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Fun in the sun, no sunburn allowed

Pick UPF hats and clothing for all your outdoor adventures

Nicole Villalpando

We know it's hot. We know you still want to do all of your favorite summer activities, from watching the Zilker Summer Musical at the Hillside Theater to kicking around the soccer ball because we know you're inspired by the U.S. Women's World Cup champions.

And you want to do that safely. That means staying hydrated, avoiding heat exhaustion or heat stroke and wearing sunscreen, but it also could mean wearing clothing that is designed to have more sun protection in it.

You'll find hats and clothing with what's called ultraviolet protection factor, or UPF, in them at outdoor clothing stores like REI Co-op, Academy Sports and Outdoors and Whole Earth Provision Co., but you also can find them in less specialized stores like Target or Kohl's. Those are the places where we found UPF clothing and hats for our models. Everything they are wearing except for their shoes has a UPF rating of 20 or above, most with 50+.

What does it mean when a piece of clothing has UPF in it? It means that the clothing is designed to block out the sun's ultraviolet rays, both the UVA rays that go deep into the skin and cause long-term damage like aging and wrinkles and the UVB rays that don't go as deep but cause sunburns. Both UVA and UVB cause cancer.

RELATED: Let's talk skin cancer and your kids

All clothing has some UPF in it. It tends to have less UPF the lighter the color, and it loses UPF if it's wet. A white T-shirt might have anywhere from 5 to 8 UPF. Another clue as to how much UPF a shirt has is if you can see through it. The less you can, the more UPF.

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Clothing that specifically is made to have UPF in it will say that it has a UPF rating of 15-50+. What that means is that if you have a shirt with UPF of 50, only about 1/50th of the UV rays are getting through, or about 2 percent.

Dr. Kellie Reed of Sanova Dermatology recommends looking for clothing that has at least a UPF of 50. That doesn't mean you can skip the sunscreen. There will still be areas of your body like your neck, face, hands and feet where the UPF clothing isn't protecting your skin.

"You want to do everything: hat, sunglasses, UPF clothing, sunscreen," she says.

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What is nice is that unlike sunscreen, you don't have to reapply UPF clothing throughout the day. It also doesn't have chemicals in it. The clothing adds protection in the way that it is made. The tighter the knit, the more factor it has.

But doesn't that make it hot?

"That's a common misperception," Reed says, "They really are light-weight."

Also, a lot of the shirts are made with venting areas to allow for air to flow through but not light.

UPF clothing and hats can lose some of their protective factor as they age, as they stretch or as they are washed and the knit becomes less tight. Think about upgrading to a newer version of that beloved hat or shirt if that's the case.

Reed reminds us that UPF clothing isn't just for summer. Anytime you're going to be outside for an extended period, it's a good idea to prevent skin damage.

RELATED: A guide to sunscreen and sun protection


When you live in Austin, extreme heat's a given. For the next week, we're bringing you a series of stories about all the ways high temperatures affect our way of life beyond the weather forecast. See all the Heat Week stories at


Essential safety tips for hot weather: stay hydrated; watch for the signs of heat exhaustion and heatstroke; and never leave kids or pets in the car. If you or someone you encounter seems to be experiencing health problems related to the heat, take immediate action to cool down and call 911. For more tips, go to


Family Eldercare's annual Summer Fan Drive delivers fans to seniors, adults with disabilities and families with children who need heat relief and meet the drive's eligibility requirements. Find donation and volunteer information at