Of men, health and fashion

Better clothing comes to the rescue of men in want of better threads and sun protection.

By Bernardette Sto. Domingo

JUNE 2013

Men always opt for the easiest way to do things; even in choosing what to wear. It’s no wonder a complete outfit for them means just a shirt and trousers.

Anti-fussy as they are, men aren’t exactly fans of slathering on gooey sunscreen either.

Clearly, being fashionable and actively taking care of their skin aren’t on top of men’s list of priorities, but it’s never too late to change their mind. And it’s comforting to know that some of today’s fashion selections are also made of protective materials—hitting two birds with one stone.

Style and substance

Sunscreen clothing is made of tightly-knit fabrics aimed at shielding the skin from the sun’s ultraviolet rays (UVR). Sun-protective clothing is derived from synthetic materials such as polyester and nylon.

During the manufacturing process, garment companies add chemicals to help ward off sun rays; these chemicals absorb UVR, trapping them within the fabric. UV protection factor (UPF) is a measure of a fabric’s effectiveness at blocking out UVA and UVB rays.

Belen Dofitas, M.D., a dermatologist at St. Luke’s Medical Center and the Philippine General Hospital, says men who enjoy active outdoor sports such as golfing, swimming, mountain climbing or football are exposed to UVR for prolonged periods of time. This is a major risk factor for the development of skin cancers and causes premature aging of the skin and unsightly skin pigmentations.

“Protective clothing with high UPF can provide adequate protection against UVR because these can consistently cover large areas of skin. A fabric with UPF rating of 'Good' permits only 4.2 to 6.7 percent of UVR transmission to the underlying skin. Fabric with UPF ratings of 'Excellent' only permit less than 2.5 percent UVR transmission,” Dr. Dofitas points out.

In her 2001 paper, “UPF Fashion! New Options to Keep UV Rays at Bay,” Marla Day of Kansas State University states that UPF ratings can be as low as 4 or as high as 50. Ratings aren’t affected by temperature, altitude or geography, so UPF-rated fabrics protect when wet or dry.

In the December 2000 issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), the AAD said the use of comfortable UV-protective clothing is one of the most important elements in the prevention of skin cancer.

The AAD conducted a study to assess the UPF of lightweight cotton and viscose fabrics using special methods to determine the UPF of textiles. They concluded that lightweight specially treated UV-protective clothing, in contrast to untreated viscose fabrics, offer very good protection against UV radiation.

Why choose UPF

In addition, the AAD says that sun-protective garments with at least a UPF of 30 can block up to 98 percent of ultraviolet rays.

The Kansas State University paper advised consumers to check the product labeling information of sunscreen clothing; the label or hang tag will indicate whether the certified rating is Good, Very Good, or Excellent, and will report test methods.

When buying sun-protective clothing, hold the fabric up to a light: The less the light shows through, the better the protection value. Also, the thicker the fabric, the more difficult it is for ultraviolet radiation to penetrate. Another thing to consider is composition of the fiber. Polyester fiber protects from UV rays due to its chemical composition. Nylon and other synthetic fibers increase protection when UV absorbers are added. Cotton and other natural fibers need treatment to increase their UV protection.

Color also plays a significant role in UV absorption. Dark colors are recommended because of the extra protection provided by the dye. Light colors are generally cooler to wear, but don’t protect as well.

Get more tips from Dr. Dofitas on sun protection for males in the June issue of HealthToday, out now in bookstores and newsstands.

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