Here's What To Know About Sunscreen & Clothes

by Rosie Narasaki

As summer draws ever nearer, it's time to start thinking in terms of SPF. It can be something of a tricky subject, and there are a lot of things that are somewhat unclear. For instance, do you need to wear sunscreen under clothes?

It's a fair question — after all, one would assume that the physical barrier clothes provide would prevent UV rays from damaging your skin, right? Well, unfortunately, that's not the whole story — as it would turn out, UV rays can penetrate most fabrics, so it's often best to double up. After all, most fabrics (especially lighter materials with looser weaves) let small amounts of sunlight through, according to Consumer Reports, which is all you need to score a sunburn (especially if you burn easily).

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Protection, a typical T-shirt generally offers the equivalent of around SPF 15 (incidentally, in case you were wondering, a typical sun umbrella usually offers somewhere around SPF 17, CNN reports). Dark, tightly-woven shirts are best for protection, as they let the least light through, and dry shirts are better than wet for the same reason. Now, SPF 15 is certainly nothing to sneeze at, but it still might end up coming up short if you're spending all day in the beating sun.

There's also SPF clothing to consider: Certain UV fabric does actually preclude the use of sunscreen, so it can be a great option if you're going to be spending a lot of time out in the sun. Most rash guards, for instance, come armed with a whopping SPF 50, which makes them a great option as far as sun protection goes.

Short-Sleeve Rash Guard in Ratti Under The Sea Print, $128, J Crew

Either way, heading out to the beach in a long-sleeved shirt and a floppy hat is still better than going with no sun protection at all — it's just that, for maximum effect, it might just be in your best interest to add a little sunscreen underneath.

Images: Shirlaine Forrest/Getty Images News/Getty Images; Giphy; Courtesy of J. Crew