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Two women standing. White french windows in background. One woman in Aruba Blues Cabana Shift Dress. One Woman in UPF 50+ Aruba Blues Tassel Wrap Romper

What is Sun Protective (UPF) Clothing?

You might know all about SPF & the importance of sunscreen, but what about UPF? At Cabana Life we are always talking about UPF 50+. We love our cozy fabrics not just because they’re soft & stylish, but sun safe too! Keep reading to learn more about SPF, UPF & the importance of sun protective clothing

While SPF & UPF sound similar there are key differences in what they measure and how they provide sun protection. However, both are important parts of your sun protection routine & are necessary to keep your skin safe from burns, wrinkles & skin cancer risks. 


UPF stands for Ultraviolet Protection Factor. This is the rating given to clothing, hats & other fabric items for their broad spectrum protection against both UVA & UVB rays. Check out our UVA vs UVB: What’s the Difference? blog post to learn more about the different types of UV radiation. 

The number paired with the UPF rating indicates what fraction of the sun’s UV rays can penetrate the fabric. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation’s Sun Protective Clothing guide, a UPF 50 fabric blocks 98 percent of the sun’s rays and allows two percent (1/50th) to penetrate, thus reducing your exposure risk significantly. 


Yes, your clothing can shield you from the sun, however not all fabrics have equal sun protection. Depending on fit, color & knit, the natural UPF of your clothing could vary significantly. It may be surprising to hear your favorite cotton T-shirts are not protecting your skin as much as you thought they were. The Skin Cancer Foundation states a white T-shirt provides only moderate sun protection, with a UPF of about 7. When that T-shirt gets wet, it provides a UPF of only 3! Luckily, certain materials, like those at Cabana Life, can effectively protect your skin from UV rays with UPF 50+ fabrics. 


Tightly woven fabrics, like synthetics, canvas or wool are more protective than sheer, thin or loosely woven cloth. High-tech fabrics like those at Cabana Life, help to prevent penetration from UV rays.

Our vibrant & beautiful prints and solids aren’t just a fashion statement! Dark or bright colors are great because they absorb UV rays, rather than reflecting them. A dark, long-sleeved denim shirt can provide a UPF of about 1,700 (in essence, complete sun protection). However, a denim shirt isn’t the most comfortable on a beach day. At Cabana Life all our fabrics are made to be super comfortable. The breathable lightweight materials ensure a faster drying time & a more relaxed fit! With plenty of patterns and colors, we can make your UPF protection functional & fun. 


Sun Protection Factor, or SPF, is based on the time it takes for UV-exposed skin to redden. So if you burn after 20 minutes, if used correctly, an SPF 15 sunscreen may protect your skin 15 times longer. Also the SPF in sunscreen measures only effectiveness against UVB rays, while 

UPF measures protection against the full spectrum of ultraviolet radiation. The amount of UVB rays that reach your skin decreases as SPF increases. Skin Cancer Foundation expert Steven Q. Wang, MD explains, an SPF 30 allows about 3%of UVB rays to hit your skin, while an SPF of 50 allows about 2%of those rays through. Broad spectrum sunscreens are also more effective as they block both UVA and UVB rays.

Pairing UPF & SPF will ensure your skin has as much coverage and protection from the sun’s harmful UV rays as possible. Keeping your closet filled with Cabana Life’s UPF 50+ pieces & stocking up on plenty of sunscreen will help to make sun protection an easy (and fun) part of your daily routine. 


Now that you know what UPF is, let's talk about how to keep your Cabana Life UPF 50+ clothing and swimwear as fabulous & functional as possible. Regardless of UPF number, if your clothing gets stretched or wet, it will lose some of its protective ability and become more transparent, exposing your skin to more UV light. Without proper care your UPF clothing could be less protective even when you’re not splashing in the waves. 

Always make sure to rinse salt water and chlorine out of your Cabana Life pieces throughout the day and avoid sunscreens with avobenzone so the fabric doesn’t stain. It’s important to handwash your UPF pieces in cold water with a gentle cleanser. Then after washing lay your garment out flat to dry, & make sure it’s in the shade. 

When kept in the sun, colors fade over time so when not wearing your Cabana Life clothing or swimwear pack it away or put it in your closet to keep its vibrancy intact. See Cabana Life’s Fabric Care page for a complete care guide.

UPF clothing is a must when spending time in the sun (even during the colder months!). For an effective sun safe strategy it’s important to make sure broad spectrum SPF sunscreen & UPF clothing are a part of your daily routine. Making sun protective clothing stylish & safe is always our goal here at Cabana Life. We design fashionable clothing & swimwear to keep you and your family protected while enjoying the sun. Cabana Life is here to take you from everyday to vacay with fun & functional fashions. So no matter where life takes you, we’ve got you covered.