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UV-Protection by clothing

The best way to protect yourself from UV-damage outdoors is to cover up accordingly. Every piece of clothing will protect you from acute ultraviolet (UV-) radiation. The degree of protection provided by clothing primarily depends on the fabric type and density. The rule of thumb is the denser woven, the better protected. Even special UV-protective clothing is offered today.

However, wearing UV-protective clothing alone won’t do. Beyond that, care must be taken to ensure that all parts of the body not covered by textiles are given additional protection with sunscreen suitable for your individual skin type, and to observe all sun protection rules! This is the only way to ensure broad protection from harmful effects of UV-radiation!

The level of protection provided by UV protective clothing is given by the so-called Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF). The UPF, like the Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of a sunscreen, indicates the factor by which a person wearing sun protective textiles or UV protective clothing can extend their time spent in the sun without getting sunburnt. In other words, UV-protective clothing primarily protects against UV B radiation. When buying such textiles the consumer should mind not only the UPF but most notably the Standard referred to.

There are basically three Standards addressing the UV protective properties of textiles:

  • the Australian-New Zealand Standard (AS/NZS 4399:1996),
  • the European Standard (EN 13758-1), and the
  • UV-Standard 801.

UV-Standard 801

While the UPF for both the Australian / New Zealand standard and the European Standard is determined on the basis of measurements performed on unstretched, dry textiles in mint condition, the UV-Standard 801 also involves measurements of wet, stretched textiles. Consequently, the "International Test Association for Applied UV Protection" has recommended measuring the UV-protection factor of all kinds of clothing and shade textiles according to the UV-Standard 801 which is based on the most unfavourable use conditions ("worst-case" scenario).

The textile material is washed within the scope of testing, wetted during measurement and stretched in a defined manner. The UPF is determined assuming a maximum of irradiation with the solar spectrum in Melbourne (Australia) at 1. January of a year (i.e. the peak of the Australian summer) and the most sensitive skin type for the wearer. Only the lowest UV-protection factor determined during the entire use test is declared.

In Germany the classification according to UV-Standard 801 is common.

Who should wear UV-protective clothing?

This clothing is particularly designed for individuals spending many hours in the sun – such as athletes, gardeners, builders or pool attendants. It is, however, also suitable for individuals with very sensitive skin, i.e. very pale, red-haired types and above all children because their skin is still very thin and susceptible to sunburn. The clothing usually is light, oxygen permeable and extremely fast-drying so that it doesn’t even interfere with bathing.

State of 2017.03.01

© Bundesamt für Strahlenschutz