What Is UPF?
When you look for outdoor accessories, what are the parameters you use to search for, and narrow down your options? Maybe you're looking for moisture-wicking properties, or fabric weight. Perhaps you want each product you buy for your outdoor adventures to have a sustainability story. But what about sun protection? We often think about sun protection when shopping for hats, sunglasses, and sunscreen, but it's important that we think about sun protection for ALL of the outdoor headwear and accessories that we buy - not just the obvious items.
At Turtle Fur, we believe that a fabric's sun protection should be a large player in the game - after all, what good is a neck gaiter if it wicks sweat but doesn't protect you from the sun, thus aiding in you getting a lovely sunburn on your neck?
So today, we're breaking down what sun protection for fabric actually means - what the rating system looks like, how the tests are done, and what to look for when searching for your next accessory.
UPF vs. SPF
UPF stands for Ultraviolet Protection Factor. It is used to measure the effectiveness of sun protective fabrics. Essentially, it measures how much light is absorbed by the fabric (thus, not passing through to you/your skin). You're probably already familiar with SPF, Sun Protection Factor, which measures the effectiveness of sunscreens.
Why is UPF important?
When shopping for an outdoor accessory, if you see a UPF rating (more on that next) it means that a company has taken the time to test the fabric to see what level of protection it will give users from the sun's harmful rays.
No matter the weather, it's always possible to get exposed to harmful rays from the sun. Anyone who has gotten a sun burn while spending a cloudy day at the beach can attest to that. Most importantly though, we know that sun damage to the skin can have lifelong effects - burns, scarring, and even skin cancer. If you're choosing outdoor gear to keep you safe and comfortable on your next adventure, you should have an item that has you covered on every base, especially from the sun.
What is a UPF rating?
A UPF rating is the number assigned to a fabric or product that shows its effectiveness in blocking harmful rays from the sun. Many companies use a third party to test their fabrics. They do this by using a calibrated ultraviolet transmission analyzer. One of the many great things about the UPF rating is that they test for both UVA and UVB radiation. UVA has a longer wavelength and is associated with things like skin aging, where UVB has a shorter wavelength and is associated with things like sun burn. Both can cause harm, and lead to skin cancer. (You can learn more about UV radiation here.) So having a rating that shows the effectiveness in protecting your skin from both of these harmful rays is key.
The number that comes after the rating signifies the level of protection from UV rays. So for instance UPF50+ means that only 1/50th of the sun’s UV rays will pass through the fabric, meaning your skin will be protected from 97% of harmful rays.
How do I find a product's UPF rating?
When you shop Turtle Fur products, you’ll see a rating on the product page (either in the icons or in the description) letting you know what the UPF rating is.
It’s our belief that products shouldn’t JUST keep you warm (or cool) and comfortable. They should also protect you from the elements, and that isn’t just precipitation – it’s also from the sun. When we look to source new fabrics, we seek fabrics that have excellent UV protection, because we know that a bad sunburn can ruin your next adventure.
Below is a breakdown of what the ratings mean from the company we use to do the testing on our fabrics, Solar Light:
For the Good UV-protection category to be stated on the label,
- the UPF value must lie between 15 and 24.>
For the Very Good UV-protection category to be stated on the label,
- the UPF value must be between 25 and 39.
For the Excellent UV-protection category to be stated on the label,
- the UPF value must be 40 or greater.
All of our Comfort Shell™ products are UPF50+! Again, that means that only 1/50th of the sun’s harmful rays will pass through the fabric, to your skin – so you’re 97% protected.
So next time you go looking for a new neck gaiter, headband, or beanie, consider adding sun protection to the list of qualities you require!