At the risk of us sounding like a broken record, wearing sunscreen every single day is so important — especially as you get older and sun damage from the past begins showing up by way of wrinkles, age spots, rosacea, hyperpigmentation, and patches of rough skin. Not to mention, of course, that the risk of melanoma increases with each birthday you celebrate, per the American Cancer Society.
While there are plenty of lightweight sunscreens out there that make protecting your skin from the sun’s harmful rays an enjoyable part of your daily skin care routine, you might not have known that your clothes can actually help protect your skin, too — that is, of course, if you check out this list of sun protective clothes that will help keep you safe from the sun all year long.
Why Do You Need Sun Protective Clothing?
You might be wondering why you’d benefit from specific sun protective clothes — after all, shouldn’t any clothes covering your skin be enough to filter out the ultraviolet (UV) radiation that the sun emits?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes that long-sleeved shirts and long pants and skirts can provide protection from UV rays, but it really depends on the fabric and even the color of the garment, with dark colors and tightly woven fabrics offering more protection. And your average cotton tee only provides coverage of less than SPF 15 — that number plummets if the t-shirt is wet, so you’ll want to have an assortment of sun protective gear on hand to wear whenever you step outside.
And if you haven’t gotten the memo about how important it is to keep your skin safe from the sun, the Skin Cancer Foundation notes that there are more than five million cases of skin cancer diagnosed in the United States each year, with at least one in five Americans developing skin cancer by the age of 70.
If these numbers seem eye-opening, that’s because they are: skin cancer is the most common type of cancer — but it’s also the most preventable, so daily sunscreen use, avoiding direct sunlight when outside, and wearing sun protective gear are the trifecta to keeping your skin safe.
How Do You Know If a Garment Provides Adequate Sun Protection?
Thankfully, determining if your garment provides a solid level of sun protection is surprisingly easy, with many brands like Columbia, Uniqlo, and Lands’ End offering full collections of sun protective fabrics to shop.
Much like shopping for the best sunscreen, where you keep an eye on the SPF (Sun Protection Factor) listed on the bottle to know how long your sunscreen will protect you from UV rays, sun protective clothing and accessories will feature a UPF, which stands for Ultraviolet Protection Factor and indicates how much of the sun’s UV rays are absorbed by the fabric instead of your skin. So if a garment is rated UPF 50 — which is widely accepted as the highest UPF value out there so far — only two percent of the sun’s rays can make it through to your skin. Keep reading to check out Woman’s World’s picks for the most stylish sun protective clothes to shield from the sun’s harmful rays.
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Best Sun Protective T-Shirt
Where to buy: From $29.99, Columbia
Every wardrobe needs an arsenal of tees to wear with your favorite pairs of jeans, shorts, skirts, and trousers, so why not be sure you’re shielding your skin from the sun’s harmful rays all at once? Columbia’s essential short-sleeve tee comes in a wide array of classic colors and in standard and plus sizes, with a comfort stretch fit and a pretty scoop back with detailing for an added surprise.
The fabric is moisture-wicking (so perfect for those dreaded, unexpected hot flashes!), while including built-in UPF 50 sun protection to block rays and prevent sunburn and protect from long-term sun damage.
Best Long-Sleeved Zip-Up Tunic
Where to buy: From $41.97, Lands’ End
If you’re on the hunt for the perfect cover-up for those days spent at the beach or pool, or just out on the patio, look no further than this long-sleeved tunic from Lands’ End. This quarter zip-up style with side pockets comes in white, black, and deep sea navy, in sizes 1X through 3X.
The fabric is moisture-wicking and buttery soft with just the right amount of stretch, so you’ll never want to take it off, and the UPF 50 protection is truly the cherry on top of the sun protective sundae here.
Best Sun Protective Popover
Where to buy: $98, Lilly Pulitzer
If you want a long-sleeved popover with a little more pizazz, this one by Lilly Pulitzer fits the bill. In the brand’s signature vibrant hues of pink, green, and blue (and a gorgeous print called Blue Ibiza Pineapple Shake) the soft French terry knit provides optimal sun protection of UPF 50+ sun-protection to keep you safe whether you’re on the tennis court, enjoying some time on the patio, or are on a tropical getaway.
