In a previous post earlier this month, we noted that sometimes schools prohibit bringing sunscreen on campus due to allergy concerns. So, are there other ways to protect your kids? Yes -- with clothing! Ideally, it is recommended to use sun protective clothing AND sunscreen, but clothing alone can also offer protection to your children’s skin.

As a recap, it is very important children’s skin because the skin remembers the damage it sustained in youth. A few quick facts:

  • Approx. 80% of skin cancers are caused by sun damage acquired within the first 20 years of life
  • Melanoma (the deadliest form of skin cancer) is the most common form of cancer in young adults aged 25-29 years old, and the second most common form of cancer in young people aged 15-29 years old.
  • Someone’s risk for melanoma doubles if he or she has had more than 5 sunburns. A person’s risk also doubles if he or she has had even 1 blistering sunburn in childhood or adolescence.
  • 1 in 5 Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime.

As you can see, protecting your child’s skin can help protect them from getting skin cancer later in life! So, let’s get right into what to look for in clothing.

How can clothing help?

Clothing provides a physical block from the sun. If the sun can’t pass through your shirt, then it will not come into contact with your skin at all. At the very least, it will block many UV rays from getting to your skin. That is why clothing is actually considered the first and best line of defense against the sun. Sunscreen is ideal for that extra layer for covered skin, and for areas of skin that are exposed (because you may not be likely to wear that long-sleeved shirt when it’s 85 degrees & sunny outside). 

What should I look for?

*UPF rated clothing if possible. UPF is like SPF, but for clothes! Many stores & brands offer clothing that has been specially designed (sometimes with a coating or sunscreen-type ingredient added into the fabric) to block the sun’s UV rays from penetrating the fabric. Special laundry detergent, including Sun Guard, is easily available on the market which can “wash-in” the UPF ingredient into your child’s regular clothes (As a note, Sun Guard specifically has been officially recommended by the Skin Cancer Foundation).

*Otherwise, look for clothing that is:

~ Tightly woven/knit. Tightly woven fabrics have smaller holes between the threads, which will provide less opportunity for the sun to come in contact with the skin. Jeans are a great option; their tight weave lets very few UV rays through, only about 1/1700thof the sun’s UV rays can get through denim.

~Synthetic and semi-synthetic fibers as well as glossy fabrics (such as satin) offer the best sun protection.

~Thicker & denser fabrics. Lightweight materials let in more UV rays.

~Dark or bright colors. Light colors, such as white, absorb fewer UV rays, allowing more rays to reach the skin.

*Hats. A wide-brimmed hat is great for protecting the face, the scalp and the back of the neck. Cute & stylish hats are available these days that serve a dual purpose: fashion & protection!

*Sunglasses. These fashionable accessories are highly recommended for protecting the eyes & the eye area from UV damage. Look for sunglasses that cover as much of the eye area as possible and that block 99-100% of UVA & UVB rays (most glasses with UV protection have a sticker to say so).

Special Notes

*Hitting the waves? UPF rated rash guards and swimwear is available these days as well! Remember—water reflects the sun’s rays back at you, so remember to protect your face!

*Active lifestyle? Look for sunglasses or goggles tailored for your sport to protect your eyes from UV rays, and also from the specific hazards of the activity

*Heading for the snow? Don’t forget that ice & snow reflect about 80% of the sun’s UV rays – that’s nearly double the intensity! Remember your sunglasses & sunscreen on your face (as the temperature is probably cold, you likely have a bunch of layers on your body, but don’t forget to cover your face as well).


For More Information:

Skin Cancer Foundation – Clothing: Our First line of Defense 

Skin Cancer Foundation – Protecting your Children 

American Academy of Dermatology – Kids & Sun Safety (For Kids!) 

AAD – Kids & Sun Safety flyer (For Kids!) 

BLOG DISCLAIMER: Information on this blog is for educational purposes only and not intended to diagnose or treat any skin ailment. Please make an appointment with your physician for personalized medical advice. 


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