What to Look for in UPF 50+ Shirts

Your shirt may give you an uneven tan, but it’s not blocking UV rays. Here’s how to get a shirt with sun protection.

August 16, 2019

Sure, you may be rocking the farmer’s tan, but despite how it looks, your plain white T isn’t protecting you from all the sun’s rays. Ultraviolet (UV) rays can penetrate clothing and cause skin problems, so to keep your skin clear, you’ll want ultraviolet protective factor clothing on your body when you’re on the beach.

The difference between UPF and SPF

Cool Dri T-Shirt UPF 50+
Hanes Men’s Long Sleeve Cool Dri T-Shirt UPF 50+. Amazon

Check the overall protective factor. UPF has a different meaning from SPF. With SPF, the number is a multiplier. If you’d normally burn after ten minutes in the sun, some SPF 50 would multiply that by 50, so you’d have eight hours and change on the beach. UPF, on the other hand, is a ratio. A UPF of 50 means only 1/50th of the UV you experience will hit your skin, roughly 2%.

Know your size and fit

Terminal Tackle Long Sleeve Tee
Columbia Men’s PFG Terminal Tackle Long Sleeve Tee. Amazon

Like any shirt, your UPF gear should be all about the fit. Particularly for protecting the skin, you’ll want a long-sleeve shirt that covers the most skin without being too loose or otherwise uncomfortable. You’ll also want it at a length that covers your lower torso, without looking like pajamas.


Don’t forget about comfort

Women's Sun Protection T-Shirt
Baleaf Women’s UPF 50+ Sun Protection T-Shirt. Amazon

Be sure to get something breathable and with some air flow, as well. UPF doesn’t rely on simply blocking the sun’s rays, but by absorbing it, so you don’t need to have a thick shirt. Look for lightweight cloth that wicks moisture, and be sure that it’s cut so that you get airflow, especially if you’ll be working outdoors for a full day. Protecting yourself from the sun is only smart if you don’t give yourself heatstroke!


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