Did you know that most sunscreens only protect you from UVB rays? Unless a sunscreen is a broad-spectrum sunscreen, your skin is protected from half of the ultraviolet rays that damage your skin. However, sun protective fabrics protect against skin damage caused by both UVB and UVA rays. These fabrics are found in specifically labelled products that are critical to our our beach experience: beach umbrellas, hats, beach tents, and swimwear. While sunscreen’s efficacy is measured in SPF (Sun Protection Factor), sun protective fabrics’ efficacy is measured using UPF (Ultraviolet Protection Fabric). Products containing SPF and UPF measures protect us from sun damage caused by UVB and UVA rays. We’ll explore the differences between SPF and UPF as well as the critical need to block both UVB and UVA rays.

What Is UVB (UV Subtype B)?

As previously mentioned, UVB protection exists in all sunscreens and sun protective fabrics. UVB rays have shorter waves than UVA rays. As a result, UVB exposure specifically effects the first layer of skin, the epidermis. Above all, prolonged UVB exposure results in sunburns and speeds up the development of cancerous cells within the skin.

What is UVA (UV Subtype A)?

UVA protection is found in broad spectrum sunscreens as well as sun protective fabrics. UVA is the most prevalent type of ultraviolet light. It is capable of penetrating the through to the second layer of skin, the dermis. UV Subtype A is used in tanning beds. Additionally, a lack of UVA protection causes the skin to age faster, as UVA rays damage collagen fibers. UVA damage alters the skin’s DNA, and in effect tans the skin. Ultimately, the tanning of the skin is its last-ditch effort to protect itself from further damage. Additionally, these alterations to DNA can lead to cancer.

What Steps Can You Take to Protect Yourself?

Broad Spectrum Sunscreen

As previously mentioned, water-resistant broad-spectrum sunscreen is especially important to pack along in a beach bag. Broad spectrum sunscreen protects you from both UVA and UVB rays, thus lessening your chances of contracting irreparable damage to the skin. You should wear an SPF of at least 30 and reapply every 2 hours, or more often if you are swimming or sweating.

Cover Up

In addition to using a broad-spectrum sunscreen, you must also wear bathing suits, hats, and clothing that are made out of sun protective fabrics. Sun protective fabrics tend to be tightly knit fabrics, such as: polyester, nylon, wool, and silk. Essentially, the less stretch a fabric has, the more likely it is to protect you from sun damage. Of course, all clothing that is specifically made to reduce ur exposure to the sun will be labelled as such.

Here are some clothing options made with sun protective fabrics:

Columbia’s Women’s PFG Tamiami Pull-On Shorts 

Coolibar’s Baby Wave One-Piece Swimsuit UPF 50+

Columbia’s Men’s PFG Brewha II Shorts

Coolibar’s Girl’s Zippy Rash Guard uPF 50+

The North Face’s Boys’ Short Sleeve Class V Water Tee

Coolibar’s Women’s April Scarf Hat UPF 50+

The North Face’s Littles Brimmer

If adding a litany of sun protective clothing is out of your budget, have no fear! Adding SunGuard Detergent to a load of laundry gives clothing a UV-Blocking additive, which gives items an UPF of 30. This detergent lasts up to 20 washes.

Create Some Shade

Peak hours of sunlight are from 10am-4pm. Sand and water further amplify and reflect the sun’s light, which in turn increases the risk of sunburn. To combat full exposure while reading that great summer read or catching up with a friend by the shore, beach umbrellas are the perfect antidote. All of BeachBRELLA’s umbrellas are made from sun protective fabric. Our umbrellas are 50+ UPF, meaning they boast excellent an excellent rate of UV Protection. What is UPF and how is it calculated? Also, what do the numbers before SPF even measure?

A beach towel with sun protective lotions and a hat on top

SPF & UPF: How They Differ

Sun protective fabrics’ ability to protect us from UVA and UVB rays is measured using UPF (Ultraviolet Protection Factor). As is common knowledge, SPF is a measure for a sunscreen’s efficacy. But what do these measures mean when it comes to protecting our skin from sun damage?

What is SPF?

SPF (Sun Protection Factor) measures how much time a person can be exposed to the sun before getting sun burnt. Without sunscreen, this is a person’s Baseline SPF. A sunscreen’s SPF number indicates how many times one’s Baseline SPF is multiplied upon application. For example, if a person with a Baseline SPF of 10 minutes uses a sunscreen with SPF 30, then their SPF after application can be determined as follows: 10 minutes x 30 minutes = 300 minutes (5 hours).

What is UPF?

UPF (Ultraviolet Protection Fabric) measures the efficacy of sun protective fabrics’ defense against the sun. UPF indicates the rate at which a fabric absorbs ultraviolet radiation from the sun. The range for UPF is between 15 & 50+. A product’s UPF number indicates what fraction of the sun’s UV rays the product’s fabric lets in. For example, a product with 50 UPF absorbs 1/50th, or 98% of the sun’s rays. As previously mentioned, products containing sun protective fabrics protect our skin from UVA and UVB rays. Thus, it is imperative that we check our sun umbrella’s, bathing suits’ and sun dresses’ labels to ensure that these rays don’t permeate our skin.

Here is a nifty table to help you figure out where your beach products stand on the UPF scale:

Protection Category UPF Range UPF Values Allowed on Labels Approximate % UV Blocked
Good UV Protection 15-24 15 and 20 93.3% – 95.8%
Very Good UV Protection 25-39 25, 30, and 35 96.0% – 97.4%
Excellent UV Protection 40-50+ 40, 45, and 50+ 97.5% – 98.0%


How Do BeachBRELLA Umbrellas Measure up?

BeachBRELLA umbrellas are made with sun protective fabrics. Our umbrellas’ average UPF is 588. In other words, our fabrics’ defense against the less than stellar effects of UVA and UVB rays is off the charts!

We hope this information enhances your upcoming beach excursions!