March 2018

What’s the difference between SPF and UPF?

It’s that time of year when “sunburn” replaces “frostbite” on the list of Top 10 Health Worries for Outdoor Adventurers. Sun protection is key, but with all the different labeling on sun-smart clothing and accessories, it’s sometimes hard to know how to find what you need.

Garnet Hill Girls' Swimwear with UPF 50+ Sun ProtectionThe first step? Understanding what’s behind those numbers and letters.

One of the most common questions: what’s the difference between UPF and SPF?

Simply put, UPF (Ultraviolet Protection Factor) rates clothing, while SPF (Sun Protection Factor) refers to sunscreen.

UPF measures how many UV rays will be absorbed by the garment, and thus prevented from reaching the covered portion of your skin. If an item is rated UPF 50, the fabric will allow only 1/50th of the sun’s UV rays to penetrate.  

SPF gauges how much longer you’ll be protected from UVB rays with sunscreen than without it. (Unlike UPF which measures protection from both UVA and UVB rays, SPF is specific to UVB rays.) If you generally burn after 10 minutes in the sun, an SPF of 15 is designed to extend that time by a factor of 15 — or 150 minutes.

Keep in mind that these numbers are approximate, and the actual times will differ for everyone. Regardless of the SPF used, the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) advises that sunscreen be applied thickly, every two hours, and again after swimming, sweating, or drying off.  

For more information about sun safety, check out these guidelines from the CDC.

To shop UPF 50+ rated swim items, browse our collections for kids and women.

Garnet Hill Girls' Swimwear with UPF 50+ Sun Protection

One response to “What’s the difference between SPF and UPF?”

  1. Amy Moore says:

    Thanks for sharing your posts! Always love.

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