When it comes to spending time outside with friends, family, or even your four-legged companions, one thing is essential: Sun protection. But which SPF should you go for – 30 or . 50? What's the difference? And are there any other ways to stay safe in the sun without having to lather up? 

Let’s break down these two ratings and look at today’s best ways to stay safe from UV rays outdoors.

What’s the Difference Between SPF 30 and 50?

SPF (short for Sun Protection Factor) is a metric used to gauge the effectiveness of sunblock in preventing sunburns caused by UVB rays. SPF 30 filters 97% of UVB rays, meaning it takes 30 times longer for skin to burn than if you used no sunscreen. To put it another way, SPF 30 provides the same level of sun exposure in 30 minutes as one would receive in one minute without protection.

SPF 50 blocks 98% of UVB rays, which may feel like a small difference, but reduces the UV radiation that reaches the skin compared to SPF 30 by up to 50%.

It's also worth noting that SPF values over 50 do not necessarily equate to enhanced skin protection since no sunscreen can block 100% of UV rays.

Sunscreen limitations

Other factors can impact sunscreen’s effectiveness, like whether the product is broad-spectrum (protects against UVA and UVB rays), water or sweat resistant, properly (or improperly) applied, and how it’s stored. 

How often you should reapply varies based on the product, but most sunscreens only protect for approximately 2 hours. This timeframe can decrease when exposed to elements such as water, sweat, or high temperatures that can cause the sunscreen to break down faster.

Sunscreen alternatives

Did you know there’s a more effective, less demanding way to protect your skin from the sun? It’s called UPF-rated clothing, and it will make every sunny day adventure that much safer! It’s also what the Skin Cancer Foundation recommends as the first and most effective defense against UV exposure.

Friends walking on the beach wearing UPF 30 & 50 clothing

What is UPF-Rated Apparel?

UPF (short for Ultraviolet Protection Factor) is a metric that indicates how much UV radiation (UVA and UVB) the fabric allows to reach the skin. A material's highest level of UV protection is UPF 50+, which blocks 98% of UVA and UVB rays

Unlike sunscreen, UPF-rated clothing provides consistent protection from UVA and UVB rays without wearing off, making it easy to enjoy your day without pausing to reapply your sunscreen. Today’s best UPF-rated apparel is comfortable, breathable, and provides effortless sun protection.

Read More: Can You Get Sunburned Through Clothing?

Stay Sun-Safe in the Comfort of Free Fly

We know the sun won't stop you from doing what you love. That’s why at Free Fly, you’ll find a range of UPF-rated sun-protective clothing for men, women, and kids made from lightweight, buttery soft organic bamboo and our proprietary performance wovens for uncompromised comfort, movement, and protection. 

We’ve worked hard to create the most comfortable, breathable, UPF-rated performance apparel that won’t slow you down or jeopardize your skin health. We thoughtfully designed our sun-protective clothing for women, men, and kids with protective features like lightweight hoodies for head and neck protection. Many of our men’s sun hoodies and women’s sun hoodies feature thumbholes for top-of-hand protection, a lifesaver when the sun’s at its worst. 

Shop Free Fly today to find the men's sun shirts and women's sun shirts, bottoms, and accessories for your active lifestyle. See our stuff in the wild at @freeflyapparel, or learn more about our sun-protective clothing at the Free Fly Blog!