The best way to keep the sun’s UV rays away from your children’s skin is to cover their skin. The Skin Cancer Foundation calls clothing “Our first line of defense.” Dressing your children in clothing with a high UVF rating is a smart move when you go to the beach or the pool this summer.
A physical barrier to the sun gives better protection than a chemical barrier. We wrote about the importance of a physical barrier to UV rays in our review of natural sunscreens. Clothing can create a barrier without the mess of sunscreen. Clothing is a good option if you must be in the sun with a baby (since you shouldn’t use sunscreen on babies under 6 months old) or with a very fair-haired child (since lighter skin has less natural protection against sunburn).
There is a history of skin cancer in my family, so I am very cautious about sun exposure for my children and myself. Even in extreme heat, I wear long sleeves. It will be 90 degrees Fahrenheit today. I’m going to an outdoor event to hear my husband and son play in a bagpipe band. Based on experience, I’m guessing someone will ask, “Aren’t you hot in that long-sleeved shirt.” Don’t be deterred by those who second guess you when you cover yourself or your children. Fabric is the easiest, most effective way to avoid sunburn and the long-term damage caused by overexposure to ultraviolet radiation.
How UV Protective Fabric Works
In much the same way that minerals in natural suncreen block or absorb UVA and UVB rays from the sun before they reach our skin, fabric can absorb or deflect sunlight. Think of how much light different curtains let in to your house. Fabric that prevents light prevents harmful rays.
What to Look for in Fabric
A tightly woven or knit fabric gives better protection because there is less room between the threads for sun to peek through. Darker fabrics with a lot of pigment give more protection. Because of its structure, polyester is the most effective lightweight fabric for sun protection, but heavier weight natural fabrics, like dark blue jeans, can block most of the sun’s rays. There are also chemical treatments that are added to some fabrics for extra UV protection. We prefer to avoid the chemical treatments and go with fabrics that provide protection through structure.
Sunscreen has an SPF (Sun Protection Factor) rating that tells you how effective a product is against UVB rays that cause sunburn. UPF (Ultraviolet Protection Factor) ratings are given to clothing as an indication of how effective a product is against UV rays of both kinds (UVA as well as UVB). UPF 50+ means that clothing has been tested to block 99% of UV rays. UPF 50+ is a rating of Excellent.
Sun Protective Swimwear for Children
Full Sun Protective Suit
Size: 0-6 months through 10 years
We carry sun protection suits (half-sleeve and half-leg) in sizes 0-6 months and up for babies through 10 years for children. This is the fastest way to cover large areas. 100% polyester. Comfortable, stretchy, chlorine resistant. Made in Canada from specialized Australian fabrics.
Size: 3-6 months to 18-24 months
Bummis has a new line of sun protection clothing that coordinates with the prints of their popular Swimmi swim diapers. These T-shirts cover the shoulders, often the first spot to get burned at the pool. A separate top and bottom is a much quicker way to get out of the swim suit fast, which is very important when your child is potty training. Soft and durable. Chlorine resistant. Made in Canada from fabric made in Canada.
Size: 0-12 months or 12-24 months
If you aren’t necessarily looking for protection over the shoulders, the adorable Tankini swim top gives the same UPF protection of 50+ to the full torso. Halter clip is adjustable for a wide range of sizes. Use sunscreen for arms, faces, and ears. Made in Canada from fabric Made in Canada.
Size: 3-6 months to 18-24 months
Don’t forget to cover your child’s head. Bummis Sun Caps are made from the same prints as their Swimmis reusable swim diapers. Crown and visor have UPF rating of 50+. Coordinates with UV-Tee and Tankini swim tops. Made in Canada.
Should you go outside with your children? Definitely. All of us need to play in nature. Just be aware of the risk of sun exposure and mitigate that risk with UV protection through clothing and sunscreen.