The best sun-protective clothing to keep your skin safe

Stay safe and stylish this summer.

June 5, 2024, 2:41 PM
Shop the best sun-protective clothing.
Shop the best sun-protective clothing.
ABC News, amazon, zappos

As we embrace the summer months, it's important to remember that protecting our skin from the sun's harmful UV rays is crucial. While sunscreen is a must-have in any sun-safety routine, sun-protective clothing offers an additional layer of defense.

Sun protection is important for preventing skin cancer. Just as sunscreen bottles have a sun protective factor or SPF label, clothing designed for sun protection has a similar rating called "ultraviolet protective factor," or UPF. A higher UPF number means better sun protection, according to the American Cancer Society.

The American Academy of Dermatology recommends these tips when choosing the best sun-protective clothing:

  • Lightweight and long-sleeved shirts and pants: Covering as much skin as possible is crucial when spending time outdoors. Avoid fabrics with a loose or open weave, such as lace, and opt for dark colors, which offer more protection than light colors. For instance, a long-sleeved denim shirt provides an SPF of about 1,700, while a white t-shirt provides an SPF of about 7. Remember, dry clothing offers more sun protection than wet clothing, especially at the beach or pool. For the best protection, select clothing with a UPF number on the label.
  • Sunglasses with UV protection: Sunglasses are essential for sun protection. Always choose lenses that explicitly offer UV protection, as dark lenses do not necessarily provide it. Large-framed or wraparound sunglasses offer more protection than aviators, so consider this when selecting your sunglasses.
  • A wide-brimmed hat: A hat effectively covers your face and neck. Choose one with a wide brim to protect your ears, head, and neck. Avoid baseball hats or straw hats with holes, as they are less effective in providing protection.
  • Shoes that cover your feet: If you wear sandals, flip-flops or go barefoot, be sure to apply sunscreen to all exposed skin.

What to look for in sun-protective clothing

When shopping for sun-protective clothing, it's essential to understand the key features that make these garments effective. Here are the primary factors to consider:

  • UPF rating: UPF ratings indicate how much UV radiation a fabric allows to reach your skin. The higher the UPF, the greater the protection. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, clothing with a UPF of 30 to 49 offers very good protection, while UPF 50+ is considered excellent.
  • Fabric type: Tightly woven fabrics offer better protection than loosely woven ones. Synthetic fibers like polyester and nylon are more effective at blocking UV rays compared to natural fibers like cotton.
  • Color: Darker colors absorb more UV radiation, preventing it from reaching your skin. However, some newer sun-protective clothing lines use light-colored fabrics treated with UV-blocking substances to provide excellent protection without the heat retention of dark colors.
  • Fit and coverage: Loose-fitting clothing is preferable as it allows for airflow and lessens the chance of stretching, which can reduce the fabric's protective capabilities. Additionally, choose garments that cover more skin, such as long sleeves, high collars, and long pants.

How to choose the best sun-protective clothing

With many options on the market, selecting the best sun-protective clothing can be overwhelming. Here are some tips to help you make an informed choice:

  • Check the label: Look for clothing labeled with a UPF rating. This rating is a clear indication that the garment has been tested for its UV protection effectiveness.
  • Consider the activity: Different activities require different types of sun-protective clothing. For instance, if you're going to the beach, you might prefer lightweight, quick-drying materials. For hiking, you might want more durable, breathable fabrics.
  • Comfort is key: Ensure the clothing is comfortable to wear. Sun-protective garments should not only protect you but also allow you to enjoy your time outdoors without feeling restricted or overheated.
  • Look for trusted brands: Brands that specialize in outdoor and sun-protective gear, like Coolibar and Columbia, often have rigorous testing standards for their products.

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Best sun-protective clothing for women

9% off

Coolibar UPF 50+ Women's Beach Shirt

Lightweight and breathable, this shirt offers excellent protection and comfort for beach days.

  • $44.10
  • $49
  • Amazon

REI Co-op Sahara Shade Hoodie

This hoodie offers a relaxed fit, excellent coverage and a UPF 50+ rating, perfect for fishing or casual wear.

