Sun Protective Clothing and Accessories
In terms of appearance, there is almost nothing different between regular clothing and sun protective clothing. The latter is, however, designed specifically to provide protections for the skin from dangerous effects of direct exposure to UV light. To achieve protection the sun protective clothing is produced from special fabrics rated for UV protection. The manufacturing process including weave structure and thread count is also taken into account to enhance protective properties. Some fabrics and textiles are pre-treated with UV-inhibiting ingredients during production as well. Besides clothing, some other accessories including hats and sunglasses are considered sun protective also.
Only small amounts of UV are useful for humans and essential in the production of vitamin D. Some diseases such as eczema and psoriasis can be treated by using UV radiation as well, but prolonged exposure to direct UV may cause dangerous diseases including skin cancers, immune system disorders, and eye damage. Short terms effects include sunburn and premature signs of aging such as wrinkles. As the name suggests, the main function of sun protective clothing is to prevent your skin from being continuously exposed to sunlight. Because some people spend most of their time every day in an outdoor environment (working, traveling, playing, etc), it is important to make sure they have adequate protections. Sun damage is probably not noticeable if you spend an hour or two everyday under direct sunlight, but it is cumulative over your lifetime.
Some of the obvious suggestions are that a shirt with long sleeves is better than a short sleeved T-shirt because it covers more parts of the body, especially if it also has high collar or neckline to protect the back of the neck. Long pants cover more parts of the leg than shorts. The most frequently exposed parts will take most of the damage, so more cover is better. Bear in mind that human eye can see visible lights, but not UV radiation. To determine whether or not your clothing has sun protective properties, take a look at the following factors:
Fabric: a tighter weave has smaller holes for UV radiation to pass through. Most fibers absorb UV radiation, but more elastic threads can pull the fabrics more tightly and therefore reduce spaces between holes as well. Synthetic fibers such as polyester and acrylic have more protective properties than bleached cottons. Linen tends to absorb UV rather than deflect it. Also consider weight and density; heavy denim is more protective than light gauze.
Color: unlike fabric, colors that absorb UV radiation provide good protection. Darker colors are more protective than lighter ones, but bright colors such as red can substantially reduce exposure too. Vivid colors are also better than pale ones; however, pale fabric can be effective if the weight and weave are good.
UPF: closely inspecting fabric, weave, and color is helpful to determine clothing’s protective properties, but it is still difficult to be very accurate about it. The best solution is to choose clothing with UPF (Ultraviolet Protection Factor) labels. UPF clothing is a concept originally standardized in Australia in 1996 to determine how effectively a piece of clothing protects the wearer against UV radiation. The standard is now used worldwide; and in the United States, testing and qualification are performed by ASTM International (formerly called American Society for Testing and Materials). The ASTM Standard for sun protective clothing and swimwear is as follows:
Similar to clothing, fashion accessories can also provide protection from direct exposure to UV radiation. A baseball cap provides good protection, but a wide-brimmed sun protection hats are better in most situations. For the face, wide sunglasses cover more areas that their smaller counterparts do. The danger of prolonged exposure lurks not only anywhere on your skin but also your eyes. When buying sunglasses check the label to see if it says they block 100% UVA and UVB.
Too much UV light can cause cataracts, destroy retina, and create wrinkles on the skin around the eye. UV light cause changes to skin cells, leading to cancers; in the eye, sclera (elastic fiber) on the eye surface thickens. It is not cancer, but can cause great discomfort. There is no worldwide ISO standard for sunglasses UV protection effectiveness. Currently, there are three major different standards including:
- Australian Standard: from 0 to 4. The number 0 represents “some protection” from UV and glare, while 4 indicates high level of protection.
- European Standard: from 0 to 7. The number 0 represents insufficient protection, 2 for sufficient, and 7 for full protection which means no more than 5% of rays are transmitted.
- US FDA: in the United States, sunglasses need at least UVB transmittance of no more than 1% and UVA transmittance of no more than 0.3 times visual light transmittance to be considered protective.
Just because the lenses are dark, it does not mean your sunglasses provide good protection. A simple darkened lenses will force the pupil to open wider so it absorbs more light to be able to see. Wearing non-protective dark sunglasses allows more UV radiation to penetrate into the back of the eye. So be sure to ask and check the protection level.
Environment-friendly Fashion Accessories
In times where every purchase we make and use greatly affects our planet, using only environment-friendly fashion accessories is one of the easiest and beneficial acts we can do. Some materials such as bamboo and hemp can be used for the manufacturing processes of watches case/bands/strap, sunglass frames, and even hats. Bamboo sunglasses are becoming more mainstream, are light, and environmentally friendly. While such materials may not enhance protective properties of the accessories, we can all help to protect our environment by using sustainable resources.