What is sun protective clothing & why is it important? Read about UV fabrics, UPF50+ ratings & the importance of UV protection for skin, especially children’s skin.

It’s good to see that the importance of sun protection is becoming well know. It is now rare now to see children running around in the middle of the day without a hat on. They will thank their parents when they are older!

Still, a summer trip to the beach or the park will still turn some people not being so careful. Much of the time they are young adults. We understand why – we were all young(er!!!) once and we know that sometimes sun protection is the last thing on your mind during a day at the beach. The risk are so high however… hopefully these habits will slowly change.

Unfortunately sun damage isn’t isolated to sun baking and summer days at the beach. If you think about it, we are exposing ourselves to UV rays every time we are outside and this incidental exposure adds up. In Australia we are also a nation of sports people. We love our outdoor games. Cricket, tennis, netball, softball, sailing, fishing, kayaking… all great Summer sports and enjoyed by millions of Australia’s every day. Many other nations are no different. All of us spending many active outdoors in the sun. Our kids especially! And as night follows day you can be assured that along with the great health benefits of being outdoors and active, many of us are also getting far too much UV exposure at the same time. So what to do. Stay in side and watch TV? I don’t think so.

Well fortunately we are getting smarter with sun protection solutions every day. Not only do we have the basics of hats, suncream and sunglasses, we now also have some fantastic sun protective fabrics. But all clothing stops sun damage I hear you say. Well yes, to some degree, but not all UV rays are stopped by all fabric. OK, if you wear thick, dark coloured fabric then yes you will stop the damaging UV rays passing though. But have you ever worn a pair of jeans and a turtle neck sweater out on the field or down to the beach in Summer? We don’t. We choose loose-fitting, light weight, light colours fabrics. Why? Because they are cooler.

They problem however is that some of these types of traditional summer fabrics can offer very little protection from UV rays. The UV rays can travel through them and yes, your skin can be damaged even when under a shirt. It is not the visual light spectrum we are talking about, it is the UV rays. And it is these UV rays we want to stop most of all. Don’t misunderstand me. It is FAR better to be out in the sun wearing a thin white cotton t-shirt than have no clothing cover at all, but please don’t think you are completely UV protected because you are not. Nor are your children.

Enter Sun Protective Fabrics. Light weight, light coloured and breathable.

From Wikipedia:
“Sun protective clothing is clothing specifically designed for sun protection and is produced from a fabric rated for its level of ultraviolet (UV) protection. A novel weave structure and denier (related to thread count per inch) may produce sun protective properties. In addition, some textiles and fabrics employed in the use of sun protective clothing may be pre-treated with UV inhibiting ingredients during manufacture to enhance their UV blocking capacity. As sun protective clothing is usually meant to be worn during warm and humid temperatures, some UV-blocking textiles and clothing may be designed with ventilated weaves, moisture wicking and antibacterial properties to assist in cooling and breathability.

A relatively new rating designation for sun protective textiles and clothing is UPF (Ultraviolet Protection Factor). Unlike SPF (Sun Protection Factor) that traditionally uses human sunburn testing in a laboratory environment, UPF measures both UV radiation transmittance using a laboratory instrument and an artificial light source and translates these results using a mathematical expression based upon the sunburn action spectrum integrated over the relevant UV spectrum.” From the Australian Government Radiation Agency:
“The UPF rating indicates how effective a fabric is at blocking out solar ultraviolet radiation. This testing is performed according to Australian/New Zealand standard AS/NZS4399. UPF ratings range from 15 to 50 with higher ratings indicating more effective blocking and therefore better protection for the wearer of a garment made from the fabric. Fabrics that test higher than UPF 50 are rated as UPF 50+.”

So what are we protecting? Our skin right. Well we all know the basics. UV rays damage skin, makes it look and perform poorly, increase wrinkles, freckles and sunspots… AND… increase the chance of skin cancer. The more sun your skin gets the greater the chance of your skins cells becoming cancerous. Once that happens you either have to burn or cut the cancer out, neither fun or without scars and both expensive. And not to be forgotten are the risk of the cancer spreading throughout your body if you don’t discover it and deal with it in time. In short, you don’t want skin cancer of any form – not by a long shot. I wish we were all wise enough in our younger years to really pay attention to protecting our skin. Anyway, today is a new day and we can do a great deal for ourselves and more importantly our children, starting now! In fact it is the children we really need to look out for.

Children and babies have very delicate skin so limiting their sun exposure is very important. Much of the skin damage and skin problems relating to sun exposure that adults experience later in life is a result of an over-exposure to sun as children. It is therefore absolutely critical that parents and carers take great care in protecting the skin of little ones. Protecting young skin will not only help reduce the risk of developing skin cancer later in life, it will help prevent freckles, moles and painful sunburn as well.

It is always a good time to remind ourselves of some of the simple things we can do to protect little ones from the sun. 1. Don’t go out when it is blazing hot! On hot and sunny days, go out nice and early and come back early, before it is too hot. Or leave your adventures until the afternoon.
2. Dress your kids so they are well covered. Long sleeves, nice big hats, loose pants and sunglasses. If you can choose UPF50+ fabrics that block damaging UVA and UVB rays even better. Just as you would for yourself.
3. Before you leave the house, get the kids sun-creamed up. It is best to allow sunscreen about 15 minutes on the skin to take full effect, so if you do it at home you’ll be ready to go by the time you get outside. It’s hard I know – most kids don’t like being covered in cream. Try to make it fun with a regular song or rhyme.
4. When outside, seek out the shady spots so set up camp. Under trees is great. You can also use those pop up beach tents and beach umbrellas. Think first, ‘where’s a shady spot’.
5. Reapply sunscreen every few hours, or after swimming or heavy sweating. Make sure you dry your kids down before reapplying or the sunscreen will just slide over their skin and not go in. Better still, get them into a beach robe, a cover-up or a long sleeved top when they are out of the water and in the sun.
6. So you don’t get caught out without sunscreen, keep small tubes in the car and in your bag and leave them there. They will go out of date in time (they become less effective when old) so check the used by dates from time to time.

Not surprisingly, at Terry Rich Australia we take sun protection very seriously, especially for young children. If we can play a small role in keeping our kids skin safe and healthy and at the same time be successful in our business then we are happy. We already produce a wide range of beach and swim robes in toweling with great cover-up properties, but we are excited to now also offering a collection of Summer apparel in beautiful, light weight, breathable and moisture wicking UPF50+ rated fabric.

These garments have been designed not only to look smart but also to be practical and functional for Summer active wear. We designed then, we tested them and we wear them regularly. The fabric is very soft to the skin, quick drying and fully machine washable. If you and your family are active outdoors you might like to consider a few of these style garments for the summer drawer.
The collection includes our pretty Girls Sundowner Cover-ups and our Long-sleeved Polos for Men and Boys.
We feel passionately about sun protection here at Terry Rich Australia. We hope we can influence you to also be a advocate for sun protection. We apologise if we sound a bit heavy about this topic but in truth there is nothing light about skin cancer. It’s only because we have been there and we know!