Do you need special clothing to protect you from the sun?

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Covering up outside is a critical step in skin cancer prevention. (KFSN)

Some clothing claims to have a "UPF" or ultraviolet protection factor.
Skin cancer is among the most common of all cancers. Sun exposure is a primary cause. Covering up when you're outside can be a critical step in prevention, but Consumer Reports wanted to know: do you need to buy special sun protective clothing to shield yourself?

Planning some fun in the sun this summer? It's important to protect yourself from the sun's harmful rays with both sunscreen and protective clothing. But do you really need to spend money on special UPF clothing? Trisha Calvo of Consumer Reports said, "Some clothing claims to have a UPF, or ultraviolet protection factor, which is sort of like an SPF in sunscreen. We wanted to see if they really work -- and if they do, do they work any better than regular clothes?"

This $32 Coolibar girl's rash guard is embedded with titanium dioxide and promises a UPF of more than 50: meaning less than one-fiftieth of UV radiation can penetrate the fabric. When Consumer Reports put it to the test, the rash guard did deliver. It measured a UPF of 174, more than three times the protection it promised. Calvo said "It sounds really impressive, but it's less remarkable when you consider that the other two shirts we tested, which didn't claim any UV protection, did very well, too."

For just about half the price, this Eastbay Evapor long-sleeve compression crew, made from the same polyester-spandex blend delivered a UPF of nearly 400! More than twice that of the special shirt. And even a $13 cotton Hanes Beefy-T, which is thicker than a regular T-shirt, delivered a UPF of 115. Calvo explained, "Covering up when you're in the sun is important, but basically we found that it's really not necessary to buy a special shirt." Which means you can get effective protection without getting burned at the register.

Consumer Reports also ran tests when the shirts were wet, and judged all three to have respectable levels of protection. But the Coolibar rash guard was the only one to deliver increased protection when wet. It's important to note that all testing was done on new clothing that had yet to be washed or exposed to elements like chlorine and salt water, which over time might affect the protection factor.
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