You can even personalize your purchase by adding a monogram for $10. One recent buyer over 65 had a rave review, writing, “This is beautiful in person. I like the fabric better than other popovers, not as stiff, a little stretchy.” Seems like a warm-weather must-have to us!
Best Sun Protective Long-Sleeved Cardigan
Where to buy: $29.90, Uniqlo
When you need to throw on a cozy cardigan for those unexpectedly chilly mornings spent outside gardening or going for a walk, you don’t have to sacrifice sun protection, thanks to Uniqlo’s UV protection collection, like this classic and chic long cardi.
Featuring long sleeves and an open front, this cardigan comes in neutral colors like gray, blue, black, and dark gray, so it will go with everything in your closet already. And it’s designed with weave and knitting techniques and fabric characteristics to maximize protection, thanks to its UPF 40 rating, so you’ll know your shoulders, back, and arms are well-covered when you put it on and head outside.
An added bonus? Uniqlo’s signature AIRism technology, which helps keep you dry as it wicks away moisture, releases heat, and absorbs sweat — hot flashes are no match for this cardigan.
Best Sun Protective Lightweight Jacket
Where to buy: From $63.99, Athleta
This sleek, lightweight full-zip jacket features hidden underarm grommets help keep you cool even when the temps rise and you’re still looking for solid protection from the sun. With a relaxed fit and breathable, moisture-wicking fabric, and natural silver salts that give the fabric antimicrobial protection that lasts wash after wash (read: it won’t stink when you sweat!), it’s rated UPF 50+ for the ultimate shielding from the sun’s damaging rays.
In black, bright white, mountain olive, and vermillion (a warm orange-y red shade), and a range of sizes in petite, tall, and regular length, you’re sure to find the perfect fit.
Best Sun Protective Hoodie
Where to buy: From $50, Columbia
Whether you’re camping, glamping, or simply enjoying some time in your own backyard, you’ll want ample coverage from the sun, as well as a hood in case unexpected showers quickly move in. That’s where this hooded pullover comes in, giving you UPF 50 coverage along with a cooling, sweat-activated moisture-wicking fabric, a neck gaiter for extra coverage, and a ponytail slit in the hood when you want to keep your strands out of your face with ease.
The brand’s signature Omni-Shade Sun Deflector technology deflects sunlight away from the body, and in a range of pretty, pastel shades and sizes from XS to 3X, you’ll want to buy this ultra-light hoodie in every shade to wear all spring and summer long.
Best Sun Protective Straw Hat
Where to buy: From $13.99, Amazon
OK, so we know that we’re talking all about sun protective clothes here, but we couldn’t resist adding this fabulous straw hat onto our list of must-haves. Featuring optimal sun protection at UPF 50+, you will not want to leave home without it, whether you’re hitting the beach or even just going for a long drive on a sunny afternoon.
With a wide brim to shield your face and a solid ribbon for added flair, the braided straw provides a classic look that will never go out of style. It can be folded easily without losing or destroying its shape, so it packs well in your carry-on bag or purse, and it even features a hidden sweat absorbent inner band to help wick away moisture and keep your head feeling cool and refreshed. In four different solid shades, it’s the topper your warm weather wardrobe has been missing for added protection from the sun’s powerful rays.
Best Sun Protective Dress
Where to buy: From $50, Columbia
Part of the fun of warmer weather is being able to wear easy, breezy dresses for the ultimate in summer style. But when you want to be sure you’re keeping your skin protected, too, you’ll want to snag this stretchy, lightweight sleeveless dress by Columbia, which comes with built-in UPF 50 sun protection and a flattering length that hits just above the knee.
In a slew of vibrant colors and prints and standard and plus sizing, you can also snag a short-sleeved version ($55, Columbia) for added shoulder, back, and upper arm protection. Either way, it’ll look great with all your favorite sandals, sneakers, and warm-weather accessories, so you can dress it up or down depending on the occasion, with moisture-wicking technology to help keep you comfy and cool all day long.
