Sure, it may seem like common sense. Hats, long sleeves, sunglasses... they're all necessities in the summer. But how much does clothing actually protect you from the sun? Is your summer wardrobe helping you or harming you?
Essentially, it all comes down to what fabric and color your clothing is made up of... as well as how much of your skin is covered of course! But let's find out...
Recommended reading: How to apply sunscreen the right way
Fabric: According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, synthetic and semi-synthetic fibers (such as polyester and rayon) offer the greatest sun protection. Refined or bleached cottons or crepe offer the least amount of sun protection. Glossy fabrics, such as satin, reflect more UV rays away from the skin than do matte fabrics, like linen. Silks and gauze-type fabrics will of course provide much less protection than a heavy denim, as looser weaves allow for more sun to come through.
Color: Dark colors like black and navy are best to wear as the colors absorb the sun's light rays. This will make you feel warmer under the sun, but it will do a better job at protecting your skin than a white top of the same fabric would. The more intense the hue of your clothing, the more protection it will provide when you're under the sun, so try to stay away from lights, whites, and pastels. Clothing with patterns and images provide slightly more protection, but again - the darker the colors the better.
Hats: A simple baseball cap is better than none, but the best kind of hat under the sun is a wide-brimmed one. Just how wide? A hat that's brim extends at least 3 inches or more from your head all the way around is enough to shade your face and neck. If you don't have a hat but wear a scarf, make sure the material is thick and dark, or it won't do you any good on the beach.
The main issue that arises here is that while darker and heavier fabrics provide more protection from the sun, they will alternatively make you feel warmer. This is why most 'summer' clothing is usually light in color and fabric weight. Unfortunately, you either have to sweat it out or risk the extra skin exposure. Alternatively, you can apply sunscreen on your body before getting dressed, but be aware that you will have to re-apply every so often.
There is another option, however. Many companies now produce UV protective gear and clothing, making it much easier to work and play outside. A good practice is to look for clothing that has a UPF of at least 30 (much like sunscreen!) Or of course you can always opt to stay in the shade under a large umbrella or tree. Staying under direct sunlight for any length of time can be quite dangerous, so be sure to stay out of the sun between 10am and 4pm.
So what does your summer wardrobe look like?
Recommended Reading: UV Indexes - What are they and why are they important?