From beaches to trails and everywhere in between, it’s no secret that UV protection is essential when you’re out adventuring. But what happens if the only protection you have on are your clothes? Can you get sunburned through clothing?

While clothing is the first line of defense against UV exposure, factors like color, fit, and construction can determine how effective a garment is at blocking UV exposure.

Let’s walk through the basics of how sunburn through clothes happens and how you can better prevent UV damage with UPF-rated apparel designed for effortless sun protection.

Factors that Cause Sunburn Through Clothes

With the sun's invisible and powerful UVA and UVB rays wreaking havoc on the skin (from burns to more serious cases that can lead to cancer), it’s important to protect yourself—but sunscreen can be a hassle. Reapplying every two hours isn't exactly practical when you’re on the go. Clothing is the easiest way to shield skin from damaging ultraviolet rays, but knowing which garments in your wardrobe offer the best protection (and which just give you a false sense of security) is essential.

Read More: SPF 30 vs. 50: What's the Difference?

The Skin Cancer Foundation lists the major factors that affect a garment’s ability to block out those harmful rays:

  • Color: Dark and even bright colors like red, black, and navy blue tend to absorb more UV rays than lighter colors, which allows them to pass through.

  • Construction: Dense, heavy, and tightly woven fabrics provide the best sun protection, while thin or loosely woven fabrics, such as linen, cotton, or silk, offer little to no protection from UV rays.

  • Fit: Loosely fitting clothing offers better sun protection than tight-fitting clothing. This is mainly because if the garment is tight, the fabric is stretched, which can cause UV rays to pass through onto the skin.

  • UPF-Rating: If a UPF rating is available, you can rest assured knowing your garment offers advanced sun protection.

    Man and woman fishing wearing sun protective clothing

    What is UPF-Rated Clothing?

    UPF stands for Ultraviolet Protection Factor, which measures how much protection the fabric offers from UV rays. For example, UPF 50+ fabric will block out 98% of UV rays from penetrating through, while UPF 20+ fabric will block out 95% of those same rays. This advanced sun protection significantly reduces the opportunity for sun exposure and burns. The best UPF-rated fabric will also help keep you cool and comfortable on hot days, helping prevent excessive sweating, odor, or heat exhaustion.

    At Free Fly, we know spending time out in the sun offers some of life’s best moments, but you shouldn’t have to sacrifice comfort for skin safety. You’ve got more exciting things to expend your energy on, which is why we’ve designed lightweight, buttery-soft sun-protective clothing for men, women, and kids that won’t compromise breathability, movement, or comfort. Our best-selling UPF 20 and 50+ layers are designed with extra sun-safe features like lightweight hoods and thumbholes to protect the neck and hands from sun exposure.

    Armor Up with the Comfort & Protection of Free Fly

    Whether your day takes place on a boat, casting from the coast, running your favorite trail, or lounging on the deck, Free Fly’s sun-protective clothing for women, men, and kids have your family’s comfort and safety accounted for.

    Shop Free Fly today to find the best men's sun shirts and women's sun shirts, bottoms, and accessories for every way you like to explore the outdoors. See our stuff in the wild at @freeflyapparel, or learn more about our sun-protective clothing at the Free Fly Blog!