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Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Protect Yourself

(cross post)

I read somewhere that having skin cancer changes your life in that you protect yourself more in the aftermath. It's true - after having Basal Cell Carcinoma removed from my nose a little more than a year ago I have changed my sun protection routine. I apply SPF 15 all year long, I apply SPF 70 on my face all year long, I constantly reapply sunblock when outside, I wear hats (though I despise them) to shade my face and head, and I no longer believe that a simple t-shirt provides coverage.

I've purchased a few pieces of clothing with UPF in the past year. What is UPF? Ultraviolet Protection Factor (or UPF) is a measurement of a fabric's capability to prevent harmful UV rays from reaching your skin. It is similar to SPF ratings for sunscreen. In general, most clothing does a pretty good job of sun protection, however clothes with a really loose weave let a fair amount of light through because of the big spaces between the fibers. Additionally, a white T-shirt is not going to provide as much protection from the sun as a black or other darker colored t-shirt would. An article of clothing that is rated a UPF 25 means that 1/25th of the sun's UV rays will reach your skin. The higher the UPF rating, the better the clothing’s sun protective benefit. A dark denim shirt has a UPF rating of 1,700.

If you really want to use your clothes as a daily tool to help keep protect from skin cancer, you can buy clothing specially treated with protective, colorless dyes that absorb UV rays such as the Cozumel t-shirt from REI (below). Additionally, you can wash your clothing in a product called SunGuard, which adds sunscreen to clothes in the wash. This additive can further boost the UPF rating of your clothes.

To use you simply add one package of SunGuard to a warm or hot water laundry load along with laundry detergent and you wash in skin protection for up to 20 washings. SunGuard can boost the UPF protection of a white cotton T-shirt from UPF 5 to UPF 30.
So for $2 a package you can add UPF protection to clothing you already own - that sure beats paying $20 for a single shirt! I found this NPR recording on this subject if you want more information. I'm already sold on SunGuard - will any of you try it?

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