At this point, we all know the dangers of the sun. While you definitely need a little bit of sun exposure to help get Vitamin D, you also don’t want to get too much, as that can result in sunburn, and possibly melanoma or another form of skin cancer. There’s a delicate balance that must be had when it comes to the sun, and it can be very difficult to walk that thin line, especially if you live an outdoor, active life where you are constantly out in the sun. Rather than having to stop to constantly put on sunscreen, try UPF clothing instead.

First, you may be wondering, what does UPF clothing mean? UPF is a term that is very similar to SPF, which you may recognize from the sunscreen tube that you likely have in your house somewhere. SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor, which pertains to its ability to block UVB rays, which are damaging rays that the sun emits. UPF is similar in that it’s a ranking factor, but for clothing. The other difference is that this ranking factor is actually for both UVA and UVB rays, ensuring full-spectrum protection. UPF stands for Ultraviolet Protection Factor, since it offers that more full-spectrum protection, rather than just from one version of UV rays.

Now that you know what UPF stands for, you may be wondering, who needs to wear this type of clothing? Pretty much everyone can benefit from wearing it, especially if you are planning to be out in the sun without much shade. The optimal times to be out in the sun, because the rays are not as intense, is before 9 a.m., and after 3 p.m. Unfortunately, a mission or adventure may not be able to wait until the end of the day, and it may require you being out during those peak sun times. If that’s the case, UPF clothing is a great option, especially for those who are more sun-sensitive, kids, in high elevations, in snow, in water, or even if you are taking medication. All of these factors can make you more sensitive and susceptible to the UV-related health risks, and even those with darker skin are not safe from skin cancer, you just are not as likely to get a sunburn. Because of this, UPF clothing is a great option for a variety of different outdoor activities, even a family beach day.

Just like SPF, UPF ratings come in different levels. Also, like SPF, the higher the rating, the better as far as UV ray protection. For example, a rating of 50 means that only 1/50 UV transmission will get through the fabric. This is a large amount of the rays blocked, which makes this a great choice for any outdoor adventure. Now, most clothing offers a UPF rating of some sort, even if it’s not labeled, simply because it’s covering the skin in some way. The lowest UPF rating you will see is 15, as that is the level it needs to be considered UV protective. No lower rating exists, as it simply does not effectively block any of the UV rays. The ratings come from a variety of factors including the construction of the fabric, the color, treatments, and the fiber type. All of these factors can make a difference in how much light is absorbed and passes through the material.

Caring for UPF clothing differs a bit in that putting them in the laundry can decrease the UPF rating. If it’s a chemical coating that is giving it the UPF rating, washing it may cause some of the coating to come off of the material, so read carefully if it needs to be washed a certain way or with a certain type of detergent. The other possibility is that the rating and protection could become compromised if the material of the shirt becomes damaged just from the general wear and tear.

Of course, while UPF clothing is a great start to protecting your skin from the harsh rays of the sun, it’s not enough. You’ll also want to ensure that you are wearing sunscreen on all exposed areas of skin, trying to find shade if at all possible, this will help you fight dehydration as well, and making sure that you wear sunglasses. Finally, you’ll also want to keep in mind that the sun’s rays can get to you even if the weather is cloudy, so don’t forgo the UPF clothing just because the weather calls for cloudy skies.