What is the difference between SPF and UPF?

Key Difference: The main difference between Sun Protection Factor (SPF) and Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF) is that SPF rates the amount of time it takes for UVB radiation to redden the skin, while UPF rates the amount of time it takes for all forms of ultraviolet radiation to cause skin damage.

UPF is also a more accurate measure of protection, as SPF does not take into account the amount of UVA radiation present.

It is also important to note that neither SPF nor UPF ratings take into account how well a fabric protects against heat radiation.

In the case of sunscreens, SPF is more important as it protects from UVB radiation, which is the primary cause of sunburn.

What is Sun Protection Factor (SPF)?

Sun Protection Factor (SPF) is a measure of the amount of UV radiation from the sun that reaches your skin.

The SPF number indicates how long you can stay in the sun without getting a sunburn, compared to how long it would take you to get a sunburn without sunscreen.

For example, if you normally get a sunburn in 10 minutes, using an SPF of 30 sunscreen would allow you to stay in the sun for 300 minutes (5 hours) without getting a sunburn.

This is not to be confused with the number of minutes you can spend in the sun before reapplying sunscreen.

In the case of fabrics, the SPF is a measure of how much UV radiation is blocked by the fabric. The fabric’s SPF is determined by how much UV radiation is blocked and how much transmission occurs.

The higher the SPF, the more UV radiation is blocked

What is Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF)?

Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF) is a measure of how effective a fabric is at blocking out ultraviolet radiation.

UPF ratings are expressed as a number, with the higher numbers indicating better protection.

All fabrics allow some amount of UV radiation to pass through, but fabrics with a high UPF rating will allow very little to penetrate.

This makes them ideal for use in clothing that is exposed to the sun, such as swimwear and hats.

The most important thing to remember is that UPF ratings only apply to the fabric and not to the finished garment.

So, a shirt with a high UPF rating will provide good protection if it is made from a high-UPF fabric, but a shirt made from a low-UPF fabric will not offer much protection even if it has a high UPF rating.

SPF vs UPF

One of the biggest differences between Sun Protection Factor (SPF) and Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF) is that SPF only measures the amount of UVB radiation a sunscreen will protect you from.

UPF, on the other hand, measures both UVA and UVB radiation. In addition, SPF is only calculated using 2mg/cm2 of sunscreen, while UPF takes into account the thickness and density of the fabric.

Also, SPF is measured over a period of time, while UPF is measured at one point in time.

The higher the UPF rating, the more protection the fabric provides. In the case of sunscreen, the higher the SPF rating, the more protection it provides from UVB radiation.

Main Differences

Key differences between SPF and UPF include –

Meaning

The full form of SPF is Sun Protection Factor while UPF stands for Ultraviolet Protection Factor.

Both are ratios that measure how well a fabric shields your skin from the sun’s ultraviolet radiation.

SPF is used more commonly on sunscreens, whereas UPF is more common on fabrics or clothing.

You can check out the SPF rating on a sunscreen bottle, while the UPF rating is usually found on the tag of a garment.

Purpose

The purpose of SPF is to measure how long it will take a person to get sunburned while wearing sunscreen.

UPF, on the other hand, measures how well a fabric protects against UV radiation.

How they are measured

SPF is measured by determining how long it takes for UV radiation to cause a sunburn on skin that has been treated with sunscreen, compared to skin that has not been treated.

UPF is measured by how much UV radiation is blocked by the fabric, with higher numbers indicating better protection.

What they protect against

SPF protects against sunburns, while UPF protects against both sunburns and skin cancer.

The most important difference is that SPF ratings are only for the sunscreen itself, while UPF ratings apply to the fabric.

It is also important to note that UPF ratings only apply to Ultraviolet radiation and not other forms of radiation, such as infrared or heat.

Application

SPF is applied to the skin, while UPF is found on clothing.

When looking for a sunscreen, you want to look for a high SPF rating in order to get the most protection.

When looking at clothing, you want to check the UPF rating to see how much radiation the fabric will block.

UPF and SPF are just numbers indicating the level of protection, so it is important to look at the specific rating for the product you are considering.

UVB radiation

One major difference between SPF and UPF is that SPF only measures protection against UVB radiation, while UPF also takes into account UVA radiation.

UVB radiation is the main cause of sunburns, while UVA radiation can penetrate deeper into the skin and cause long-term damage.

So, a fabric with a high UPF rating will offer better protection against both UVB and UVA radiation than a fabric with a high SPF rating.

Inherent vs. applied protection

Another difference between SPF and UPF is that SPF ratings refer to the inherent protection of the fabric, while UPF ratings refer to the applied protection of the fabric.

Inherent protection is the amount of UV radiation that is blocked by the fabric regardless of how it is used, while applied protection is the amount of UV radiation that is blocked by the fabric when it is used in a particular way.

What does UPF 40 mean?

UPF stands for Ultraviolet Protection Factor. The number following the UPF indicates how much ultraviolet radiation is allowed to pass through the fabric.

A garment with a UPF of 40 will allow only 1/40th (or 2.5%) of the UV radiation to reach your skin. So, a UPF 40 garment blocks out 96.5% of the sun’s UV radiation.

UPF 40 is really a good rating for a fabric and is the minimum that you should be looking for when purchasing outdoor clothing.

Does UPF wash out of clothing?

UPF clothing is designed to protect the wearer from the sun. The fabric is treated with a special coating that helps to deflect the sun’s rays.

UPF clothing does not wash out, and the protection it provides will last for as long as the garment is worn.

However, the rating of a garment’s UPF protection will decrease over time, so it is important to replace UPF clothing on a regular basis.

This is especially important for children, who are more likely to play outdoors and need extra protection.

Is SPF 30 enough for sun protection?

No, SPF 30 is not enough for sun protection. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends using a sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher.

So, it is the minimum recommended SPF. Do not buy a sunscreen that has an SPF lower than 30.

This is because an SPF of 30 blocks about 97% of UVB rays, while an SPF of 50 blocks about 98%.

However, no sunscreen blocks 100% of UVB and UVA rays, so always use other forms of sun protection such as hats, sunglasses, and long sleeves.

Is UPF a broad spectrum?

Yes, UPF is a broad spectrum measure for indicating the amount of ultraviolet radiation (UVR) that penetrates a fabric.

UPF ratings range from 0 to 50+, with a higher rating indicating more protection against UVR.

It is important to note that UPF ratings only apply to fabric and not to the skin. However, fabrics with a UPF rating of 50+ offer excellent sun protection.

Being a broad-spectrum measure, UPF indicates protection against both UVA and UVB rays.

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