Spring has finally sprung which means it’s (almost) time for open-toe sandals, maxi dresses and more garments that leave you exposed. Being prepped with the right sunscreen, a beach umbrella for shade and sun-protective clothing will help in many situations, but one of the best (and easiest) ways to protect our faces from the unbearable heat during outdoor activities is a sun hat.
To avoid hyperpigmentation and other long-lasting skin issues, Shop TODAY spoke with a handful of experts to get the lowdown on why it’s essential to protect yourself from the sun throughout the year. We also found some of the best sun hats on the market to help shield your face from harmful UVA and UVB rays.
What is UPF rating?
For the ultimate sun protection, experts advise investing in clothes and accessories with an Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF) rating.
“When you’re talking about UPF, you’re talking about protection from ultraviolet B rays and ultraviolet A rays. When you look at the number, a UPF of 50…blocks 98 percent of sun rays. When it comes to protection, anything above 50 is considered excellent by the Skin Cancer Foundation,” comments New York-based board-certified dermatologist Dr. Jeremy A. Brauer.
What should I look for in UPF clothing and accessories?
The SCF recommends looking for clothing with a UPF of at least 30 to protect yourself from skin cancer.
“All fabrics can shield some UV radiation, but clothing [and hats] that are designed to do the most effective job are items that are labeled with a UPF rating. The ratings range from UPF 15 to 50+. The higher the number, the better,” says New York-based dermatologist Dr. Melissa Levin.
Protecting your neck, ears and face are essential when you’re exposing your skin to the sun. One component Brauer recommends looking for is color, specifically “bright colors that are reflective and darker colors [that] can absorb those rays and avoid penetration.”
Shopping tip: Look for UPF indicators when purchasing sun protection gear as these tell you just how much of the sun’s rays the item can block. The Skin Cancer Foundation also has a seal of recommendation for UPF-approved clothing.
How to shop for hats with UPF protection
While there are plenty of trendy sun hat options, it’s also important you invest in a design that will actually protect your skin.
“The best hats for sun protection have a brim of at least three inches to shade the face, scalp, neck, shoulders and upper back, along with easily overlooked places like the tops of the ears and back of the neck,” the SCF states. “Look for a tightly woven hat rather than a loosely constructed straw hat that lets in the UV rays.”
“Broad-brimmed hats are one of the most important steps when it comes to safe sun practices,” says Levin. “Heavy perspiration, water activities and incomplete application of sunscreen lend to sunscreen products that rub off and lose their effectiveness, resulting in incomplete sun protection.”
In addition to a protective hat, sunglasses and sunscreen are always a good idea for optimal summer safety.
Sun protection hats for kids
“Hats are great for protecting the face and neck from harmful UV rays. Babies have especially sensitive skin, so it’s important to always put on hats when outside, at the beach, etc.,” says New Jersey-based dermatologist Dr. Shari Sperling.
Brauer recommends hats with flaps around the face to protect their ears and necks. Additionally, he recommends being cognizant of the sun’s reflection and applying copious amounts of sunscreen on kids.
What’s the difference between UPF and SPF?
According to the SCF, UPF measures the amount of UV radiation that can penetrate fabric and reach your skin, while sun protection factor (SPF) is the time it takes for UV-exposed skin to redden.
Can I get sunburn through a hat?
Though UPF accessories and clothing provide protection from the sun, ultraviolet light can still penetrate through these garments. Brauer mentions that while you should not expect a sunburn when you wear sunscreen and UPF clothing appropriately, there are always exceptions to the rule.
“Nothing is 100 percent, but the expectation is that UPF 50+ allows minimum sun rays and you shouldn’t expect a sunburn,” he says.
What can the lack of UPF protectant cause?
“Basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas account for about 90 percent of all skin cancers, and often appear on the head and neck,” a representative for the SCF tells us. “Hats help safeguard your face, scalp and neck.”
Meet the experts
- Dr. Jeremy A. Brauer, MD, is a New York board-certified dermatologist with more than 10 years of experience. He is the founder and director of Spectrum Skin and Laser.
- Dr. Melissa Levin, MD, is a New York-based dermatologist board-certified dermatologist and founder of Entière Dermatology.
- Dr. Shari Sperling, DO, is a board certified dermatologist and founder of Sperling Dermatology in New Jersey.