Body Surface Area and Sun Protective Clothing

Body Surface Area and Sun Protective Clothing

February 07, 2021

"I always wear a shirt outside so I just put sunscreen on my face."

I understand that this statement feels like it should make sense.  After all, all clothing can offer some protection from the sun by acting as a simple barrier to the skin.  The question really becomes, how much protection do these items really offer? 

The amount of sun protection offered by clothing really depends on the type of material and the fit of the clothing.  Sound familiar? Now that everyone has heard about face masks and how they work, this should offer a model on how clothing works as well.  With face masks we are worried about the same issues. 

Material, effectiveness, fit and breathability.  All 4 factors are the same factors we consider with sun protective clothing production and development.

The bigger challenge with clothing compared to face masks is that we focus on the entire body surface area- not just the nose and mouth!  

Why does this matter?  Several studies have looked at sunscreen safety and absorption of chemical sunscreen prouducts into our bloodstream. These studies point to 4x the safe amount of chemical sunscreen products found in our blood stream after just one day of use in recommended amounts.

Consider this. What if you took the time to consider your clothing choices.  Choose clothing that not only is made of the right textiles but also consider the fit and body surface area covered by the designs.  


The result: Based on one of our parametric body surface area modeling studies, this could mean the potential for a close to 7x reduction in the need for sunscreen products.  If you are using almost 7x less sunscreen, it stands to reason that you will absorb substantially less as well.  There could be the potential to find that further studies show that applying sunscreen only on the exposed areas not covered by sun protective clothing could lead to safer use of sunscreen products.

We look forward to studying this in the future. For now, we still recommend the use of physical sunscreen products containing zinc and/or titanium to minimize the risks of sunscreen use. And, of course continue to build an understanding of the role sun protective clothing plays in sun safety.





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