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Myth Busters, Skin Cancer, Sun Safety, Preventative Tips

Not all clothing provides the same amount of sun protection

The Cancer Council clarifies sunscreen and SPF level confusion

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Team MoleMap Creator
Posted 12/11/15
You can get sunburnt through clothing

Above: You can get sunburnt through clothing.

UPF clothing can prevent you from burning through your clothes

Did you know that you can get sunburnt through clothing?

Clothing can have varying degrees of protection depending on the fabric used, with some clothes leaving your skin exposed to harmful UV rays.

How protective a fabric is can be determined using the UV Protection Factor (UPF) rating system, which measures the UV protection provided by the fabric. It is very similar to the SPF rating system used for sunscreen - UPF50+ is equivalent to wearing SPF50+ sunscreen. Some clothes might only have a UPF of 5, providing minimal protection.

UPF Ratings

UPF Protection Category
15 or 20 Good Protection
25, 30 or 35 Very Good Protection
40, 50 or 50+ Excellent Protection

Wear UPF sun protective clothing

Above: Clothing can have varying degrees of protection depending on the fabric used.

What does UPF50 mean?
UPF measures the amount of UV rays that pass through fabrics when exposed to UV radiation. UPF50 only allows 1/50th of UV radiation to pass through a garment - it blocks out 49/50 ie 98% of UV radiation.

What factors affect the UV protection of fabric?

  • Weave – higher is better
  • Colour – darker is better
  • Weight – heavier is better
  • Stretch – less is better

Common fabrics that provide better protection:

  • Specially manufactured fabrics for sun protection. Genuine sun protective clothing must be made from fabric that complies with the standard AS/NZS4399:1996. Clothing that has met this standard will carry a label stating one of the UPF rating as shown in the table above.
  • Blue or black denim jeans
  • Merino wool garments
  • 100% polyester
  • Shiny polyester blends
  • Satin-finish silk of any weight
  • Tightly woven fabrics
  • Unbleached cotton

Common fabrics that provide worse protection:

  • Polyester crepe
  • Bleached cotton
  • Viscose
  • Knits, especially loosely woven
  • Undyed, white denim jeans
  • Threadbare, worn fabric


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