fabric with a rating of 50 will allow only 1/50th (2%) of the sun's UV rays (both UVA and UVB) to pass through, blocking the remaining 98%. To be deemed sun- protective, such clothing must have a UPF of more than 30 and undergo 40 simulated launderings, be exposed to the equivalent of 2 years of light and be tested with chlorinated water if it is intended for swimsuits.

Unlike sunscreens, which are regulated by the FDA, there is no regulation and no universally accepted standards of testing or labeling sun-protective clothing. Currently, manufacturers follow voluntary testing guidelines and use private labs to determine a fabric's UPF rating. The only way for consumers to determine if a fabric has been tested is to check with the manufacturer. As a result of the lack of regulation, sun-protection as advertised cannot always be guaranteed.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.