Sunscreen vs. UV Protective Clothing: Which is Best for Your Family?

Summer is finally here. The kids are out of school, and you’re all looking forward to long lazy days at the beach or by the pool. But should your child’s sun protection arsenal include sunscreen or UV protective clothing? Which is better?

According to an article on, Dr. Joshua Zeichner, Director of Dermatology Research at Mt. Sinai Medical Center in New York explains that UV clothing is the single most effective form of sun protection, even more than sunscreen.

When purchasing protective clothing for kids, garments with darker colors, a tight weave and synthetic fabric are better at blocking rays than lighter natural fibers. Also, look for clothing with a UPF rating from 15-50—the numbers correspond to the same type of scale as the SPF in sunscreen. We like the style, price and protection offered in the UV protective clothes for kids from Sun Protection Zone.

However, you can’t cover your child’s skin with protective clothing from head to toe and some children may feel too hot or uncomfortable being so encumbered in the water. You’ll always need sunscreen as a backup to use on any patch of uncovered skin or if you forget the UV clothing at home. Keep in mind that all sunscreens are not created equal, and in fact, many are filled with harmful chemicals that could cause lasting damage to your child's health.

Most sunscreens found in stores contain one or more of the following active ingredients: oxybenzone, avobenzone, octocrylene, homosalate, octinoxate and octocrylene. Studies have shown that chemicals like these found in mainstream sunscreen brands can disrupt the body's hormones, may be toxic to reproductive systems and can interfere with development. Sunscreens containing Vitamin A or Retinol as well as spray on sunscreens should also be avoided.

So what are the safe sunscreen options? Choose one that is made from natural ingredients, doesn't break down on the skin and allows some penetration of UVB rays in order to let your body absorb sufficient amounts of Vitamin D. Check out this list of safe sunscreens approved by The Environmental Working Group, and click here to read the full article about sunscreen safety from The Alternative Daily.

Whether sunscreen or protective clothing is your choice, wait to cover up until after the first 10 to 15 minutes in the sun when your children will absorb much-needed vitamin D.

Happy summer from Chirp!

Photo credit: Leandro Müller/flickr