10 Sun Hats to Protect Your Skin From UV Rays
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Knowing what to look for in a sun hat can really save your skin. Dermatologists explain what to look for, and recommend sun hats for women and men.
The importance of sun safety
For years, we’ve known the sun can damage your skin. And while our favorite star keeps us warm and provides beneficial Vitamin D, it’s important to limit its ultraviolet (UV) rays as much as possible.
Of course, sunscreen is a daily essential. But there are additional ways you can reduce your UV exposure. You might seek shade or stay indoors during the hottest hours of the day. Sun-protective clothing, like a good hat, offers extra protection.
For many, donning a hat is an easy way to prevent harmful UV rays from reaching areas of the skin. That’s why Ava Shamban, MD, a dermatologist in Santa Monica, California, and author of Heal Your Skin, includes a sun hat stand in her office’s reception area.
She tells her clients that any hat is better than no hat at all, and when you are considering your sun-protective strategy, hats are a priority.
Sun clothing for protection
The fabric of sun-protective clothing is woven tightly and is sometimes coated with a protective layer that’s specially treated to filter ultraviolet rays.
Although any barrier covering the skin provides some sun protection, specific sun-protective clothing with a UPF of 50 will block out 98 percent of harmful rays. UPF, which stands for ultraviolet protection factor, is the measure of UV protection a fabric provides.
The rating depends on the fiber density, thread count, and other factors, like special treatment with UV-inhibiting ingredients. It indicates how much UV radiation passes through the fabric to your skin.
What to look for in a sun hat
Two factors make a big difference in how effectively a sun hat shields you from punishing UV rays: how much skin it covers and how much UV light it blocks.
Buy a wide-brimmed hat
The brim, or border, of the hat, should cover as much skin as possible. Front-brimmed hats, like baseball caps and visors, only shade the eyes, not the skin.
The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends a three-inch brim circumference or at least a three-inch bill with a permanently attached drape covering the ears and neck.
The wider the brim, the more skin protection, so feel free to embrace your inner Audrey Hepburn.
“Luckily, many fashion hats are now embracing the fact that SPF is a key factor,” Dr. Shamban says.
Focus on UPF
In addition to the brim, pay attention to the UPF rating.
According to the official Skin Cancer Foundation Seal of Recommendation, your best bet is to opt for a UPF of at least 30.
“Don’t forget to include sunglasses to protect your eyes,” says Ellen Marmur, MD, a board-certified dermatologist and founder of MMSkincare in New York. “The skin around your eyes is very thin, sensitive, and prone to wrinkling.”
Donning sunglasses along with a hat adds extra protection.
Best sun hats for sun protection
The following picks are good option for coverage, UV protection, and style.
Coolibar Women’s Etta Shapeable Sun Catcher Hat UPF 50+
Coolibar is known for its sun-protective hats, and it’s one of Dr. Marmur’s favorite brands. This fabric hat covers the delicate decolletage, is packable, and is made from a lightweight and breathable fabric with a UPF 50+ rating.
The faux lace detail under the brim makes it feel more feminine. The neck drawstring also makes it perfect for boating or other outdoor activities.
Caistre Women’s Packable, Reversible Sun Hat
“Generally, darker-colored hats offer greater sun protection than lighter-colored hats,” says Sarah Schram, MD, a dermatologist and co-owner of Pima Dermatology in Tuscon, Arizona. “But lighter hats reflect UV rays away from you too.”
Dr. Schram likes dark hats, like this one from Caistra, which offers the best of both worlds. If the sun is too hot, wear it on the lighter-colored side. When cooler (or when you want greater protection), flip it over to the black side.
Columbia Women’s PFG Sun Drifter II Hat
Dr. Marmur says that the ears and back of the neck are vulnerable to the sun and one of the most common places for people to forget to apply sunscreen.
This hat from Columbia has a three-inch brim in the front and a four-inch brim in the back to ensure extra coverage of the neck.
An added plus is the wired brim, which allows you to bend the brim into the shape you want.
(Here’s how to repair sun-damaged hair.)
Sun 50 Wide Brim Fedora UPF 50+
This stylish Sun 50 fedora is well crafted and sturdy. It springs back into shape after being packed in a bag, so it’s great for travel. The decorative band trim gives it a Panama hat vibe.
The hat is one-size-fits-all but has an interior grosgrain ribbon that ensures a snug fit. Plus, it has a UPF rating of 50+.
Added bonus? By shopping at Sun 50, you help support a Black-woman-owned business that specializes in all things sun protection.
Physician Endorsed Fleur
This visor from Physician Endorsed is a chic and practical option, thanks to the four-inch brim that goes around the whole head. It’s available in natural or black, with embroidered flowers in the straw to add a fashion flair.
With a UPF of 50+, it’s no wonder Physician Endorsed is one of Dr. Shamban’s favorite sun hat companies.
That said, it’s probably not the best option if you have thinning hair on the top of your head. Regardless of hair loss, you’ll need to wear complete sunblock on the top of your head to account for the opening.
Sunday Afternoons Women’s Clear Creek Boonie Reversible Sun Hat
This fabric hat from Sunday Afternoons has a three-inch brim and chin straps to keep it in place. It’s reversible, so there are two colors in one hat. And when it gets dirty, simply hand wash and air dry.
Sunday Afternoon is another of Dr. Shamban’s favorite brands. The UPF 50+ rating makes it a smart choice for UV protection.
Shamban believes it’s important to keep packable hats in the glove compartment of your car for the times when the sun peeks out unexpectedly.
FSIGOM Women’s Wide Brim Sun Protection Straw Hat
Available in 14 colors, this fashion-forward hat offers a more sophisticated style than many others. It’s perfect for sunny days and has UPF 50 protection, so it shades your skin whether you decide to stay in town, spend the day at the races, or head to the beach.
The decorative bow on this FSIGOM hat stays put, and the large brim keeps you very covered. Grab a natural one or a bright color for a pick-me-up.
Echo Metallic Stripe Hat
Guarding yourself against the sun doesn’t mean you need to sacrifice color. This fun metallic hat from Echo also has a UPF 50+ rating, and the striping is fresh and playful.
Made of lightweight paper and lurex threads, this topper has a brim that exceeds three inches to give you ample shelter from the sun.
Coolibar Men’s Landon Reversible Bucket Hat UPF 50+
A bucket hat is a great style for men, who are most guilty of not wearing sun hats at all. (A baseball cap is not a sun hat. Sorry, guys.)
This one from Coolibar is the perfect alternative, and it’s lightweight and reversible. Women can wear it too.
UShake Outdoor Fishing Hat with Face Neck Flap Cover
Many people don’t wear hats at all, but Dr. Marmur says those who do forget their nose, upper lip, jawline, neck, and ears. This UShake hat is sure to cover all of those parts.
The unisex hat has many moving parts so that you can add or remove them according to your comfort level and sun-protection needs. It’s great for all-day wear as the sun changes its position and damages your skin.
Next, if you’ve already started to see some signs of sun damage, try these dermatologist-approved products that may help reverse sun-damaged skin.
- National Institutes of Health: "Vitamin D"
- Skincare Cancer Foundation: "Sun-Protective Clothing"
- Skin Cancer Foundation: "Seal of Recommendation"
- Ava Shamban, MD, dermatologist and owner of Ava MD in Santa Monica, California, and author of Heal Your Skin
- SGS: "Solar UV Protection, and Clothing (UPF Claims)"
- Ellen Marmur, MD, board-certified dermatologist and founder of MMSkincare
- Sarah Schram, MD, dermatologist and co-owner of Pima Dermatology in Tuscon, Arizona