Think cloth­ing as well as sun­screen when it comes to skin pro­tec­tion

Austin American-Statesman - - LIFE & ARTS - By Su­san Car­pen­ter

The amount of cloth­ing many of us wear in sum­mer is, un­der­stand­ably, in­verse to the tem­per­a­ture. Mat­ters of de­cency aside, that might not be a prob­lem if we wore enough sun­screen, but most Amer­i­cans don’t.

Just 18 per­cent of adults in the United States slather up be­fore they go out­doors, ac­cord­ing to a U.S. sun­screen study con­ducted by Neu­tro­gena this year, and just 48 per­cent of Amer­i­cans reap­ply sun­screen when they are ex­er­cis­ing or swim­ming out­side, even though many der­ma­tol­o­gists rec­om­mend reap­pli­ca­tion ev­ery two hours. What’s more, skin can­cer is on the rise. It in­creased 10 per­cent from 2007 to 2009, ac­cord­ing to the most re­cent pro­ce­dures sur­vey from the Amer­i­can So­ci­ety for Der­ma­to­logic Surgery.

“The best sun­screen of all is a hat and pro­tec­tive cloth­ing and smart be­hav­ior,” ac­cord­ing to ASDS Pres­i­dent Jef­frey Dover. The prob­lem, of course, is find­ing any­thing fash­ion­able. The mar­ket has long fo­cused on chil­dren and ath­letes, but dur­ing the past few years, a num­ber of com­pa­nies have been work­ing to ex­pand op­tions for the rest of us.

Reg­u­lar ap­parel sim­ply doesn’t of­fer the same sort of UV pro­tec­tion as pur­pose-built, sun-pro­tec­tive items. And, though a tightly wo­ven tex­tile in dark col­ors is bet­ter than a loose weave in a light color, few Aus­tinites wear black turtle­necks in the sum­mer. Cloth­ing that is truly sun pro­tec­tive is marked with UPF, or ul­tra­vi­o­let pro­tec­tion fac­tor, la­bel­ing, which is sim­i­lar to the sun pro­tec­tion fac­tor, A blouse from Ayana can be worn out­side even when you’re not ex­er­cis­ing.

or SPF, rat­ings on sun­screens and de­scribes how much UV ra­di­a­tion a fab­ric blocks.

“I con­sider my­self fash­ion­able,” said Sonja Gfeller, founder of Ayana, a UV-pro­tec­tive ap­parel line with the tag line “Skin care you can wear.”

Gfeller, 45, was hav­ing a hard time main­tain­ing her sense of fashion and also pro­tect­ing her skin from the sun af­ter mov­ing from her na­tive Switzer­land to San Cle­mente, Calif., in 2003. She was tired of con­stantly ap­ply­ing sun- screen, and she didn’t care for the few items of sun-pro­tec­tive golf, ten­nis and hik­ing ap­parel she was able to find in stores. “There was noth­ing,” Gfeller said.

Three years of re­search yielded fabrics from Ja­pan and Tai­wan that ei­ther wove zinc ox­ide, a UV blocker, into the tex­tile or in­fused it into the fab­ric dur­ing the dye­ing process. She started sewing those 45 UPF tex­tiles into ca­sual ev­ery­day items such as tu­nics, T-shirts, blouses, pants and skirts. This spring-sum­mer sea­son she ex­pects to sell about 2,000 gar­ments through her web­site (www.ayanashop. com) and at niche bou­tiques.

Ayana’s gar­ments are made in L.A. and, like most sun­pro­tec­tive cloth­ing items, are ef­fec­tive for a limited num­ber of wash­ings — about 40. They also need to be worn in con­junc­tion with sun­screen be­cause clothes don’t cover ev­ery­thing. There are still ex­posed bits of skin that are vul­ner­a­ble to the sun.

Shan­non Farar-Griefer has a lot of ex­pe­ri­ence with ex­posed skin. The founder of the Moeben SPF cloth­ing line is an ul­tra marathoner who runs 100-mile races that sub­ject her body, and her skin, to long stretches in the pun­ish­ing sun, leav­ing her with basal cell car­ci­noma on her chest and arm. In 2006, she started mak­ing UV-pro­tec­tive arm sleeves in leopard print and other pat­terns and has since ex­panded her line to in­clude dresses, skirts, pants and bathing suits that are sold at run­ning shops, such as Fleet Feet, as well as Fred Se­gal.

“I grew up with the baby oil and the re­flec­tor thing with all my girl­friends out by the pool in Palm Springs, com­pletely un­aware of the dam­age sun causes,” said Farar-Griefer. “The boomers now, we’re pay­ing for it. We didn’t think 20 years ago that we’d have to worry about wrin­kles or skin can­cer. There are great UV fabrics out there, so why not wear clothes that will give you a lit­tle pro­tec­tion?”

John Bar­row was liv­ing in Aus­tralia when the coun­try’s govern­ment agen­cies were first warn­ing res­i­dents of the skin can­cer dangers posed by a hole in the ozone layer. Now a Minneapolis res­i­dent, he re­al­ized there was a need for sun-pro­tec­tive cloth­ing when a Mayo Clinic der­ma­tol­o­gist asked him to buy sun-pro­tec­tive gar­ments when­ever Bar­row and his fam­ily re­turned to Aus­tralia.

Bar­row started his Coolibar line of UPF cloth­ing in 2003 and now does about $10 mil­lion an­nu­ally in sales through his web­site (www.coolibar. com) and cat­a­log, cater­ing to baby boomers seek­ing clas­sic cloth­ing de­signs in­fused with sun pro­tec­tion.

“It’s still a fairly pi­o­neer­ing con­cept,” said Bar­row, adding that sun-pro­tec­tive cloth­ing has the po­ten­tial to be five times larger than the $1-bil­lion U.S. sun­screen mar­ket.

Cloth­ing com­pany Moeben got its start cre­at­ing arm sleeves for run­ners to pro­tect their skin from sun dam­age.

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