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What is the difference between UPF and SPF?

December 03, 2021

Kae Sutherland & Holy She

At Holy She we are well aware of the dangers that the sun can cause to our skin that’s why we wrote this blog to inform you more about how to protect yourself and your kids from the sun. Most of our swimwear pieces have a build in UV protection.


UPF stands for Ultraviolet Protection Factor and SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor. The biggest difference is SPF is indicated on sunscreen and UPF is indicated on clothing and fabrics.


With a UPF 50 t-shirt you would be protected for 500 minutes (8 hours and 20 minutes). So that's pretty much all day. UV-resistant clothing protects the skin best against UV radiation. UV clothing offers protection of around SPF 50, even if the clothing gets wet. UV-resistant clothing is an important addition to applying sunscreen and seeking shade.

Clothing or fabrics with UPF block both UV-A and UV-B rays, while SPF only blocks UV-B rays unless otherwise indicated on the sunscreen cream. A UPF50 means that 1/50th of the sun's rays reach the skin. UV resistant clothing keeps its protection, and this offers a safer, easier way to get maximum reliable protection!


Sunscreen with a protection factor of UPF50 is called sunblock, but that is not correct, because you still get quite a bit of UV inside during a whole day. This can be too much, especially for people with a sunlight-related condition. A UPF 50 shirt blocks 98% of UV rays all day.

Because of sweating and drying off part of the sunscreen disappears and must be reapplied regularly to maintain its effectiveness. Most people do not apply enough sunscreen during a day at the beach or pool.


Natural materials, such as wool, cotton and silk, protect you less against UV radiation. Synthetic materials, such as polyester, polyamide and elastane, protect you better against UV radiation. Swimwear therefore often contains synthetic materials.

A dry white t-shirt, for example, offers protection of SPF 15 but once it gets wet it blocks even less UV radiation.

Enjoy the sun with care!

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