This article is part of Spring Fashion Month, where we’re breaking down your must-have fashion pieces for the next few months. From denim jackets to comfy sandals, we’re asking editors, influencers and experts about the go-to pieces they wear through spring and beyond.
Sunnier weather means finally planning that Instagrammable picnic or camping trip or taking your rollerblades for a spin. Maybe it simply means leaving your house for the first time in months like a squirrel tasting freedom after hibernation season. Not to rain on anyone’s parade (or aforementioned picnic), but large bodies of research show the more time spent outdoors, the higher your chance of skin damage. And while a tan might create the illusion of a “healthy glow,” there’s really no such thing as a safe tan, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation. That’s why we’re stocking our wardrobes with garments infused with sun-safe SPF/UPF to give your precious skin that extra level of protection so you can safely load up on all the mood- and immunity-boosting vitamin D.
“UPF stands for ultraviolet protection factor, which measures a garment’s ability to block your skin from all UV rays,” says Dr. Aanand Geria, a board-certified dermatologist. He describes UPF as being similar to sunscreen’s SPF, the sun protection factor, with the main difference being that SPF only applies to UVB rays, while UPF applies to both UVA and UVB rays. “Most clothing will give some degree of protection from UV rays, however, certain pieces are specifically tested and marketed to supply ample protection,” he says.
The mechanism behind UPF clothing is simple: Dr. Shasa Hu, MD, FAAD, associate professor, Dr. Philip Frost Department of Dermatology and Cutaneous Surgery, says she is a “huge fan of UPF clothing” [because] they provide additional protection either through weaved fabrics, or those that are impregnated with special chemicals that filter out UV rays. “Because of this, they don’t last forever, usually only 50 to 80 washes depending on the quality. UPF clothing is definitely a better alternative to just sunscreen for outdoor activities or ppl with a very active lifestyle,” she says.
While you’ll still have to slather on your sunscreen to protect exposed skin on your body, the following UPF/SPF-infused clothing are bound to be your full-time BFFs this spring and summer, recommended by the outdoorsy folks who wear it most.
“Coolibar has options for kids and men so it’s very popular for families,” says Hu of one of her all-time favorite UPF brands. This practical quarter zip is a great way to get some impromptu ventilation with its quarter zip closure and relaxed fit. It comes in 12 summer-friendly colors from Fresh Mint to Pacific Blue Heather.
“This is a light, relaxed-fit hoodie with moisture-wicking and odor-control technology,” says Geria. “It’s perfect for a long day in the sun with UPF 50+ protection and thumb holes that allow protection to extend over your hands.”
“These shirts are a beach day staple with their lightweight design and wicking, sun-shielding fabric that host UPF 40 protection from the sun,” says Geria. “They also have cooling features such as mesh-lined back vents to allow air to flow and keep you from overheating.”
“My favorite UPF piece of clothing is also the ultimate dad shirt: the Columbia PFG Tamiami II,” says Kevin Cortez, a commerce editor and avid hiker. “Built for fishing and generously sized, it has mesh-lined back vents for letting your body breathe. This shirt has Columbia’s Omni-Shade technology, which provides UPF 40 protection and wicks away moisture faster than most cotton tops. It comes in short- or long-sleeve, but I prefer the latter for extra sun protection. Plus, when you need to air out those arms, you can roll up the sleeves and keep them up via built-in tab holders. It’s perfect for muggy and overly bright days, and it’s almost always on sale.”
Whether you’re splashing around on a surfboard or lounging ashore, this long sleeve is bound to come in handy all season. “This is technically a rashguard designed for surfing, but it has a somewhat looser fit, so it actually functions more like a regular t-shirt,” says Todd Plummer, a writer, avid traveler, and outdoors enthusiast. “It has a soft, cotton-like feel, and the added benefit of sun protection. If I’m going anywhere tropical, I’m packing a few of these and wearing them all day long.”
“Houdini makes terrific, sustainable clothing, and it tends to rely on natural fabrics over synthetics. Its Desoli Tee is no exception,” says Cortez. “Made with merino wool, this t-shirt regulates temperature as needed—cools when you’re hot, warms when you’re cold. Merino wool is naturally microbial, so you won’t stink through it when you sweat, and it’s also got a UPF rating of 30.”
We’re so obsessed with this packable parka with UV protection. Not only available in a men’s style as well, it’s got UPF 40+ and is water-repellant. It’s truly a must-have travel essential too.
Hu says she (and many of her more athletic patients) resorts to Athleta for its fashionable designs. It doesn’t get more stylish — and sun-safe! — than this easy, breezy dress for extra coverage and UPF 50+ protection at the beach or boardwalk. It has two handy side pockets, comes in five colors, and is available in regular, tall and petite sizing.
“This loose-fit, UPF 40+ protective shirt from Lululemon is the perfect option for active wear that also protects your skin against UV rays,” says Geria. “Its fabric is lightweight, has some stretch to it, and is quick-drying. It also features thumbholes to help extend protection down to your hands.”
