Have you thought about what you wear when you travel? Not all clothing is made equally! High factor UPF clothing will protect your skin from the sun’s harmful UVA and UVB rays. Low UPF factor clothing won’t protect your skin enough and you may need to wear SPF and UVA protection underneath your clothes too…

So what is UPF?

UPF (UV Protection Factor) is a number that represents how much a fabric (such as clothing) can protect you from the sun. There are also UPF ratings for hats, beach umbrellas and window tints! UPF starts from a value of UPF 30 (96% protection), whereas UPF 50 protects you from 98% of UVA and UVB rays passing through your clothing. So do you need SPF, UVA and UPF protection? Let’s have a look at the difference between UPF and SPF first.

UPF clothing protection from sun
Good UPF clothing!


Here are some important differences between UPF and SPF:

1. SPF only applies to UVB ray protection. Whereas UPF applies to UVA and UVB protection.
2. You have to re-apply SPF every one or two hours as it’s only in sunscreen. UPF is a clothing item so you just need to wear it 🙂
3. SPF washes off in water and is less effective when you sweat a lot! UPF is a physical item you place on your skin so no need to worry about it washing off and it is unaffected by sweat.
4. With SPF it’s unlikely you have applied it perfectly evenly – so you may have missed some spots! UPF is a complete even cover of your skin 🙂
5. SPF is only used as a sunscreen standard for skin protection. UPF is used as a fabric standard – for clothes, hats, window tints, umbrellas and even tents if you’re camping!
6. The cost of SPF adds up year-on-year. A typical bottle of SPF expires after 6 months from the day it was opened- so this can become expensive over time.UPF clothing and accessories are more budget-friendly in the long term as a single item of clothing can last a life time of wear.
7. Wearing UPF instead of SPF is less sticky too 😉
8. UPF helps protect your hard to reach areas like your scalp and hair – use a UPF hat!

UPF clothing

If you are wearing regular thin, stretchy, tight and light clothing then you should wear SPF & UVA protection on your skin directly beneath it. That’s because these kinds of clothing are more likely to let sunlight directly through to your precious skin! There are many factors that affect the UPF of clothing (these apply to UPF hats, UPF swimwear and UPF umbrellas too!).

Here are the best clothing options to wear:

1. Darker coloured clothing – opt for black or blue instead of white or yellow!
2. Loose clothing – Apart from swimwear, nothing really needs to be that tight
3. Thick fabrics – These let less light through to your skin
4. Non-stretchy – when your clothes stretch there are small holes between the threads of the fabric that sunlight can break through so avoid those non-UPF leggings!
5. Special UPF dyes – some fabrics like cotton need to be treated to have a good UPF rating so you can buy a dye for your clothing or buy clothing which has been dyed with a UPF treatment 🙂 Always check the tags!
6. UPF fabrics – there are dedicated brands with a seal of recommendation that you can buy (but hey we are all on a budget, right?!)


There is no substitute for your skin and you must protect it because your skin protects you. So don’t forget your UVA, SPF, UPF clothing, UPF swimwear, UPF umbrella (or beach tent) and sunglasses 🙂

Yes, a holiday in the sun is meant to be fun and we all want a tan, but ask yourself, at what cost?

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I am a UK GPhC registered Pharmacist in London