Please DO NOT DELETE this page.

Blog //
  • Fitness

Is your activewear sun smart?

19 December, 2019
 A woman jogging

Exercise is good for us and exercising outdoors in nature brings added benefits. But what about our clothing? When we’re clad in on-trend lycra running through a park, heading home from yoga or just getting coffee at the local cafe, can active leisure wear offer any real protection from the sun?

The fabrics that offer the best protection

A group of scientists at the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency set out to answer this question. They tested thousands of items of clothing for their resistance to radiation (sunlight is a form of radiation, which is why nuclear scientists did the ultraviolet (UV) testing).

They concluded that the best fabrics for blocking UV rays to the skin were lycra, elastane, plastic, nylon and polyester. And yes, those are typically the main fabrics used in activewear.

Does that mean you can ditch the sunscreen?

No. You’d have to be wearing a full body suit made of lycra and, even then, your face, neck and hands would still need protection.

Skin that shows through any trendy cut-outs on active wear still needs protection, like the lower half of your legs if you wear cut off-leggings, your midriff on crop tops or exposed patches between back detailing on an exercise top. It’s easy to forget those areas and assume you’re covered.

How can scientists tell what protection clothing offers?

Just like the sun protection factor (SPF) on sunscreen, scientists came up with an ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) factor for clothing. This is an internationally recognised system and offers added reassurance if you’re searching for sun-protective clothing. A UPF rating of 50 is recommended for anyone who works outdoors or takes part in outdoor activities.

Why are synthetic fabrics so good?

The weave on synthetic fabrics is generally tighter than on natural fabrics. That prevents light penetrating. A word of warning though. If the fabric is stretched so thinly that the weave opens, it lets more light through and increases the chance of skin damage. So, avoid an overly snug fit.

Isn’t natural fabric better for you?

It may feel more comfortable to wear, but a simple white cotton t-shirt only offers the equivalent of SPF 5. White or light colours easily scatter UV rays – it’s like how you might find yourself sunburnt after a day at the snow. If you love wearing white cotton, always team it with sunscreen.

What happens when you sweat?

Active leisure wear is generally made of synthetic material that’s designed to ‘wick’ moisture away from your body. What this means is the fabric doesn’t absorb sweat so it stays drier. Cotton, on the other hand, absorbs moisture so it feels wet after exercise sometimes. Wet clothing gives less protection from UV radiation than dry clothing.

What about colour?

The weave of the fabric matters more, but colour also counts. Dark colours like black and red absorb UV rays, which means the rays are less likely to penetrate your clothing. White clothing scatters UV light, so you’re more likely to be affected by the bouncing light. Dark loose clothing is ideal.

Cap or hat?

A wide-brimmed hat offers far greater protection than a baseball cap. The Cancer Council recommends a brim of at least 7.5cm for adults, 6cm for children. And think of colour again. Light-brimmed hats can bounce sunlight back into your face so go for something darker.

Cover up

The more you cover up in appropriate clothing, the better protected you will be. If you have to be out all day, why not follow the example of an Aussie lifeguard at the beach? They wear long sleeved tops with a UPF of 50, wide brimmed hats and UV filtering sunglasses. Plus, they always have easy access to shade, especially at the hottest times of the day. 


All information contained in this article is intended for general information purposes only. The information provided should not be relied upon as medical advice and does not supersede or replace a consultation with a suitably qualified Health Care Professional.


Suggested Articles

  • An image of nutrient-rich vegetarian Mexican bow

    Mexican in a bowl

    If you can’t go out for Mexican, make it at home! This nutrient-rich vegetarian Mexican bowl is a quick and easy dinner.
    • Nutrition
    19 May 2020
  • Private Hospital Benefits at Healthscope Group Hospitals

    Private Hospital Benefits at Healthscope Group Hospitals

    CBHS has agreements with over 500 private hospitals across Australia including the Healthscope Group of Hospitals (Healthscope).
    • Membership
    18 May 2020
  • 2003_COVID19_Blog-08

    Financial assistance to members who hold Extras cover

    Here is what we are doing to support our members from both a health and financial perspective through the COVID-19 pandemic.
    • News
    • Membership
    6 May 2020
  • 2003_COVID19_Blog-08

    CBHS COVID-19 Health and Financial Assistance Program

    Here is what we are doing to support our members from both a health and financial perspective through the COVID-19 pandemic.
    • News
    • Membership
    27 April 2020

What Our Members Think

I joined as a CBHS member in 1978. Through many health events and challenges CBHS has always been there for me and my family. Their exceptional service over this time has always been appreciated.

- Jenny J

What Our Members Think

I've not long joined CBHS from another fund, but so far I've been impressed by the super helpful and friendly staff, the higher claim limits and rebates at a very competitive premium, and how easy it is to lodge manual claims through the app. Thanks CBHS - you've won me over! 😃

- Jessica B

What Our Members Think

What I love about CBHS is their customer service - friendly staff and always ready to help and email you the information you ask about. Keep up the great work!!!

- Linda S

What Our Members Think

I love CBHS as its so so easy to lodge a claim and whenever i need a question answered friendly consultant is one phone call away. The phone back option instead of waiting is brilliant!

- Rachel N

What Our Members Think

I have been with CBHS since I began at CBA 15 years ago...Now I have three beautiful children, one who has a disability. Our top extras cover has been really essential for his early intervention. I do love the ease of claiming online.

- Annette E

What Our Members Think

I am relatively new to CBHS and am loving it already. I worked for a CBA subsidiary a long time ago but was still eligible to join. So much better that the for-profit funds - our premium is only a little more and we pay a lower co-contribution and get great benefits. I am loving the massage rebate for my partner and gym rebate for me!

- David G

What Our Members Think

I'm extremely happy with CBHS! I have been a customer for about six years. I think the price is reasonable. And i would refer you to my family and friends any day. Thank you CBHS!!!

- Karen W

What Our Members Think

Love CBHS as I never have to doubt that they've got my back when I need it. Been through other insurers who have limited options or limits, yet cost the same or more.

- Mark F