Sun-Safe Clothing

Last Modified: June 7, 2011


Dear OncoLink "Ask The Experts,"

Is "sun-safe" clothing necessary to protect you from the sun? In other words, can one just wear clothing that protects the skin (i.e long sleeved shirts) or should one look for clothing that is made specifically to protect the skin?


Carolyn Vachani, RN, MSN, AOCN, OncoLink’s Nurse Educator, responds:

If you want your clothing to be your primary mode of protection, then yes. Studies on the sun protection offered by summer clothing found that almost half provided less than the equivalent of an SPF of 30. A typical white t-shirt has a sun protection factor around 7, and this drops to about 3 when it is wet. Darker colored clothing and those garments with tighter weave provide more protection. The more worn or stretched out a garment becomes, the less SPF it offers. All of these variables make it difficult for people to assess the protection of clothing, so a system was developed to test and certify the sun protection of fabrics. Read more about clothing with SPF.

This question and answer was part of the OncoLink Brown Bag Chat Series: Sun Safety and Skin Cancer Prevention Webchat. View the entire transcript on Sun Safety.


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