Welcome to Sun Blocked, Refinery29’s global call-to-action to wake up to the serious dangers of tanning. No lectures or shaming, we promise. Instead, our goal is to arm you with the facts you need to protect your skin to the best of your ability, because there’s no such thing as safe sun.
Face sunscreen? Check. Travel-size tube for on-the-go touch ups? Check. SPF for below the neck? Check, check, and check. Go ahead and pat yourself on the back, but know that sun safety doesn’t stop there. Lotions and potions are one thing, but going one step further with UV-protective clothing and accessories will take you from novice to expert in terms of safe sun. “UPF (ultraviolet protection factor) clothing is specially designed to provide an extra layer of protection against the sun,” Melissa Kanchanapoomi Levin, MD, board-certified dermatologist and founder of Entière Dermatology, tells Refinery29. “It is woven tightly and often made from fabrics that offer a high UPF rating, such as polyester, nylon, and certain types of cotton.” Whereas sunscreens have an SPF rating, a number corresponding to the length of time where your skin is protected from UV rays, clothing has a UPF rating, which refers to the amount of UV exposure that can penetrate fabric and affect your skin.
Tops, trousers, swimsuits, cover-ups — you can find them all in UV-protective form. Dr. Levin adds that sun protection gear shouldn’t stop at your fit: UPF clothing is a smart investment, but protecting your eyes from UV radiation is just as important. “The delicate skin around the eyes is highly susceptible to sun damage, and long-term exposure to UV rays can lead to cataracts, macular degeneration, and other eye conditions,” she explains. Her advice? “Look for sunglasses with 100% UV protection and a wrap-around design to shield the eyes from the sides as well.” Pro tip: Scope out your frames’ tech specs (look for a label that indicates 100% broad-spectrum UVA and UVB protection) before splurging, and keep in mind that the “you get what you pay for” rule of thumb usually holds true in this scenario (as in, a £5 bargain pair might not cut it).
Ahead, we asked dermatologists and R29 editors to share the sun-protective gear they’ll be keeping in heavy rotation this summer and beyond. And remember, UV damage is cumulative — in other words, it’s never too late to begin a good habit. “Sun protection is a comprehensive approach that combines multiple strategies to safeguard your skin,” Dr. Levin says. “While sunscreen is vital, incorporating these additional measures will help minimise your risk of sunburns, premature ageing, and skin cancer.”
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