What Is The Difference Between UPF and SPF?

What Is The Difference Between UPF and SPF?
The Difference Between UPF and SPF

Researching ways to protect your skin from being damaged by sunlight? During your research you may have come across two terms, UPF and SPF, and you may be wondering what those concepts refer to, and how you can tell them apart as you select the best sun protective swimwear for your needs. Clothing and sunscreen are your main options for protection against UV radiation, and UPF and SPF relate to these two methods as explained below.

Beach Day

The UPF Standard

For starters, UPF is short for Ultraviolet Protection Factor. This standard measures how effective fabrics are in offering sun protection.

When you see a UPF rating on a fabric, look at that number as an indicator of how much UV light penetrates that fabric and reaches the skin underneath.

For example, a fabric with a UPF rating of 50+ only allows 1/50 (or 2 percent) UV light to penetrate that fabric. This means that such a fabric will offer you better sun protection than another fabric whose UPF rating is lower, such as 20.

The UPF rating of a fabric is normally between 15 and 50, so the higher the number, the better the protection you get when you wear that item of clothing.

It is also important for you to note that UV radiation can be divided into three main bands, namely, UVC (this is the shortest band and it usually gets trapped by the ozone layer in the atmosphere so it poses no danger to your skin). The second is UVB radiation. It penetrates through the ozone and gets to the surface of your skin. It is responsible for the redness and other skin problems (such as skin cancer) which result from over-exposure to the sun.

The third is UVA radiation. This has the most penetrating power and gets to the deepest layer of your skin called the hypodermis. Sunspots, loose skin, wrinkles and other forms of skin aging are largely a result of UVA radiation which damages your DNA and ultimately causes skin cancer.

The UPF rating shows how good a fabric is at stopping UVC and UVA radiation from getting to your skin. Since the UPF sun protection standard is still voluntary, it is helpful for you to take the added precaution of finding out whether the UPF rating indicated on a fabric was verified by a third-party lab test.

You can find this information on the manufacturer’s website or contact them for the verification results of their sun protection fabrics.


The SPF Standard

SPF, or Sun Protection Factor, indicates how effective sunscreen and other protective creams are at increasing the time that your sun-exposed skin will take before it becomes red.

For example, if it normally take 10 minutes for your sun-exposed skin to become red, a sunscreen with an SPF rating of 15 will increase that duration to 150 minutes.

However, there are three key drawbacks associated with using sunscreen as a sun protection mechanism.

First, not many people apply a thick enough layer of sunscreen to reap the full benefits of that product, so you may end up with a false sense of security when using sunscreen.

Secondly, the SPF standard only looks at UVB radiation and doesn’t factor in UVA rays, yet these are more damaging in the long term.

Third, sunscreen has to be reapplied every 2 hours in order to enjoy its protective benefits for extended duration's. Not many people reapply these products while out in the sun, which is why skin cancer is the most common type of cancer there is.

It is therefore advisable for you to opt for sun protection fabrics, such as our Tutublue Sun Protective Swimsuits, (available in short and full leg styles) and only use sunscreen as supplemental/extra protection where necessary. Still have questions? Hit us up in the comments below!


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