Melanoma Awareness, Sun Safety

The best sun protection hats for you and your family

The insider’s guide to finding the right, sun-safe hat for any occasion.

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Team MoleMap Creator
Posted 01/03/21
Hats for sun protection

Searching for the perfect sun protection hat? Here’s a checklist of exactly what you should be looking for to ensure you stay sun safe, while still brimming with style. Check our top picks for the best type of hats for different sports and outdoor activities – and just as importantly, the best UV protection hats for babies, toddlers and children.

Thanks to our warm climate, high sunshine hours and amazing outdoor lifestyle – and being smack bang in the middle of an ozone hole - Australia and New Zealand have the highest rates of melanoma in the world1. That’s why wearing a hat for sun protection isn’t just optional in the summer months, it’s essential - not just to protect your skin from wrinkles and sunspots, but also from melanoma and other types of skin cancer. Especially if you have a higher risk of melanoma, wearing a hat is a no brainer.

Before you hit the hat shops, we’ve compiled a handy checklist of the eight most important things to look for in a hat to keep you and your family sun safer - and skin safer.

8 features to look for in a sun protection hat...

A wide brimmed hat can reduce UV rays by 50 percent 1000
  1. A wide brim - the best hat for maximum protection has a brim size of at least 7cm to shade the face, scalp, neck, shoulders and upper back, as well as easily overlooked spots like the tops of the ears and back of the neck. If you have a moderate to high skin cancer risk, you should wear a wide-brimmed hat whenever possible in the sun.
  2. High UPF rating - fabrics used in modern sun protection hats have a UPF (Ultraviolet Protection Factor) rating, which should be on the label. This indicates the amount of UV radiation a fabric will allow to reach your skin. The higher the UPF rating, the more UV protection it offers, so stick to hats that have a rating of over UPF 50+.
  3. Breathable fabric - a good sun protection hat should be made of light, breathable fabric to allow for proper airflow. A light fabric means that your head won’t feel too hot and it’s less likely to trap any sweat – especially on those sticky summer days!
  4. A tight knit weave - Look for a tightly woven fabric rather than a loosely constructed weave that lets in the UV rays. A quick way to check is to hold your hat against a light and make sure not too much light shines through the material – because that light could be damaging your skin without you realising it.
  5. The right colour - The colour of your hat is surprisingly important. White or light coloured hats can ‘bounce’ the heat from the sun onto your face or eyes, while dark colours will absorb the heat. Ideally, look for sun hat with a white or light top that is darker under the brim, to ensure the heat from the sun is reflected away from your face.
  6. Moisture-wicking sweatband - a good sun hat features a moisture-wicking sweatband that is found around the inner crown. It is a great feature especially if you tend to sweat a lot – or if you’re at a special summer occasion - as the sweatband can help prevent the sweat from dripping into the eyes.
  7. Neck or ear flaps – neck or ear flaps aren’t just for children’s sun hats. No matter what your age, if you’re working or playing in the sun a lot – look for a sun protective hat or cap with flaps to help keep the sun from damaging from your ears and the back of your neck. And don’t panic - some hats with neck flaps can look surprisingly stylish! Alternatively, wide brimmed-hats are a sure way to protect ears from sun exposure.
  8. Make sure it’s fit for purpose - Think about the activities you’re going to be involved in. Do you need hat for travelling, playing sport, or for UV protection while relaxing at the beach or near a swimming pool? Always choose the right sun hat for the specific activity you’ll be involved in – and take a selection of hats with you if needed.
Baseball cap copy

Image: while caps and sun visors are not as good as a wide-brimmed hat for sun protection, studies show they’re still more effective than wearing no hat at all.

A recent Swiss study looked at four different styles of hats (helmet, baseball cap, medium-brim and wide-brim) and how much protection against UV each style provided.

Not surprisingly, a wide-brimmed hat gave the best overall protection on a summer’s day, while baseball caps offer good protection for the nose, but zero for the ears. But ... wearing any hat is still better than wearing no hat at all!

With no hat, the entire face receives twice as much UV radiation in summer than in winter – and the nose receives almost six times as much sun – which means you’re increasing your risk of sun damage and skin cancer by up to six times.

What’s more, the the study showed that the effectiveness of all hats was significantly reduced where there was reflective glare from water, sand or surfaces. So make sure you accessoriese your hat with a protective pair of sunglasses and good quality, broad-spectrum with an SPF of at least 30+. Or even better, 50+ if you’re considered to have a higher melanoma risk.

Our top 3 unisex sun protective hats in Australia.

It’s not easy hunting for hats that meet the eight points above, so we’ve done it for you! Here are three of our favourite UV protection hats for 2021 by amazing hat designers that truly know their stuff. And the great thing about these styles is they work for men and women!

