Michael Hubsmith is executive vice president with Coolibar, and had been actively developing sun protection products for over a decade. He recently sat down with SunAWARE for a feature in their new magazine Perfect Skin Protection to give his take on what he calls “the second generation” of sun protection products. Here is a snippet of our favorite pieces from the article below.
So, Michael, what do you mean when you say “second generation” sun protection products?
New products are being created around the world. Some are wonderfully simple and highly effective. A flap attached to a beach umbrella to provide full shade from the side or a glove with a sleeve to protect the left arm while driving, are two clear examples of innovative problem solving.
The most exciting new product I’ve seen recently was a low lawn chair with a kind of canopy over the top. This is exciting as it meets the need of so many parents and fans at their kids’ soccer games or swim meets. It’s also exciting as it shows just how far the thinking has come about sun protection products. I’ve heard friends complain about roasting in the sun during these kinds of events, and this chair helps solve the problem. Some of them even have flaps in front that help when facing west.
What are most important trends in sun protection clothes?
Most importantly, sun protection clothes have gone mainstream.
When made well, the protection offered is completely safe, consistent in its level of protection, not messy, and ultimately less expensive than relying on sunscreen for full body protection. Consumers are beginning to understand that.
It’s exciting that the general population understands that there is a specific clothing category for sun protective garments where ten years ago they did not. It is much more main stream now. This is a significant shift.
And you see the change everywhere. More people are wearing wide brimmed hats as opposed to baseball caps at sporting events, for example, I saw caddies at the PGA Championship wearing wide-brimmed hats (3”brims all around).
Kids are wearing rash guards (swim shirts) as fashion statements – like a pop cultural garment – just being cool – not really caring about sun protection, although someone else may be doing the caring for them. This is a great step forward.
And, again, most of the manufacturers in the sun protective clothing category are conscientious. They test their materials and you can rely upon their labels.
With all the new sun protection products on the market and all the new product claims being made, are there any that you would suggest consumers avoid?
Well, I’d say a small bikini style bathing suit made with protective fabric is not really what consumers should look for when thinking about sun protection. I also hesitate to recommend the products that claim you can add chemicals to your wash to make your clothes protective.
The biggest issue or mistake that people make is that they believe UV protection comes only by blocking UV rays. So the test they recommend is to hold a fabric up to light to see if any light passes through. This is absolutely the wrong test because UVR is invisible and does not pass through fabric the same way.
Fabrics that claim to be sun protective have been tested using laboratory equipment. Most combine blockers and diffusers to protect you from UV rays. So the chemicals added into laundry may block some, but the individual will never know what the UPF rating is because they can’t test it.
Blocking UVR is not like adding a water repellent. Without testing, you have no idea if it will work. So if a person is really looking for UPF clothing, or sun protective clothing, they should get it from a company that has guaranteed testing of the material and rated it accordingly, and not try to do it themselves.