  • $49.95
  • REI

Solbari UPF 50+ Women's Sun Protection Wrap

This versatile wrap can be styled in multiple ways, offering sun protection while keeping you fashionable.

  • $79
  • Amazon

Ubestyle UPF 50+ Long Swim Pants

These swim leggings offer UPF 50+ protection and are perfect for water sports and beach activities. 

  • $24.99
  • Amazon

Columbia Sun Trek T-Shirt

This lightweight tee looks like a simple cotton shirt, but it's actually made with tight weave UV-absorbent yarns. It comes in several different colors. 

  • $35
  • Amazon
Land's End

Women's Moisture Wicking UPF Sun Tank Top

This shirt combines sweat-wicking capabilities, odor control and UPF 50+ protection to make it an ideal choice for long days spent outdoors.

  • $36.95
  • Land's End

Toad&Co Sun Kissed Maxi Dress

If you're looking for sun-protection without sacrificing style, this wrap dress does both. It provides UPF 40+ sun protection and a chic silhouette.

  • $110
  • Nordstrom

lululemon Back-Vent T-Shirt

This shirt provides UPF 40+ sun protection and a ventilated back vent to keep you cool.

  • $78
  • Lululemon
19% off

Kanu Surf UPF 50+ Boardshort

These pull-on shorts have two front and one back zippered pocket. They are great for swimming or working out and provide UPF 50+ protection.

  • $17.60
  • $21.99
  • Amazon

Best sun-protective clothing for men

25% off

Columbia Men's Silver Ridge Convertible Pants

These pants provide versatility with zip-off legs and UPF 50 sun protection.

  • $48.75
  • $65
  • Zappos
17% off

Under Armour Men's Iso-Chill Hook Shirt

Ideal for high-energy activities, this shirt keeps you cool while providing UPF 50+ protection.

  • $32.93
  • $40
  • Amazon

BALEAF Men's Sun Protection Hoodie

Combining sun protection with quick-drying technology, this shirt is great for runners and outdoor athletes.

  • $29.99
  • Amazon

33,000ft Men's Long Sleeve Sun Protection Shirt

Whether heading out for a hike or for work, this shirt provides sun-protection with an elevated look. 

  • $36.99
  • Amazon

lululemon ABC Slim-Fit Golf Trouser

These pants look like a dress trouser but have stretch, are water-resistant and also provide UPF 40+ protection. 

  • $148
  • lululemon
24% off
Land's End

Men's Sport Swim Short with Hydroliner

The liner in these swim shorts prevents chaffing, while the lightweight fabric gives you protection from the sun's rays.

  • $43.97
  • $57.95
  • Land's End

Vuori Outdoor Trainer Shell

A versatile shell perfect for various outdoor activities, offering lightweight, breathable protection with a UPF 50 rating.

  • $118
  • Vuori

Willit Short Sleeve Rashguard

A short sleeve that can be worn for outdoor activities and in the water is a great sun-protection essential.

  • $19.99
  • Amazon
11% off

SportsTrail Cooling Arm Sleeves

These arm sleeves are easy to put on and take off, have four-way stretch and UPF 50+ sun protection.

  • $15.99
  • $17.99
  • Amazon

Best sun-protective hats


Furtalk Womens Wide Brim Sun Hat

A wide brim hat is essential for sun-protection, and this one provides UPF 50+ protection and has a chin strap to ensure in stays in place.

  • $25.99
  • Amazon

Columbia Schooner Bank Hat

This hat provides much-needed neck protection for long days in the sun and is made with lightweight fabric that also keeps you cool.

  • $27.99
  • Amazon

KastKing Sol Armis UPF 50 Boonie Hat

This hat has mesh ventilation and UPF 50+ protection so you can fish, hike or run errands safe from the harmful rays of the sun.

  • $19.98
  • Amazon

Shinenut Straw Sun Visor Hat

This wide-brimmed sun visor will keep your face safely in the shade, and the adjustable strap makes it easy to take with you on the go. 

  • $21.99
  • Amazon