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Fabrics That Protect You From the Sun

On a day of boating, the sun feels wonderful. On a dreary, wet day, how we long for it to shine! However, that warmth from our sun carries a hazard – ultraviolet radiation (UV).
Keli wearing MicroLite Shirt
Keli wearing MicroLite Shirt
©David Blue
These rays have a shorter wavelength than visible light and are divided into three types. UV-A rays penetrate deepest into the skin, do not produce reddening of the skin (sunburn), probably cause skin and other cancers and are not blocked by most sunscreens. UV-B radiation penetrates less deeply, causes sunburn, is known to cause skin cancer and is blocked by most sunscreens. UV-C is the most dangerous of the three types, but fortunately is almost totally absorbed by ozone in the atmosphere.
Sunscreens (suntan lotions) are quite effective at blocking UV-B radiation but have to be reapplied during the day, especially if you’re sweating, swimming or getting splashed with water. Enter fabrics that protect you from the sun’s harmful rays.

Not just any fabric works. Many types offer little protection. That cotton t-shirt you’re wearing probably gives you significantly less protection than the SPF-15 sunscreen that is the minimum recommended rating for outdoor activity.

Australia has the world’s highest rate of skin cancer. They have high UV levels and relatively clear skies. They originated the use of special fabrics for sun protection and the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPNSA) developed the first standards and test methods to certify protection levels.

Sunscreens are rated for their Sun Protection Factor (SPF) against only UV-B rays. Fabrics are rated for their Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF) and must protect against both UV-A and UV-B radiation. Sun-protective fabrics block the sun’s rays with the type and density of their weave, the type of fiber and the dyes used.

Mike wearing MicroLite Shirt
Mike wearing MicroLite Shirt
©Josh Davis
NRS MicroLite™ and HydroSilk™ are excellent examples of sun-protective apparel. MicroLite gives you UPF 45 protection and HydroSilk the even higher UPF 50+, the highest rating given. These fabrics are certified under the ARPNSA standard. The ratings for the two fabrics mean that only 1/45th or less than 1/50th of the UV-A and UV-B rays that strike the fabric can penetrate to your skin. And they wick moisture away from your body for wearing comfort.
As a further precaution, some studies indicate that washing your garments with detergents containing fabric brighteners can maintain and increase their sun-protective qualities. The brightener chemicals absorb some UV rays.

Yes, exposure to UV radiation carries a significant health risk. However, you don’t have to give up your outdoor lifestyle. You’ve got lots of tools at your disposal. Wear sun-protective clothing, use minimum SPF 15 sunscreens on exposed skin, wear quality sunglasses and choose wide brim hats. And don't forget the young people in your life. It is SO much simpler to protect them with sun-protective clothing, like NRS Kid's HydroSilk Shirts, than to chase them down several times a day to slather on the sunscreen!

Boat Often, Enjoy the Sun & Boat Safe