Q&A: Is wearing sunblock under your clothing a good idea?

    Consumer Reports News: July 09, 2010 10:11 AM

    In some cases. You can get sunburned right through fabrics that let pinpoints of light shine through when they're held up to strong illumination, particularly if they're light-colored. Clothes that are wet or tight also let in more sunlight because they tend to stretch.

    Shade and clouds are also unreliable shields. For example, if half the sky is visible through a leafy tree canopy, the tree protects you only as much as a very weak sunscreen with a sun protective factor (SPF), or potency, of 2. Under a beach umbrella, you still get 40 to 50 percent of the sun's radiation, since it reflects off the sand and sky. Even on overcast days, 10 to 50 percent of the sun's radiation penetrates the clouds.

    To stay safe: Consider boosting the sun-shielding abilities of your clothes by washing them with a laundry detergent that contains brighteners, which absorb ultraviolet radiation. But for prolonged or intense sun exposure, use sunscreen and don't rely just on clothing or shade. To protect your clothes, let the sunscreen soak into your skin for about half an hour before getting dressed.

    For the best sunscreens for summer, see our new report and Ratings (subscribers only), and take a look at our tips for staying safe in the sun

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