Ecuadorian panama hat

1. Hills Hats - Ecuadorian Panama Wide Brim

Grade 3 (tightly woven for excellent sun protection) Ecuadorian Panama wide brim with black grosgrain trim and genuine leather sweatband. This summer classic is a style that suits many face shapes, with a wide brim.

S resort hat

2. Solbari - Resort Bucket Hat UPF50+

In a range of colours for both men and women, Solbari’s Resort Bucket Hat is light, packable and super stylish, plus the fast-absorbing sweatband means its also super comfortable. The 6.5cm angled complies with Australian Cancer Council standards, and provides sun protection for the face, eyes, ears and neck.

Coffee works hat

3. Hills Hats - Coffee Works Mod Trilby

This hat is made from recyclable materials - a random assortment of coffee sacks ensuring a wide variety of colours and print. A soft sweatband and cotton lining keeps the hessian away from direct contact with your head.

Brimming with style - our top 3 sun protective hats for women.

With these styles, there’s never any excuse not to wear a hat! Here are our top three hats for women for every summer occasion, from weddings to parties to poolside.

Hazel linen butterfly hat

1. Hills Hats - Hazel Linen Butterfly Hat

The Hazel Butterfly hat is an ever popular ladies style made in printed 100% linen, with a velcro size adjuster at the back. Lined in a light weight cotton making this a light breathable, easy travel hat for summer.

Reversible wide brim sun hat copy

2. Solbari Reversible Wide Brim Sun Hat UPF50+

As its name suggests, this reversible sun hat from Aussie sun protective clothing specialists, Solbari, has a generous 9cm brim to keep you well shaded all day long. It’s also packable, lightweight and adjustable, and offers exceptional sun protection, in a range of stylish colours. We love the fact that it’s reversible and the optional opening at the back of the crown for those with a ponytail.

Perla hat

3. Coolibar - Perla Packable Wide Brim Hat UPF 50+

With a super-wide 10 centimetre brim, the Perla Packable Wide Brim Hat is made from a revolutionary polyester "straw" that offers the look of natural fiber and the durability of iron – and offers UPF 50+ sun protection. Which means you can pack it, roll it, fold it, crush it or stow it - this beach hat is virtually indestructible.

Hats off to you: our top sun proof hats for men

Only a few decades back, every stylish man donned a hat for pretty much every occasion. Luckily, hats for men seem to have come back in style, so blokes, you’re no longer limited to wearing a (not particularly sun protective) cap. Try some of these on for size instead...

Santiago Indiana Jones hat

1. Hills Hats - The Santiago Indiana Jones

New Zealand hat design company, Hills Hats, has many cool and equally stylishly-named hats on offer, but we particularly like the Santiago Indiana Jones. This dressy yet casual straw hat is a classic style finished with a black puggeree, a soft cotton sweatband for those melting hot days, and a pinched front and indented crown.

Solbari panama hat copy

2. Solbari - Panama style hat SPF 50+

Perfect for a day in the sun, from the races to a resort, Solbari’s Panama style hat is made from the latest innovative polypropylene fibres, tightly woven together to block damaging UVA and UVB rays. It’s also crushable for travelling, and features a comfortable cotton sweatband to keep you looking cool in any weather.

Mackenzie oilskin hat

3. Hills Hats - The MacKenzie

Hills Hats design a wide range of hats, including bucket hats, duckbill caps and wide-brimmed sports hats – but for year-round wear, we particularly like The MacKenzie. Made from Australian oilskin, this structured, wide curved (7.5cm) brim hat is perfect for hunting, horse-riding and the like – yet stylish enough for any post-sport activity too.

The best sun proof hats for outdoor activities

Love fishing, hunting, golf, gardening, tramping or pretty much any activity that involves being out in New Zealand’s amazing environment? Check out these sun proof hats...

Optimum

1. Hills Hats - Optimum Sports Hat

The Optimum is the ultimate outdoors hat. Water resistant Teflon coated poly/cotton wide brim hat with concealed legionnaires neck flap. The crown can be squashed flat and will bounce back in shape.

Solbari ultimate sun hat

2. Solbari - The Ultimate Sun Hat UPF50+

This unisex, light and versatile sun hat from Solbari provides exceptional sun protection for the face, eyes, ears and neck, thanks to two lightweight rear drape panels, ears and neck from UV rays and and a detachable button-on face shield to protect chin and neck.

Expedition sun hat

3. Solbari Expedition Sun Hat UPF50+

Solbari’s Expedition Sun Hat UPF50+ is designed for those looking for all-day comfort and durability whilst providing superior sun protection. Ideal for hiking and weekend walking, this stylish hat is lightweight, packable, adjustable and offers UPF 50+ protection. Thanks to 6cm of flexible brim at the front, and 9.5cm at the back, it also provides excellent coverage of the face, eyes, ears and back of the neck.

