UPF vs SPF: What's the Difference?

UPF vs SPF: What's the Difference?

If someone tries to sell you SPF clothing to protect your skin from the sun, head in the opposite direction—or at least to another store. There is no such thing as SPF clothing. So, what's is the difference between UPF vs SPF? SPF is a designation used for sunscreens and lotions. UPF, on the other hand, is the rating used for clothing and fabrics.

Let's take a closer look at UPF vs SPF, along with other factors to ensure the sun-protective clothing you choose is truly top-notch.

In addition to selling UPF 50+ clothing in small units on our retail site, bulk orders on our wholesale site, we also customize! We have an in-house printing facility and can take your logo or graphic design and print it on our shirts!

Check out our catalog and let us know how we can help promote your brand through customized gear!


UPF Explained

UPF stands for Ultraviolet Protection Factor. It indicates how much UV radiation a fabric allows to reach your skin, covering both UVA and UVB rays.

      - UVA rays: Longer wavelengths linked to skin aging.
      - UVB rays: Shorter wavelengths associated with skin burning

      UPF clothing acts as a barrier between the sun's harmful rays and your skin. For instance, a UPF-rated sun protection neck gaiter helps prevent sun damage and premature wrinkles.

      UPF ratings range from excellent to just okay:

        - UPF 50: Blocks 98% of the sun’s rays, considered excellent.
        - UPF 30: Blocks about 96% of the sun’s rays, still very good.
        - UPF 15: Blocks roughly 93% of the sun’s rays, the minimum rating and less effective.

        To understand these numbers:

          - UPF 50: Allows 1/50th of the sun’s rays through (1/50 = 2%), blocking 98% of the rays.
          - UPF 30: Allows 1/30th through (1/30 = 3.3%), blocking about 96%.
          - UPF 15: Allows 1/15th through (1/15 = 6.6%), blocking roughly 93%

          Instead of doing the math, just look for a UPF rating of 50 or above for maximum protection.


          SPF Explained

          SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor and refers to the time it takes for your skin to redden when exposed to UV rays. SPF measures only UVB rays, which cause skin burning.


          SPF ratings are simpler to understand:

          • SPF 15 Provides protection 15 times longer than without protection.
          • SPF 30: Provides protection 30 times longer.

          So, if your skin normally burns in 20 minutes, SPF 15 allows you to stay in the sun 15 times longer, or 300 minutes (5 hours), before burning.


          How to Choose UV Protective Clothing

          When shopping for sun protection clothing, the UPF rating is essential, but it's not the only factor. Look for these additional features to ensure your clothing rocks:

          1. UPF 50+: True protection starts with a rating of 50+, offering the highest level of skin protection. Fabrics need at least a UPF 30 to get the Skin Cancer Foundation's Seal of Recommendation.

          2. Cool Wicking Technology: Look for clothing with advanced cooling technology, like PURE-tech, which adapts to hot or cold conditions to keep you cool and dry. This technology is permanent and lasts through every wash and activity.

          3. Odor-Resistant Technology: Opt for clothing with M-Shield, a zinc-based, odor-resistant technology that keeps fabrics fresh and extends their lifespan.

          4. Easy Care: Choose machine-washable items for convenience. Look for clothing that can be hung to dry or tumbled on low.

          5. Protective Fabric: The best protective clothing is made from tightly woven synthetic fabric, which offers superior UV protection compared to loosely woven natural fibers.

          6. Multi-Season and Multi-Purpose Use: Select clothing that works in all seasons and for various activities. Quality UPF apparel should serve you well whether you’re hiking in summer, skiing in winter, or engaging in any other outdoor activity.


          UPF vs SPF FAQ

          What is the difference between UPF 50 vs SPF 50
          UPF 50 clothing allows 1/50th of the sun's UV radiation to reach the skin. SPF 50 sunscreen means it would take 50 times longer for your skin to burn compared to not wearing any sunscreen.

          Do you wear sunscreen under UPF clothing?
          Yes, it's important to not rely solely on clothing. Sunscreen provides an additional layer of protection.

          Does UPF prevent sunburn?
          UPF clothing significantly reduces the risk of sunburn and skin cancer. However, not all fabrics and colors provide equal protection. Tightly woven, dark-colored, loose-fitting apparel offers the best UPF protection.

          How long does UPF clothing last?
          UPF clothing generally lasts about 30 to 40 washes, approximately one year with regular use.

          How do you care for UPF clothing?

          • Wash or rinse in cold water.
          • Hand wash or use a gentle cycle.
          • Use mild detergent.
          • Avoid tumble drying.
          • Keep out of direct sunlight when drying.


          Do you need to wear UPF year-round?

          Yes, UV light can penetrate clouds, smog, and glass. Protect your skin year-round, as skin cancer is a prevalent risk, with multiple sunburns significantly increasing the risk of melanoma.



          We Customize Our Shirts with Your Branding

          Performance shirts are an excellent choice for customization, offering a perfect blend of comfort, durability, and style. Wearing a branded shirt not only promotes your business but also creates a cohesive and professional image for your team or event. Customizing performance shirts with your logo or design helps spread the word about your brand effortlessly as your customers and employees become walking advertisements.

          Working with Vapor Apparel to create your custom order is a breeze; our team is dedicated to ensuring the process is smooth and hassle-free. We'd love to assist you in crafting the perfect custom performance shirts that will make your brand stand out. Contact us at: or call us at 843-747-4200.

          Custom Shirt Spotlight: Lowcountry Oyster Festival