“Columbia has great protection with SPF 50,” says Tammy Rosales, a permanent makeup artist and skin cancer survivor. “I was worried about the long sleeves, however I was happily surprised they’re not hot even in the 90 degree Fahrenheit weather. [I like that] they have different colors to choose from.”
“Magellan Outdoors also has a great variety of colors and styles,” says Rosales. “Red was the shirt I chose to try out in the beginning and again was happily surprised. They also offer styles with thumb openings to cover your hands, which is truly very important to me due to the skin cancer recently.”
“Athleta is one of my favorite activewear brands, especially for leggings,” says Amanda Oliver, a commerce editor and avid outdoorswoman. “My go-to pair is the Salutation Stash Tights, which are made with soft and breathable UPF 50+ material and feature a comfy high waist and convenient side pockets.”
I’ve owned these durable Eddie Bauer leggings for several years, and while I tend to take them on the trail and my travels most frequently, they look as good as the day I got them. They’re made of a UPF 50 material that’s anti-odor and super stretchy, and they have a handy pocket at the waistband to store my belongings.
While this roomy, breezy short sleeve with UPF 40+ is designed for running, it’s comfy enough to lounge in all day. I love its classic fit that can be dressed up or down, as well as its next-level sweat-wicking properties that ensure I stay dry in sweltering heat.
This Uniqlo cardigan with UV protection technology is so cute, I barely think of it as a utilitarian piece of clothing designed to protect me from the sun. I have it in gray because it matches with everything no matter the season, but I plan on investing in more colors since it’s such a functional and on-trend cardigan.
The best part about this versatile crop? It has a built-in shelf, so I can wear it as a bra or a top during low-impact workouts. It’s made with UPF 50+ sun protection, and looks as great paired with a pair of biker shorts for a workout as it does a pair of high-waisted trousers for a night out. There are few items in my closet that get as much wear as this Athleta top, and I love that it has a high neckline for extra support.
If I’m going to be sweating up a storm, I’ll often opt for a pair of capris over full-length tights. With their UPF 50+ sun protection and cropped length, these capris are ideal for sweaty and sunny days. Plus, the combination of compression and a high waist keeps me feeling nice and tucked in so I can take on whatever the day throws at me (which is usually a very high-impact workout and some errands).
I struggle to find a bra supportive enough for high-intensity activities from outdoor running to bootcamps, but this Athleta bra made with UPF 50+ material is nothing short of a godsend. Its front zip makes it super easy to take on and off (read: no Houdini-like struggles), it has adjustable straps for customizable support, and a back keyhole for extra ventilation. The cups mold to my chest so perfectly it feels like it was made for me. I feel a sense of loss every time it’s in the wash.
“It’s not easy to find cute clothing with built-in SPF, but this brand has some great staple pieces,” says Katherine Garbarino, founder of Girls Living Well and a beauty, health and wellness enthusiast. “This top keeps me protected during my walks. Sunscreen tends to make me sweat more so this is a great option.”
Bodysuits are the IT fashion piece right now, and this sun-friendly version makes saluting the sun that much more safe. “I love Athleta’s Transcend Bodysuit because it can be worn on its own or layered on breezier mornings (it can get chilly in South Florida — or at least it feels that way when you haven’t lived in New York for a few years),” says Marci Robin, a freelance writer and editor. “It has a UPF 50+ rating, and it’s made with wicking fabric, which makes me feel less sweaty than I actually am (which is very).”
“My partner and I both love Outerknown — and have way too many of their blanket shirts for post-ocean swimming and after surfing (thanks Kelly Slater!). Their women’s Active Tank is the best for hiking, running, and then jumping into the waves immediately after,” says Silvie Snow-Thomas, a public relations executive and frequent hiker. “I especially love that it’s made out of regenerated fishing nets and other nylon waste for a fully sustainable tank.”
For a dressier option that provides ample coverage and protection, look no further than this on-trend skort. “My favorite garment is the IBKUL skort,” says Alison Blackman, editor in chief of advicesisters.com who lives on the beach. “This UPF 50+ skort looks like a skirt but has shorts underneath. It’s great for golf or any activity and I like it because you can go from the beach to the bar without looking sloppy.”
Little ones tend to require a little extra protection, and that’s why Sara Goldberg, a frequent pool goer, ops for this cute little number with UPF 50+ for her daughter. “This SPF long sleeve bathing suit is clutch for long days in the sun,” she says.
“This hat is made of a soft, lightweight fabric that is super comfortable, quick-drying, and durable,” says Geria. “It offers UPF 50+ protection for your head and face to help maintain healthy skin. This hat is adjustable to fit almost any head shape, and as a plus, it’s foldable for travel and storage purposes.”
It’s no secret our face is most susceptible to sun damage than any other part of our body. Layer up with this multifunctional hat complete with UPF 50 and an adjustable drawstring to keep it in place. “I also really like the SCALA UPF 50 hats, which have a lot of colors and varieties,” says Blackman.