Sun Protective Clothing Benefits

Sun Protective Clothing vs Ocean Safe Sunscreen?

Here are just some of the reasons why you will benefit from sun protective swimwear and clothing when going fishing versus using sunscreen…

So what is Sun Protective Clothing (SPC)?

Until recently, most of us fishermen in the northern hemisphere have associated sun protection with high factor sun creams and sunscreens. These are important in the defense against the damaging effects of ultraviolet radiation (UVR) exposure but the most effective protection doesn’t come in a bottle, it’s provided by our clothing especially when you are spending a good portion of the day on a boat catching fish.

Modern sun protective clothing (SPC) has been developed in the southern hemisphere and is now worn routinely by millions of people in Australia, North America and Southern Africa where the dangers of sun exposure are more stark and public education campaigns have led to greater awareness of the dangers. Sun protection swimwear and outdoor clothing is designed to cover vulnerable areas of the body like the neck, shoulders and upper arms and legs. These clothes are particularly important for those with lupus, porphyria, Xeroderma Pigmentosum (XP) albinism and other sun sensitive conditions.

Ideally you want clothing that covers a lot of the body and blocks virtually all UVR but is still light and comfortable to wear. And that is exactly what the new generation of sun protective fabrics from Australia and South Africa do. Sun protective clothing (SPC) and sun protection swimwear is made from specially developed hi-tech fabrics that block UVR much more effectively than traditional summer outdoor and swim wear. The ultraviolet protection generally comes from the tightness of the weave and not from special chemical treatments, although some garments offer both. The most protective fabrics tend to be nylon or polyester based with a stretchy material like Lycra TM or Elastane TM. These combine excellent sun blocking properties with lightness and breathability. And many specialist SPC fabrics are specially treated to be chlorine resistant – so they’re ideal for sun protection swimwear.

The Sun Factor System for Clothing (UPFs)

We all know about the sun factor system for sunscreen and sunblock cream – the sun protection factor system (SPFs). But you may not be aware that there is a parallel standard for clothing – the Ultraviolet Protection Factor or UPF rating system. This was pioneered in Australia and New Zealand about five years ago and resulted in a technical standard: AS/NZS4399. There is not yet a common international standard but the Australian system is becoming increasingly widely used globally and similar standards now exist in the USA, Canada and South Africa.

The UPF rating is a measure of a garment’s protective ability, based on how much UVR can get through a fabric to the skin. The ultra violet protection factors go much higher than sun creams. The higher the UPF score, the higher the protection. The highest rated garments offer Factor 50+ protection which means less than 1/50 th (or less than 2% penetration) of the UVR reaches the skin. At the other end of the scale a UPF of 2 means 1/2 gets through and so on. So with a 50+ garment you could theoretically stay in the sun 50 times longer before getting burned – but you’d still need to apply sun cream to any exposed skin.

Fabrics that have been tested by the relevant scientific body are labelled with a UPF rating which guarantees a garment’s protection level. Very lightweight fabrics with an open structure, such as light coloured, loosely woven summer cottons, can have UPFs of less than 10 and this can fall to as low as 2 when wet. This provides inadequate protection and means up to half the UVR is able to penetrate the material to your skin. By contrast, nylon/Lycra TM sun protective clothing can exceed UPF 100, wet or dry, blocking virtually all UVR.

The rating categories for clothing are as follows:
UPF Rating Category
40 to 50+ Excellent ultraviolet protection
25 to 39 Very good ultraviolet protection
15 to 24 Good ultraviolet protection
10 or less Does not give adequate UVR protection for outdoor summer conditions