Staying on top: our top sun protection hats for water sports

Be it sailing, surfing, paddle boarding, kayaking or fishing, we Kiwis love our water sports. However, watch out for the added glare of sea, sand and surf, which can further damage your skin and increase your skin cancer risk. We’ve rounded up our top three hats for water sports – but don’t forget to add wrap-around sunnies and a broad-spectrum SPF50+ sunscreen for the face, lips and nose.

Ocean breeze hat

1. Hills Hats - Ocean Breeze

Waterproof, windproof soft crushable hat with a wide flat brim, side mesh windows and chin cord with toggle & keeper. The ‘Sport-X-Dry’ lining and soft sweatband are designed to be breathable, wickable and antibacterial.

Watersports sun hat copy

2. Solbari Water Sports Hat UPF 50+ Legionnaire Style

Perfect for those long afternoons out on the water, this lightweight, durable and practical sun-safe hat is packed with performance features. With a 7.5cm brim, it comes in 5 colour options, with UPF 50+ sun protection for maximum UV protection and confidence. An internal neoprene sweatband adds comfort, side mesh adds air circulation, and the chin strap and size fastener are adjustable.

Convertible boat hat

3. Coolibar Men's Convertible Boating Hat UPF 50+

You don’t have to be a boatie to wear this hat (although boaties will love it!). Travel friendly, crushable and packable, it features an anti-glare lining under the brim, internal cooling mesh sweatband, and a covered mesh panel for ventilation. Best of all, the neck drape folds into back of the brim when you don’t need it. Plus it floats should it go overboard!

Our top 3 sun-safe hats for babies, toddlers, kids & teens

Getting sunburnt as a child is a known risk factor that can increase the risk of melanoma and other types of skin cancer in later life3. That’s why babies, toddlers and children need the ultimate sun protection for their delicate skins - and should wear hats that cover their heads, necks and noses.

They should also wear a high-quality, high SPF, broad-spectrum sunscreen, long-sleeved UV protective clothing and sunglasses to protect their eyes from the sun’s harsh rays. The best protection for babies, toddlers and children is shade, so keep them under a tree, awning or beach tent as much as possible – and reapply their sunscreen at least every two hours in the sun or if swimming.

Teens, on the other hand, can be notoriously difficult to persuade to wear a hat, so we’ve thrown in some cool hats for them too. Read on for our top hats to protect your precious little’uns (and big’uns) from the sun.

Cheeky brim

1. Hills Hats - Sphere Cheeky Brim Bucket

The Sphere Cheeky Brim Bucket hat is the perfect summer hat. This fresh look features a slightly narrower brim than the classic bucket. Easy to roll up for travel. The eyelets making this hat more breathable and lined in a light cotton.

Surfs up hat

2. Coolibar Surfs Up All Sport Hat UPF 50+

Available in a range of colours for both boys and girls, Coolibar’s Surfs Up All Sport Hat has an impressive 8cm brim, as well as attached side drapes to protect your child’s ears and neck. Made of soft, quick-drying and durable fabric that’s also chlorine and saltwater resistant – and an adjustable crown size – this is SPF 50+ protection for kids who love the water.

Kids every day sun hat copy

3. Solbari Kids Everyday Sun Hat UPF50+

Solbari’s comfortable and stylish Kids Everyday Sun Hat UPF 50+ features a downward sloping brim to provide excellent sun protection of the face, eyes, ears and back of the neck. Available for 18 month olds to 10 year olds, it can grow along with your child, thanks to the adjustable drawstring at the back. The side mesh keeps the head cool when playing outdoors in the heat, and there’s a detacable chin strap for those windier days.

Knowing your skin cancer risk helps protect your skin too.

Here at MoleMap, we recommend that everyone wears a wide-brimmed, sun-proof hat and takes other SunSmart measures when in the summer sun - especially between 10am and 4pm during daylight savings months.

This is even more crucial if you have a moderate to higher risk of skin cancer (check your risk level here) If you have fair or freckly skin, a personal or family history of melanoma, are older, have been sunburnt in the past, or have an outdoor lifestyle, you may have a higher risk – in which case, we also recommend having a Full Body MoleMap every year to detect any early signs of melanoma and other skin cancers.

GET MY SKIN CHECKED

1. Melanoma NZ: https://www.melanoma.org.nz/facts-risk-factors 2. Backes C. et al: Facial exposure to UVR: predicted sun protection effectiveness of various hat styles. Photodermatol Photoimmunol Photomed. 2018 Sep;34(5):330-337. 3. Melanoma NZ: https://www.melanoma.org.nz/be-informed/understanding.

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