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Whether you’re scanning the tide pools for all sorts of wriggly sea creatures or picnicking at the park, there are plenty of activities to dive into when the sun’s rays are on the rise. But when the sun is out, coverage is in—especially on your little honey bun.
Whether it’s sunscreen or protective clothing, you’ll want to be sure you’re keeping your little one’s sun-sensitive skin safe and sound.
That’s why it’s helpful to know the difference between UPF and SPF.
UPF measures the protective value of fabric, while SPF indicates how much protection is offered from products like sunscreen, lip balm, concealer, and more.
If SPF and UPF have still got you scratching your head, we’re here with a ray of guidance to help you understand the difference between the two, what the numbers in SPF and UPF indicate, and how to choose quality UPF baby girl swimsuits. Read on as we take on the murky ins and outs of sun protection and make them as clear as a sunny day.
First up, let’s put ultraviolet light under the microscope. Ultraviolet light makes up about 10% of the sun’s radiation and comes in three forms:
So, when you’re dressing up your little doll for a Saturday in the sand or a Monday in the mountains, you’ll need to be on the lookout for UVA and UVB rays—not UVC. While UV light does aid in the body’s production of vitamin D, both UVA and UVB rays can do more harm than good.
The good news is that you’ve got two excellent options to keep your little one in good hands: UPF and SPF.
You’ve seen it on sunscreen, lotion, chapstick, conditioner, and even eyeshadow. But what exactly does SPF mean?
Simply put, SPF stands for sun protection factor.
Regulated by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA), it’s a measure of how much solar radiation (specifically UVB radiation) is required to cause a sunburn on protected skin versus unprotected skin.
The acronym SPF is always followed by a number indicating how protective the product is. Contrary to common belief, SPF numbers don’t have to do with sun exposure time but the amount of exposure.
To put it in simpler terms of protection:
Although the time of exposure and amount of UV radiation absorbed do go hand-in-hand, it’s important to remember that you get more UV exposure from the sun at midday than you do from the sun in the early morning or evening.
Some other factors that impact how much solar radiation is absorbed are:
Because so many different, fluctuating, and individual factors impact the efficacy of sunscreen, SPF is a relative measure and may vary from product to product. Plus, not all sunscreens offer broad-spectrum protection. In other words, they won’t protect against both UVA and UVB rays unless they’re classified as “broad spectrum” on the label.
While sunscreen is rated using the SPF system, clothing is rated using the ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) system. UPF is a measure of the amount of total UV radiation (both UVA and UVB) that can penetrate the fabric to reach the skin beneath.
You might be asking yourself what is UPF 50 and what kind of protection does it offer?
Like SPF sunscreens, UPF clothing is rated numerically. Some common UPF ratings that you might come across are:
But what is UPF clothing exactly? Unlike SPF lotions and creams, clothing doesn’t need to have a UPF factor to be sun protective. In fact, all clothing offers UPF protection.
The factors that typically determine a fabric’s protection are:
So, even your everyday clothing offers a level of UPF. For example, a white t-shirt might offer 10 UPF, whereas a dark denim jacket or jeans provides 1700 UPF.
Now that you’ve gained a deeper understanding of the two, you might be wondering—which is better: SPF or UPF? The answer is neither. The best sun protection for you and your little one comes from combining SPF and UPF products.
Together they form an effective shield from the sun, but there are a few pros and cons to both sunscreen and sun-protective clothing:
There isn’t one right way to protect yourself and your little one from the sun. By combining the power of SPF sunscreen with the power of UPF clothing, you’ll be able to mix and match what feels right to you. Try some variation on this top-down scheme to keep them perfectly protected:
Sun protective clothing is a great way to ensure you're limiting the UV rays hitting the skin during sun exposure. Instead of packing heavy, densely woven denim on your warm-weather adventures, we’ve put together a list of UPF rated clothing essentials that are jst as lightweight and protective as they are comfortable:
UPF clothes can be considered beach essentials for toddlers, older kids, and the whole family in general.
Once you’ve committed to purchasing and using UPF clothing for yourself and your family, you’ll need to understand how to care for these garments in order to keep them in top condition.
Washing UPF clothing is a matter of treating them as you would any other specialty or delicate fabric. Follow these steps to keep them fresh and like-new:
Once your UPF clothing is completely dry, you can store it by gently folding or rolling it. Do not iron UPF clothing as the heat can damage the fibers of the fabric.
Your child is the center of your universe and keeping them safe from the damaging effects of the sun is an absolute priority.
At RuffleButts, we respect that. We want to make your job just a little bit easier by offering you UPF clothing for your baby or child that’s sure to keep them sun-safe all season. We’ve designed everything from short and long-sleeved boys rash guards and girls rash guards, as well as swimwear, swim hats and rompers.
Choose safety and style for your sweet one. Shop RuffleButts today.
United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Sun Protection Factor (SPF). https://www.fda.gov/about-fda/center-drug-evaluation-and-research-cder/sun-protection-factor-spf#:~:text=SPF%20is%20a%20measure%20of,value%20increases%2C%20sunburn%20protection%20increases.
Skin Cancer Foundation. Sun Protective Clothing. https://www.skincancer.org/skin-cancer-prevention/sun-protection/sun-protective-clothing/#:~:text=Ultraviolet%20Protection%20Factor%20(UPF)%20indicates,reducing%20your%20exposure%20risk%20significantly.
Cancers of the Skin Conference Paper. Role of Clothes in Sun Protection. https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-3-642-59410-6_3
University of Calgary. Energy Education: Sunlight. https://energyeducation.ca/encyclopedia/Sunlight
Centers for Disease Control. UV Radiation. https://www.cdc.gov/nceh/features/uv-radiation-safety/index.html
Verywell Health. Sun Protection Factor (SPF) and Sunscreen.
Environmental Working Group. Out all day? Wear a loud shirt.