Testing sun protective clothing

What we found about the effectiveness of shirts with and without built-in UV protection

Last updated: August 11, 2015 10:30 AM

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In addition to using sunscreen, it's important to wear sun protective clothing. Many hats, shirts, and other garments sport a UPF (ultraviolet protection factor) number. What we found: The UPF shirt we tested more than delivered on its claims. Even better: You may not need to shell out for pricey UPF clothing to get good coverage.

We measured the UPF in three white shirts. The Coolibar Girl's Rash Guard UPF 50+, $32, delivered a UPF of 174. Because UPF indicates what fraction of ultraviolet radiation can penetrate fabric, that means that the garment—which is a blend of 84 percent polyester and 16 percent spandex embedded with titanium dioxide that is claimed to last the lifetime of the shirt— allows just 1/174th of UVA and UVB rays to reach the skin.

As impressive as those results are, they don't seem so remarkable when you consider that the two other garments we tested, which aren't claimed to provide any UV protection, did very well, too. A cotton Hanes Beefy-T long-sleeve T-shirt, $13, and an Eastbay Evapor long-sleeve compression crew made of the same polyester/spandex blend as the Coolibar top, $18 delivered UPFs of 115 and 392 respectively. Even when wet, the Hanes Beefy-T, which is thicker than a regular T-shirt, offered a UPF of 39, which we judge to be a respectable level of protection. Coolibar's UPF actually increased when it got wet, to 211, and Eastbay's dipped to 304.

Get more sun safety advice and the latest sunscreen Ratings from Consumer Reports.

Editor's Note:

This article also appeared in the July 2015 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.

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