It’s time to shine this summer, and if you are like most people, you will have your collection of summer hats at the ready. No longer just a fashion statement, hats are now used as a defense against the sun’s harmful UV rays. The problem is, they might not offer as much protection as you think they do.While hats do offer a little protection from the sun, they certainly do not offer enough to stop using sunscreen on your face — or any other exposed area of your body that’s in the sun. “Wearing a hat provides instant shade, which increases your cumulative total sun protection factor by at least 10,” says Ava Shamban, M.D., a dermatologist in Beverly Hills. “Regardless of whether [or not] you wear a hat, you need to apply a sunscreen of at least SPF 30 because ultraviolet light is reflected off of surfaces.”
Always go by this rule: Apply the equivalent to a shot glass of SPF to your entire body, and reapply every two hours.
Wide-brimmed hats that surround the head, meaning they cover the face, back of the neck, and sides of the neck and face, will offer the most protection. Baseball caps will only cover your forehead and half of your face, leaving the rest of your face , ears and neck vulnerable to the sun. Hats made of tightly woven fabric generally provide more protection than canvas hats or straw hats, according to the American Cancer Society. The more tightly woven, the less the sun rays can get through the material.
Shamban recommends looking for brands that carry hats with an ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) number, like Coolibar. “In order to carry a number, it must be tested as this is regulated by the FDA,” says Shamban. The lowest UPF rating a piece of clothing can have is 15, while the highest is 50+.
Remember, the sun is the strongest from 10 a.m. to 3 or 4 p.m. And even though hats do shield you from the sun in any weather, Shamban suggests wearing one on sunny and cloudy days. “You should certainly wear one in brightly lit areas, such as on a boat or at the beach, but basically anywhere outdoors [is important],” says Shamban.
Sunlight is scattered on cloudy days, which makes it harder to protect your entire face, neck, and ears with a hat. That’s why sunscreen is still key.
Ultimately, there’s no shortcut that makes it okay to skip sunscreen. “I’m a big believer that sunscreen as protection from the damaging ultraviolet rays is the number one way that you can change the way you age,” says Shamban. “And you should use the same amount on your face whether you’re wearing a hat or not.”