There's nothing like the feeling of warm sun on your skin, whether you're hitting the creek for a long day of fishing or just chilling by the grill. But like all good things, too much sun can be a problem.

From minor annoyances like sunburns and wrinkles to serious health hazards later in life, there are many reasons why regularly protecting yourself from the sun is critical. That's why it's so important to understand the difference between UPF and SPF, two vital measures of sun protection. 

Let's take a closer look at what you need to know.

UPF vs. SPF - Protecting Yourself From the Sun

By now, you know that UV radiation can harm the skin and eyes both in the short and long term. But do you know the different ways UVA and UVB rays cause damage?

UVA radiation can cause aging effects on the skin, along with some skin burning. UVA radiation can also lead to long-term damage, such as wrinkles and dark spots. UVB rays are responsible for sunburns, skin cancers, cataracts, and other serious health conditions.

For those who love the outdoors, it's essential to take proactive measures to protect themselves for their present comfort and future health. Both SPF and UPF offer varying degrees of protection, but they do it in different ways.

What is SPF?

SPF (short for sun protection factor) measures the amount of solar energy and UV radiation required to produce a sunburn, compared to unprotected skin. It's expressed as a whole number, ranging from single digits to as high as 100, though many argue SPFs over 50 aren’t worth buying

Most typical sunblocks and sunscreens fall in the SPF 10 to 30 range. Those with lighter skin should choose higher SPF ratings to ensure they stay protected. 

Contrary to popular belief, SPF doesn't correspond with the number of hours you're safe from the sun's effects. Instead, it's a measure of protection from solar energy, meaning the same SPF will offer longer protection in the morning or on cloudy days compared to middays or clear days when the sun’s rays are stronger.

Typically, SPF only measures protection against UVB rays, meaning you'll still be vulnerable to the sun's aging effects unless you choose broad-spectrum sunscreen varieties that also offer UVA blocking. SPF protection is also temporary, so reapplication every few hours is required.

What is UPF?

UPF (ultraviolet protection factor) is another measure of protection from the sun's harmful UV rays. It is exclusively found in apparel like sun shirts and other sun-protective clothing for women, men, and children.

UPF ratings also range from 1 to 100, with the number representing the fraction of UV rays that can penetrate the fabric. For example, a UPF of 20 means only 1/20th (5%) makes it through. Average clothing has a UPF of around 5, while good UPF protection generally begins at 15 and up.

Unlike SPF, UPF covers both UVA and UVB rays, providing complete protection against all of the harmful effects of the sun. Since UPF is built into the fabric, it also offers long-lasting protection that won’t easily degrade or wash away.

Man and Woman walking in shallow water while wearing UPF apparel

Enjoy UPF Protection in Free Fly Apparel

We all love spending time in the sun, but it's more important than ever to be safe while doing it. Ultimately, the UPF vs. SPF debate comes down to a simple answer—use both!

Proper SPF protection means finding and using a sunscreen or sunblock that works for you and your skin. Reapply as directed, and don't wait until you're already seeing or feeling a burn, as by then, it's already too late.

But UPF protection is also crucial, and there's no better way to do it than with Free Fly's sun-protective clothing for men and women. We craft our UPF apparel from FSC-certified organic bamboo for unparalleled comfort, breathability, versatility, and of course, sun protection. Protecting yourself from the sun is necessary, and Free Fly helps you look good and feel even better while doing it. Shop today to stock up on the essentials for every sunny day adventure.