We’re finally at the end of summer, after enduring another season of unprecedented droughts and heat waves—and it’s not quite over. We may face weather like this well into the fall, which means you can expect to see a bit more sun than you’re used to during back-to-school season. You should pay closer attention to the UV index, even after summer officially ends.
Venturing out into the sun, your most vulnerable parts are going to be your extremities, your face, and your eyes. And if you’re going swimming, that includes anywhere that’s exposed by your swimwear. That’s what we’re focusing on: keeping you covered but cool, protected but not smothered. These are our favorite picks to do just that.
Updated September 2022: We’ve added the Coolibar Sun Blanket, Parasol, Solbari Zip-Up Hoodie, and Sensitive Skin Hand Wraps. We’ve also removed a few items that are no longer available and updated prices throughout.
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Crunching the NumbersHow Is UPF Different From SPF?
Much like the SPF numbers you see on sunscreens, sun-protection clothing has a numerical ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) listed on the product. This number indicates how much ultraviolet light passes through the fabric. A shirt with UPF 50, for instance, will absorb or scatter 98 percent of ultraviolet radiation, allowing only 1/50 of the original UV light to reach your skin. SPF differs in that it measures the amount of time it takes for skin to redden in the sun.
It’s hard to gauge exactly how long a specific UPF will protect you, because the UV index changes with the weather and geography in your area. Regular clothing will also protect you; in general, densely woven or darker colors tend to absorb more UV light. The best thing about sun-protective clothing, however, is that unlike an SPF lotion, you never have to reapply a shirt.
Soft, Lightweight FabricREI Co-op Sahara Hoodie
Synthetic sun-protection shirts can be plasticky, and if you happen to sweat at all, they stick to you like cling film. It’s not a great vibe. By comparison, REI’s Sahara Hoodie (which also comes in shirt and T-shirt form) is super soft to the touch and extremely breathable—you can absolutely feel a cool breeze through it when it’s warm and windy out.
I particularly like that the shirt has thumb holes in the sleeves, so the fabric can protect the backs of your hands. Wearing zero sunscreen (always wear sunscreen, kids), the UPF 50 fabric protected my arms and the backs of my hands from developing any uncomfortable rashes or sunburn.
UPF 50, synthetic fabric, covers arms, and has fingerless glove built-in.
A Breathable Full-Zip Hoodie Solbari Luxe Hooded Full Zip Hoodie
Slathering yourself in sunscreen gets tiring during the hot summer months, and especially during that transitional periods between summer and fall. That’s where ultra-lightweight outer layers like the Solbari Full-Zip Hoodie come in handy. It’s light and breathable enough that you can feel a nice breeze through it, and you won’t get too hot when you’re out in the sun, but it also offers enough coverage to keep you safe from those high-UV-index days. It’s a lifesaver if you’re sensitive to the feeling of sunscreen on your skin.
UPF 50+, synthetic fabric, sizes up to XXL.