You may have seen advertisements for UV women’s tops and wondered if they actually work. There are an array of bike UV women’s tops on the market, and some are more effective than others. To find out if UV tops do actually work, read on to understand the risk of UV exposure and the science behind UV-resistant clothing.
As the weather gets warmer and days get brighter, the allure of a bike ride beckons. Nothing is more exhilarating than cruising down the road and feeling the sun on your back. Millions of Americans have discovered this joy in the past few years, with the number of bikers leaping from 43 million to 47.5 million since 2017. You get low-impact exercise, time spent outside, and the aforementioned sunlight…what’s not to love? Well, that sunlight can be just as problematic as it is pretty. Extended periods of time in the sun can lead to excessive UV exposure — a problem that puts you and your health at risk.
UV Exposure Puts You at Risk
Do women’s UV tops work? To answer that question, you must first understand why UV exposure poses a risk. UV exposure occurs when you spend time in the sun and absorb the electromagnetic radiation it naturally emits. This radiation includes UV rays, which can penetrate the skin, cause mutations within cells, and eventually lead to skin cancer. The more you are exposed, the higher your risk will be, and your risk factor can also be increased by hereditary predisposition to skin cancers such as melanoma. Needless to say, as good as the sun might feel, it might not actually be good for you!
Understanding the Principles of UV Resistance
We all know that lathering up with sunscreen provides protection for UV rays, but when you get an itch to ride your bike, you might not want to take the time or deal with the mess of doing so. Still, you need protection against UV rays, so how exactly does UV protection work? The science of UV protective clothing is simple and entails a combination of approaches:
- Block UV rays’ penetration with fabric
- Absorb or reflect UV rays with specific colors
- Fit to optimize protective features
UV protective clothing combines these principles to create clothing that supposedly minimizes UV exposure…but the question remains, does it work? Can a fabric really block UV rays, and can specific colors absorb or reflect UV rays more effectively than others? Is the fit of your clothing really impacting how much UV you’re exposed to? Take a look at the following information to see for yourself.
Density of Fibers in Material
The first characteristic of UV protective clothes is often more densely woven fibers. Take a cotton shirt, for example, and compare it to a pair of denim jeans. Which item of clothing do you think is more densely woven? The denim jeans are, of course — but how would this impact the protection they provide against UV rays? It turns out that tightly woven fabrics create an effective barrier between your skin and UV rays! Are you more likely to get a sunburn when you’re in a bikini on the beach, or when you’re in a long-sleeved tee, sitting in the shade? You’re safer in the latter scenario because the tree and your long-sleeved tee are both acting as barriers preventing the penetration of UV rays.
This is the primary principle that UV protection clothing is based on. Specialized UV protection clothing, much like jeans, is made with very densely woven fibers. Take a look at a women’s UV top, and you’ll see that the fabric is thick and strong, so that there are minimal gaps between threads and minimal opportunities for UV exposure.
How Clothes Absorb UV Rays
UV protective clothing works because its densely woven fabric blocks UV rays, but is that the only reason it works? In addition to preventing UV from reaching your skin, some clothes are specially made with absorption compounds. How is this different than blocking UV rays…and can a piece of clothing do both? Yes! This is because different characteristics of the clothes combat UV rays in different ways:
- The fabric itself provides blockage
- The color of the fabric can reflect
- Specialized treatments can absorb
Some UV protective clothing works the same way as sunscreen. Sunscreen works by triggering a chemical reaction when brought into contact with UV rays. This chemical reaction absorbs the rays, converting them into heat, and releasing the heat off of your skin. UV protective clothing is sometimes treated with similar chemical compounds. These treatments may have an impressive lifespan of several years, but others are liable to wash out after several cycles in the washing machine.
Check Out the Color of Clothing
Fabric blocks, chemical treatments absorb, and color reflects. People are often advised to wear white if they are going to be in the sun, but it might surprise you to learn that dark and bright colors can be effective in combating UV exposure, too:
- Dark colors absorb more UV, making it less likely that the rays will penetrate skin
- Vivid, bright colors also absorb UV, preventing it from reaching skin
- Whites and light colors reflect UV, but reflection is not as effective as absorption
Dark and bright colors absorb light and UV rays because they are more effective at absorbing energy. An effective piece of UV protective clothing will thus be a dark or bright color, or it may feature specialized reflective fabrics that reflect UV rays away from the wearer. Stay away from pastels and white t-shirts if you want to minimize your exposure to UV rays!
Additional Minerals Can Help
What other strategies does UV protective clothing incorporate? Some fabrics are woven with minerals such as titanium and zinc, which serve as reflective agents to reflect the UV rays away from the skin of the wearer. These minerals are the same ones often found in sunscreen and provide an additional layer of protection that minimizes the risk of UV exposure. They work by reflecting away the ways, like tiny little mirrors, preventing them from reaching the skin. Unlike specially formulated treatments, these minerals are not at risk of washing out because they are woven right into the fabric. This makes minerally enhanced UV protective clothing a great option.
The Experts Are Unanimous
Maybe you’ve read all of that, and you remain unconvinced…or maybe you just trust the experts. Good call, and good news: the experts are unanimous in confirming that UV protective clothing really does work. Insider quotes several doctors who examined UV clothes to assess their effectiveness:
- “Sunscreen is great but it’s often used improperly. People don’t reapply as frequently as we’re supposed to. It might not be applied thick enough. Spots might be missed. I do think, for those reasons, that the UV protection clothing offers superior protection” -Alison Arthur, MD
- “Anybody who’s doing something for an extended period outdoors, I think [sun protection clothes are] worth it. And it’s easier than putting on sunscreen in my opinion.” -Lisa Garner, MD
- The Skin Cancer Foundation also endorses UV protective clothing, saying that “clothing is the first line of defense” against UV rays
If you’re on the fence about investing in UV protective clothes, let the experts persuade you. These endorsements make it clear that UV tops don’t just work, they work well! As you get older, a lifetime of UV exposure can catch up to you, increasing your vulnerability to skin cancers. You can stop this pattern by proactively taking steps to block UV rays and keep your skin protected.
Enjoy an (Almost) UV-Free Bike Ride
It’s time to put UV rays on notice and enjoy (almost) UV-free riding. Nothing can protect you from 100% of the sun’s rays, but investing in protective measures can massively reduce your exposure and protect your health in the process. When you’re shopping for UV protective clothing, remember to pay attention to the UPF rating — UPF is to clothing as SPF is to sunscreen. Clothing rated at UPF 50 allows only 1/50th of UV rays to penetrate, which translates to approximately 98% effectiveness. Seek out garments that have a UPF rating of 40 or 50 so you can enjoy a nice ride without worrying about UV exposure!
Fashionable Protection From the Sun
With all of these benefits, you might be wondering what UV protective clothing looks like! The right attire can be just as attractive as it is protective. There are plenty of sleek and fashionable options on the market to help you block out UV rays and look great while doing so. It’s clear that women’s UV tops definitely do work, so finding the right style is the easy part of the equation. Remember to look for garments that are well-fitted, but on the loose side. Fabric that is stretched too tightly will exaggerate micro-perforations in the material and allow more UV rays to penetrate. Look for a top that suits your look, fits well, and is comfortable enough for days spent riding your bike!