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UV Clothing is the New Sunscreen

Consumer demand for sun-protective UV clothing has risen with the rate of skin cancer as people become more aware of the need for ample defense against harmful rays.

According to the latest study published by the Skin Cancer Foundation, cases of melanoma grew 800 percent among young women and 400 percent among young men in the past forty years.

Basic clothing offers some degree of protection against the sun with darker colors and fabrics that are tightly woven shielding the most. UV clothing is designed specifically for fighting off more UV rays with tighter weaves and special coatings that help absorb the rays, the American Cancer Society says. Clothes are labeled based on a rating system for apparel called UV protection factor (UPF), a 15 to 50+ value representing the level of protection. As with SPF in sunscreen, the higher the UPF, the higher the UV ray protection.

In studies done by the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA), lycra and elastane were most likely to have UPFs of 50 or more, followed by plastic, nylon and polyester. “They provide excellent sun protection, in contrast to, e.g., a thin white cotton T-shirt, which has a UPF of about 5, allowing 1/5th of the sun’s UVR to pass through–even more when wet,” the Skin Cancer Foundation reported.

John Barrow, founder and president of Coolibar, a Minnesota-based sun protective clothing manufacturer, told fibre2fashion, “I would estimate the market size of sun protective clothing line in the global garment sector is likely to be around $1 to $1.5 billion a year.”

Growth in demand for UV clothing in the market has brands like Target, Nike and REI offering the items with more companies expected to embrace the protective apparel.