When most of us go swimming, we lather ourselves in sunscreen to protect ourselves from the sun’s harmful UV rays, which can lead to skin cancer. While applying sunscreen to our skin is a good decision, and shopping for a high SPF is a better decision, most of us are still making a common mistake: not wearing UV protective clothing.
UV protective clothing is specifically designed for sun protection and is produced from a fabric that is rated for its level of ultraviolet protection. Some people only think about sun protection when they spend a day at the lake, beach, or pool. But sun exposure adds up day after day, and it happens every time you are in the sun. Even though sunlight is the main source of UV rays, you don’t have to avoid the sun completely. Staying inside would be unwise if it would keep you from being active, because physical activity is important for good health. But getting too much sun can be harmful.
Be aware that covering up doesn’t block out all UV rays. If you can see light through a fabric, UV rays can get through, too. Many companies now make clothing that’s lightweight, comfortable, and protects against UV rays even when wet. It tends to be more tightly woven, and some have special coatings to help absorb UV rays. These sun-protective clothes may have a label listing the UV protection factor (UPF) value (the level of protection the garment provides from the sun’s UV rays, on a scale from 15 to 50+). The higher the UPF, the higher the protection from UV rays. This is why shopping for a high SPF is a better decision.
Some products, which are used like laundry detergents in a washing machine, can increase the UPF value of clothes you already own. They add a layer of UV protection to your clothes without changing the color or texture. This can be useful, but it’s not exactly clear how much it adds to protecting you from UV rays, so it’s still important to follow the other sun safety steps.
People who live in areas with year-round, bright sunlight have a higher risk of skin cancer. Spending a lot of time outdoors for work or recreation without protective clothing and sunscreen increases your risk.
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