On a hot, sunny day, long sleeves get a bad wrap. In fact, when it’s hot out, a wearer in long sleeves will endure laughter and ridicule on the golf course and the endless question, “Aren’t you hot in that?” Here’s the good news, if you wear UPF 50+ long sleeves when the rays are pummeling you, you no longer have to contend with those who simply don’t know the secret advantage of long sleeves.
The fact is that when the sun is shining and temperatures rise, UV protected long sleeves keep you safe from sunburn and keep you cooler. Doctors have long recommended wearing UV sun protective clothing as a way to prevent sun damage and protect against skin cancer; however what science is now proving that blocking UVA/UVB rays in combination with long sleeves actually keeps us cooler too.
A number of years ago, an inquisitive research team led by C Richard Taylor and Virginia Finch of Harvard University and Amiram Shkolnik and Arieh Borut of Tel Aviv University were puzzled by the ability of the Bedouins of the Sinai to minimize solar heat loads in a hot desert. The study, aptly called Why Do Bedouins Wear Black Robes in Hot Deserts?, measured the people’s overall heat gain and loss in the robes, considering their amount of coverage, long sleeves and the color of their robes.
A volunteer wearing different levels of coverage and different colored clothing was faced into the midday sun in the desert for 30 minutes. Withstanding 95F, the volunteer placed in the Negev desert at the bottom of the rift valley between the Dead Sea and the Gulf of Eilat wore either: 1) a black Bedouin robe; 2) a similar robe that was white; 3) a tan army uniform; or 4) shorts (that is, he was semi‑nude).
The results were surprising, but not surprising. Long sleeves and more clothing kept the wearer cooler. As the report puts it: “The amount of heat gained by a Bedouin exposed to the hot desert is the same whether he wears a black or a white robe. The additional heat absorbed by the black robe was lost before it reached the skin.”
As far as desert temperatures in our everyday world, when it’s hot, our bodies sweat as a natural cooling mechanism. Let’s face it, sweat sitting on skin feels sticky and damp. Then often, the temptation is to “release” heat by removing clothes or wearing short sleeves, leading to damaging sunburn. Comfortable loose fitting UPF 50+ long sleeves in a wicking fabric transfers sweat away from skin so it can dry, and it creates a small air flow between skin and fabric to keep it cool while protecting against sunburn and UV damage.
While long sleeves can actually keep skin dry and cool, when it’s exceedingly hot, long sleeves are not a replacement for drinking liquids. Medical professionals will always recommend wearing a sun hat, UV clothing, taking frequent shade breaks, using a UV umbrella for portable shade and drinking plenty of hydrating fluids.
So, the next time friends question if you’re too hot in your long sleeves, you have your answer. Recommendations are for sleeves that are loose enough for some air flow. Long sleeve styles like UPF 50+ wraps layered over a tank top or accessories like UPF 50+ scarves channel air in, around and flow heat out, like a bellows. As for the color debate, it appears dark is not an issue as far as staying cool in the deserts. Nor, would we suppose, it be an issue around the pool or on the boat either.
Strange, but true: science’s most improbable research, The Guardian.
The heat and the hazard: 9 facts about summer health, The Washington Post.