“What is the difference between UPF and SPF?”

As we move into summer this is one of the more popular questions that we are asked. 

Our skin is an incredible organ yet very susceptible to UV rays. 

As for UPF and SPF, both protect your skin from the sun but have very different meanings.

Sunlight includes rays of invisible ultraviolet (UV) radiation. Overexposure to UV rays leads to sunburn, accelerated skin ageing and skin cancer.

Sun protective clothing and sunscreen offer the main form of UV protection but are rated differently as UPF and SPF.

So, what do they mean?

UPF is the standard used to measure the effectiveness of sun protective fabrics. UPF stands for “Ultraviolet Protection Factor” and indicates how much of the sun’s UV radiation penetrates a fabric and reaches the skin. On sun protective fabrics you will generally see a UPF rating from 15 to 50. A fabric with a rating of 50 will allow only 1/50th of the sun’s UV rays to pass through. This means the fabric will reduce your skin’s UV radiation exposure significantly because only 2 percent of the UV rays will get through. This also means that it blocks both UVA and UVB rays while SPF only takes the UVB rays into account.
SPF is a standard used to measure the effectiveness of sunscreen. SPF stands for “Sun Protection Factor”. It measures the amount of time it takes for sun-exposed skin to redden, while UPF measures the amount of UV radiation that penetrates a fabric and reaches the skin. SPF only accounts for UVB rays unless specifically stated as a broad-spectrum sunscreen.

The diagram below will assist in the benefits across both.