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For the Love of UPF: Understanding UPF vs SPF for Ultimate Sun Protection

You’ve heard of SPF and UV, but do you know what UPF is? Is it their love child? Well, no, but kind of. UPF stands for Ultraviolet Protection Factor and...

You’ve heard of SPF and UV, but do you know what UPF is? Is it their love child? Well, no, but kind of.
UPF stands for Ultraviolet Protection Factor and indicates how much UV exposure is able to penetrate through a fabric and reach the skin. When it comes to sun exposure, covering up is always better than not, but it turns out not all garments are created equal when it comes to UV protection.
But how does UPF differ from SPF? Let’s dive into the world of UPF vs SPF.

One in five Americans and two in three Australians will be diagnosed with skin cancer before they turn 70. Now that’s a scary stat.

Clothing with a higher UPF rating significantly reduces your risk of sun damage from both UVB and UVA rays, making it the ultimate choice when adventuring in the sun. But the benefits don’t stop there. Let’s dive into why UPF is high on the favorites list for both you and the environment, and how it compares to SPF, in our UPF vs SPF comparison.

UPF ratings

A common misconception is that all fabrics are created equal when it comes to UVA and UVB protection. Just because your skin is physically covered with a fabric does not mean that that fabric is protecting your skin from potential sun damage from UV rays.

This is where the distinction between UPF vs SPF comes into play. SPF, or Sun Protection Factor, is a measure of how well a sunscreen will protect your skin from UVB rays – the kind of radiation that causes sunburn and contributes to skin cancer. UPF, on the other hand, indicates the fraction of the sun’s ultraviolet rays that can reach the skin through the fabric. 

So, while SPF is about sunscreens, UPF is about fabrics.

It helps to think about UPF like sunscreen — just because you’ve applied it doesn’t mean you’ve got ultimate protection, which is why we often check the rating on the bottle. SPF15 covers less than SPF30, which covers less than SPF50+. Pretty simple, right?

The Lumar Active standard

Lumar Active products have been designed with UPF effective fabric choices in mind to ensure every one of our garments has a minimum rating of UPF50, giving your skin its best shot at sun protection.

If a garment has not been formally tested, there is no way of knowing what level of protection you are getting from your clothing. A regular shirt may only have a UPF of 5 – meaning you are only wearing the equivalent of SPF5 sunscreen.

Fabric that has been tested and given a rating of UPF50 and upward is equivalent to wearing SPF50+ sunscreen, giving you protection from 98% of UV rays, at a minimum. For us, this is the Lumar Active standard.

UPF vs SPF: Why UPF is better for you and the planet

At Lumar Active, we carefully consider our materials for both people and planet, and thankfully, the benefits of UPF clothing don’t end with your skin.

By ensuring ultimate skin protection, UPF ensures healthier oceans. As well as preventing damage to skin caused by prolonged sun exposure, UPF garments reduce the need to use excessive amounts of sunscreen.

This means there are fewer chemicals in the ocean that can cause damage to reefs and the overall ocean ecosystem. This is one of the driving factors for Lumar Active creating UPF garments that have specific sun protection design features. Our higher necklines and hand coverage aren’t all about aesthetics — it’s a choice we made to minimize the need for SPF where possible, so you can feel good about your skin protection and the protection of the ocean.

Our UPF fabrics

UPF is one of the stars of our Lumar Active range show. Our women’s water range is made with the highest quality Italian materials, whilst our men’s rashquards and sun shirts are made out of recycled polyester. Every single one of our garments is UPF50 certified, guaranteeing our customers a UV protection of 98%.


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