Find yourself spend a lot of time outside recently? The coming of the warm-weather cycling season can be exciting, but also can be dangerous if you do not take proper sun-screen measures.
As the sun rises earlier and higher every day (at least until June 21), cyclists’ thoughts should turn to how to protect ourselves from its harmful effects. “If you’re doing a four-hour ride at mid-day, that exposes you to about 20 times the amount of UV radiation it takes to burn,” says Darrell Rigel, MD, a professor of dermatology at New York University who works with athletes ranging from cyclists to the New York Yankees.
While we’re all assiduous about sunscreen, we suggest All Good Sports Sunscreen, here especially at cycling, another tool Dr. Rigel recommends is UPF-rated clothing.
What is UPF, and How Does it Work?
UPF means Ultraviolet Protection Factor and rates the ability to stop UV rays from reaching your skin of a fabric or garment. Fabrics with a UPF rating are, in essence, a physical sunblock. A fabric’s UPF potential relies on a few main properties:
Material: Luckily, for cyclists, the common material for most cycling kits, synthetic fabrics like Lycra and polyester, often score well on UPF tests—especially if the fabric is tightly knit or has a shiny surface. Among them the worst is cotton. Wool usually performs well, in part because of the thick, textured yarn blocks more radiation.
Construction: Woven fabrics typically have a higher UPF rating than knits. Weaves are ordinarily tighter than knits, and the definition says that weaves have very little stretch, so they let in less light. Simon Huntsman, head of product development and R&D for Rapha, notes that knits can vary widely; complex double-knit fabrics can have very high UPF ratings, while lighter single-knits generally offer less protection.
Colour: Very dark colours absorb more UV radiation; light colours perform worse and white offers the least protection because it’s the most transparent, says Carol Little, Pearl Izumi’s senior materials development manager. Red shades can do surprisingly well at blocking most UV radiation, with dark blue and green not far behind.
Fit: Stretching a fabric can greatly reduce its UPF rating; a 2014 study at Hong Kong’s Institute of Textiles and Clothing found that even stretched 10 percent (that is, to 110 percent of normal fabric length) can reduce UPF by up to two-thirds, depending on knit structure. Wet fabrics also typically drop in effectiveness.
Wear and Tear: Garments typically don’t begin to lose UPF effectiveness from wear until they are highly worn or faded. In fact, according to Rigel, most fabrics used in your cycling kit actually improve at the initial in UPF as they’re washed and worn because of “microfraying” of the yarn and garment shrinkage, which tightens the knit.
Chemical Treatments: Some textile brands are incorporating physical or chemical treatments to increase UPF. However, some may wash out long-term, much like how a durable water-repellant finish will degrade over time.
How to Read UPF Ratings
UPF ratings range from 15 to over 50. A UPF value is essentially a ratio: A garment with a rating of 25 lets in one “unit” of UV radiation for every 24 it blocks, while a UPF rating of 50 means 49 units are blocked. But it’s relative: UPF 50 blocks 98 percent of UV radiation, while a garment rated UPF 25 blocks 96 percent. Even a UPF 15 garment only allows seven percent of UV radiation units through.
For these ratings, there is no central clearinghouse or testing facility. UPF rating regulations are different in countries and, in the US, are essentially self-policed by the textile industry; the FTC only regulates advertising claims about UPF.
How to Shop For UPF Clothing
Use UPF clothing to cover the most vulnerable areas. Unlike sunscreen, UPF is permanent protection, Rigel says. In other words, arm skins last longer than sunscreen, so make sure you cover up where you need the most protection. (According to Rigel, the top spot for skin cancer in males is on the back, and in women, it’s the legs.)
Don’t fixate on the highest UPF ratings. If you do that four-hour mid-day ride, you’re exposing yourself to 20 times the amount of solar radiation needed to burn, so a higher UPF rating would be helpful. But UPF 15 garments still provides significant protection, particularly on shorter rides. Also be careful about when you ride: riding in the morning, particularly in summer, is an effective approach to limiting your exposure.
Pick your colours carefully. For jerseys and shorts, look for dark colours; bright colours can be good second choices.
Pay attention to construction. How much sun does that clothing really block out? Rigel recommends a simple light test: Hold the clothing up to a light source. It’s not an absolute correlation to UPF, he cautions, but “if you can see a direct light source, not just diffused light, the weave is open enough to burn through.”
The fit is important. Very tight-fitting cycling jerseys may stretch some, including in critical areas like across the shoulders. That can reduce the UPF rating, but it’s good to check with the manufacturer. Pearl Izumi’s Little says that the company’s UPF ratings are all based on fabric engineered to keep their rating even when stretched 20 percent in both length and width.
In the end, I would like to recommend another method that can help you to protect your skin from the inside out---Eat more foods that provide sun protection
It is right that the foods we eat can really help to protect our skin from sun damage. It’s the antioxidants found in these specific foods that can help to fight the free radicals that build up from sun exposure. Free radicals can lead to wrinkles and premature ageing, but the more important thing is that it can lead to the formation of cancer cells. The antioxidants found in certain foods can help to protect against the form of free radical. Eat more of antioxidant rich foods you can add more skin protection, like Tomatoes, Watermelon, fish, etc.