back to top

29 Ways To Cover Up For People Who Suck At Reapplying Sunscreen

UV rays out, style in — all for under $40.

Posted on

If you love the sun and hate the shade, clothes can keep your skin from getting burnt AF.

Bravo / Via

They can block and absorb harmful UV radiation, which causes the majority of the 3.7 million skin cancers diagnosed in the U.S. each year, plus up to 90% of visible aging, according to

BuzzFeed Life reached out to two experts certified by the Board of American Dermatology, Dr. Rachel Herschenfeld, of Dermatology Partners, Inc. in Wellesley, Massachusetts, and Dr. Lisa Garner, who runs her own practice in Garland, Texas.

Here's how they suggest covering up so you don't get deep fried out there this summer:

Covering up won't actually make you SO MUCH HOTTER.

Disney / Via

"One major myth is that you can't have sun protection from clothing and feel as cool as you would without covering up," says Garner. "In addition to blocking the UV rays, clothing also can block some of the infrared rays that make the skin feel hot." So even though your maxi seems like it's keeping all of the heat in, it's actually doing a pretty good job of keeping the rays out and your skin cool.


The best options are those labeled with UPF, which is like SPF but for clothes.

The Ultraviolet Protective Factor, or UPF, of clothing is a measurement of UVA and UVB radiation blocked by the fabric. Basically, all clothing has some UPF, but they're not all labeled like bottles of sunscreen. If a shirt is labeled as UPF 50+, that just means the protective factor has been measured and certified in a laboratory. The number is based on how much UV can get through the fabric, so something that's UPF 50 only allows 1/50th of the sun's UV rays in. "There's no invisible coating on clothes," says Herschenfeld.

Choose stuff that covers your neck, chest, back, and shoulders.

Illumination Entertainment / Via

You want to cover the places you're most likely to forget to reapply. So a strapless cover-up wouldn't be super helpful, but a flowy long-sleeve shirt dress would, since you're more likely to notice if your legs are burning than the backs of your arms. "The best protection will be offered by clothing that has long sleeves with full coverage of the chest and neck. I prefer jacket-type styles," says Garner.

Tightly knit fabrics are best.

"If you can see through the fabric, the sun will go through it too," explains Herschenfeld. "The type of fabric doesn't matter as much as the weave of the fabric — thicker, tightly knit fabric will always keep more sun out."

Synthetics like polyester or rayon tend to be more finely woven than cotton or linen, which means they keep more sun out, says Herschenfeld. However, cotton still has a good UPF, especially if it's a big shirt with great coverage. suggests washing your cotton clothing a few times to shrink it slightly and tighten the weave, but Herschenfeld notes you can also just opt for higher-quality, pre-shrunk cotton for optimal UPF. And no matter the fabric, the UPF value goes down when the fabric is wet. So you should try to keep your clothes dry if you're exposed to sun," Herschenfeld explains.

And darker clothes are typically better (though it depends on the fabric and whether or not they're labeled with UPF).

FX / Via

"As a rule, darker colors such as blue or even red absorb more UV rays than light colors, however, in specialty UPF clothing, light colors protect well," says Garner. Even though lighter stuff may seem like it reflects more light, it's actually just easier for the sun to penetrate and reach your skin.


BUT OBVIOUSLY sunscreen is still important. / Via

You should really be wearing sunscreen no matter what if you're going to be outside, but just think of clothes as some added sun protection that you won't have to worry about reapplying or washing off, says Herschenfeld.

So here are 29 summer wardrobe essentials that will protect your skin, all for under $40.


Sizes: S–XL

Jenny Chang / BuzzFeed Life

When choosing a hat, the "see-through" rule still applies. "The best hats are fine-woven and 'wide-brimmed,' which means the brim is at least three inches wide," says Herschenfeld. "A wide-brimmed hat will give you roughly SPF 7 on your nose, SPF 2 on your chin, and SPF 5 on your neck." That doesn't seem like a whole lot, but it definitely adds to the protective factor of sunscreen.

In addition to hats, "Sunglasses with plastic lenses, such as polycarbonate or acrylic, should say somewhere on the label that they have 90–100% UV protection. If they don't, which is the case with some cheaper sunglasses, there will be harmful UV exposure to your eyes because the dark lenses cause your pupils to dilate." So actually take the time to read that annoying little sticker on the lens or ask a salesperson to make sure you're choosing the right shades.