Best Sun Protective Skort
Where to buy: $88, Lilly Pulitzer
When you want to wear a skirt but want to protect your modesty, this stylish and fun skort checks all your boxes, thanks to the hidden built-in teal blue shorts beneath the double ruffle teal and white skirt.
The super-soft Meryl yarn fabric helps wick away moisture while providing UPF 50+ sun protection, so it looks and feels cute, cozy, and works perfectly for active ladies who don’t want to sacrifice style. One recent reviewer called it “so darn cute,” adding, “I’m over 40 and this skort makes me feel young! It’s so fun and very flattering!”
Best Sun Protective Long-Sleeved Tee
Where to buy: $14.90, Uniqlo
This long-sleeved tee is anything but basic, featuring a lightweight, moisture-wicking anti-bacterial fabric that keeps you cool and dry while controlling odor, making your sweatiest days no match for this pretty tee.
The cut is low enough that you can wear it under a blouse as an added layer for chillier days, but comfy enough to be worn on its own. In gray, white, black, and khaki and sizes from XS to XXL, and feature UPF 40.
One buyer over 65 recently called it her “favorite in a drawer stuffed with t-shirts,” calling it “silky, comfortable and flattering.” She added, “this is my go-to top, whether black, white, tan or light grey. After falling in love with the black one that was a gift from a friend, during the pandemic, I bought the other colors online. Not only do they look great, but they require no ironing…Perfect with jeans, pants or a skirt, they add no bulk.” We’re sold!
Best Plus Size Sun Protective Shorts
Where to buy: From $39.96, Lands’ End
Finding a flattering and comfortable pair of shorts can be like trying to find a needle in a haystack, but Lands’ End just served up the pair we’ve been searching for forever. With just enough stretch to offer a tailored but not tight fit, you won’t be clamoring to slip these off as soon as you walk in the door. Yes, believe it!
These shorts (which come in black and blue in sizes 1X to 3X) also wick moisture to pull sweat away from your skin so you stay dry, with side vents for added breathability. An odor control finish helps you stay feeling fresh on even the most hot and humid of days, and a UPF 50 protection means your thighs are covered from harmful UV rays. You’ll still want to apply sunscreen on your legs, though, since they will be exposed to the sun in these shorts.
Best Sun Protective Leggings
Where to buy: From $19.90, Uniqlo
If you live in your leggings all year long, you’ll want to be sure your go-to pair not only looks and feels great, but also provides protection for those outdoor walks on sunny days.
With UPF 40 protection, the fabric feels cool and refreshing the moment you put them on, with added technology to dry quickly after washing or getting sweaty, which we appreciate whether we’re getting in a workout or simply battling the hot flash blues yet again. In a range of bold and classic colors at a great price point, you’ll want to buy the whole collection — and we won’t blame you if you do!
Best Sun Protective Shorts
Where to buy: From $27.96, Lands’ End
Say farewell to shorts that restrict, ride up, or rub and chafe your thighs uncomfortably, because this pair will replace every one you’ve got in your wardrobe. The wide elastic waistband feels comfortable while giving you room to move and breathe, and the mid-leg length is flattering and fun no matter your individual style.
In three shades (deep sea navy, forest moss, and black) and one print (deep sea shibori geo), and sizes ranging in petite, regular, and tall, the UPF 50 sun protection is really just an added bonus for all your sunny day activities ahead.
Best Sun Protective Plus Size Leggings
Where to buy: From $64.99, Columbia
Leggings devotees know that finding a perfect pair that fits without constricting or riding down your tummy or up your leg, while also being breathable and easy to move in is no easy feat. These beauties by Columbia range in size up to 3X and come in three colors, offering a hybrid fabric with comfort stretch, a high rise, a wide waistband, and a zippered hand pocket to hold your necessities while you hit the great outdoors.
They also have the brand’s Omni-Shade Sun Deflector technology to deflect sunlight and keep your lower half shielded from the sun, so you don’t have to worry about reapplying sunscreen on your legs while you’re out and about. What more could you ask for?
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