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Dermatologists recommend how to shop for sun hats with UPF

TODAY logo TODAY 7/29/2021 Lauren Levy, Shop TODAY and Nicole Saunders, Shop TODAY

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There’s a common mistake many still make before spending time outdoors: underestimating the importance of a hat. Although sunscreen is an essential way to defend ourselves from sun damage, it isn’t the only sun protection out there. “Wearing clothing that has sun protection built into it is one of the most effective ways of protecting yourself from the sun,” explained board-certified dermatologist Kemunto Mokaya, MD. “Institutions such as the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the nonprofit group Skin Cancer Foundation consider clothing as the first-line in defense against UV radiation.” But not all hats are created equal when it comes to sun protection: It’s the sun-blocking materials that some sport to help your body avoid sun damage that makes a difference. We consulted experts to understand how UPF works and how to shop for the best UPF hats out there.

SKIP AHEAD Best UPF hats

Related: With summer fast approaching, here are the best hard-sided coolers, soft-sided coolers and cooler bags to keep your food and drinks cold.

What is the difference between SPF and UPF?

Sun Protection Factor (SPF) is a rating for sunscreens and cosmetic products to measure how they protect against Ultraviolet B (UVB) rays that can cause sunburns, explained board-certified dermatologist Todd Minars, MD. “It loosely gives the person an indicator of how long they can be exposed to direct sunlight before their skin reddens,” he said. “SPF30 means you can be exposed to the sunlight approximately 30 times longer than you would be able to without any SPF before getting red or early signs of a sunburn.”

While SPF rates topical products in their ability to protect against UVB rays, shoppers should be looking for Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF) when it comes to clothing. “UPF is a rating that's used to measure the amount of UVA (Ultraviolet A) and UVB radiation that comes from the sun and is able to penetrate a person's clothing and reach their skin,” Minars said. A higher UPF rating means an article of clothing is more protective against the sun’s UVA and UVB rays.

Topical SPF is a great tool, but it also isn’t perfect.

Related: Dermatologists break down everything worth knowing about vitamin C and share their go-to serums.

Why are UPF hats important?

Skin cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in the United States, according to a 2021 report from the nonprofit group American Cancer Society (ACS). This report also claims that “many of the more than 5 million skin cancers diagnosed annually could be prevented by protecting skin from excessive sun exposure and not using indoor tanning devices.” Additionally, the same report found that the rates of melanoma have risen “rapidly over the past few decades, but this has varied by age.” The ACS predicts more than 106,100 new melanoma cases will be diagnosed this year — melanoma is reportedly only 1 percent of skin cancer diagnoses, but it results in “a large majority of skin cancer deaths.”

Since sunscreen has limits on its effectiveness, one medical expert advised people to avoid relying on it as their sole protection from sun exposure and instead said to think of it as an additional layer. “Topical SPF is a great tool, but it also isn’t perfect. For chemical sunscreen, it must be fully absorbed to work, about 30 min after application,” noted board-certified dermatologist Dendy Engelman, MD. “For physical [mineral] sunscreen, if you do not have consistent application or an area rubs off, then you are not adequately protected.”

That’s why UPF clothing and accessories like UPF hats are a great addition to your summer wardrobe — they work immediately and can cover all areas of the body, the experts we consulted said.

Related: Inflatable pools can be a great way to keep cool this summer — here’s how to shop for the right one.

How to buy clothes with UPF

Effective UPF clothing is very tightly woven together so that the sun's UV rays can't penetrate through and reach the skin, explained Minars. Shoppers should look for a UPF rating of at least 50 when buying for sun protection. To put this in perspective, “your standard cotton T-shirt has a UPF rating of 5 and UPF clothing often scores at or over 50 UPF,” he added. “This is a big difference.”

Although many factors play into the best choice for you — including geography, time of day during exposure and an individual’s personal melanin levels — Minars highlighted some general differences in clothing and accessories:

  • UPF rating up to 25: Good protection with up to 95 percent of UV radiation blocked.
  • UPF Rating up to 40: Great protection with up to 97 percent of UV radiation blocked.
  • UPF rating 40+: Best protection, with up to 98 percent (or more) of UV radiation blocked.

Best UPF hats to shop

Before spending time outside, it’s essential to put on a hat — but not all hats are created equal. “Where hats can bite people is when they're made of straw or that mesh pattern found on most ballcaps,” said Minars. “Those ventilation factors make wearing the hats comfortable for airflow, but they fall short to protect your crown or scalp from sunburns or UV.”

There’s a clear favorite brand for the entire family that the experts we consulted agreed on: Coolibar. “You're going to be blown away at the options and, get this, the entire company only makes UPF gear,” Minars added. “I like seeing a producer devote all their items to UPF clothing, so this is the most comprehensive option for families.” When it comes to the best UPF hats for men, women, kids and babies, these are the top favorites, according to the experts we consulted.

Related: National Ice Cream Day is about to get sweeter. Learn how to make homemade ice cream with these expert tips and shop the best ice cream makers.

Best women’s hats with UPF

Best affordable UPF hat for women: Simplicity

1. Simplicity Floppy Women Sun Hat

For those looking for protection without making a major investment, Mohiba Tareen, MD, FAAD, a clinical assistant professor of dermatology at Columbia University, said to check out Simplicity. The brand’s line of relatively budget-friendly sun hats includes this foldable, large brim hat with UPF 50+ fabric. Not only does it have a stylish ribbon design, but it’s also designed with an iron wire frame along the inner edge, making it completely crushable. Don’t worry about what happens to this in your beach bag or carry-on suitcase — it will regain its original shape with ease.

Simplicity Floppy Women Sun Hat with Large Brim

a man wearing a hat: Simplicity Floppy Women Sun Hat with Large Brim (Walmart / Walmart) © Walmart Simplicity Floppy Women Sun Hat with Large Brim (Walmart / Walmart)
  • Simplicity Floppy Women Sun Hat with Large Brim $10.99 at Walmart
  • Simplicity Floppy Women Sun Hat with Large Brim $11.99 at Amazon
  • Simplicity Floppy Women Sun Hat with Large Brim $25.17 at Overstock

Best overall UPF hat for women: Coolibar

2. Coolibar Etta Shapeable Sun Catcher Hat

Coolbair boasts unanimous approval from our experts and the brand is “respected in gear quality and longevity, so it's a very safe purchase and one that should invoke confidence in the buyer,” said Minars. With UPF 50+ protection in a fabric that’s both breathable as well as shapeable, this adjustable hat is a top pick.

Coolibar Etta Shapeable Sun Catcher Hat

Coolibar Etta Shapeable Sun Catcher Hat (Amazon / Amazon) © Amazon Coolibar Etta Shapeable Sun Catcher Hat (Amazon / Amazon)
  • Coolibar Etta Shapeable Sun Catcher Hat $49.00 at Amazon
  • Coolibar Etta Shapeable Sun Catcher Hat $49.00 at Coolibar

Best women’s hat splurge: Eric Javits

3. Eric Javits Hampton Sun Hat

Tareen recommended investing in this high-end, stylish and lightweight option that will allow you to enjoy the look of a fashionable straw hat without compromising the protection of UPF. Not only does this model come in 12 different color options, but it’s also designed to guard skin from 95 percent of UVA and UVB rays, according to the brand.

Eric Javits Hampton Sun Hat

a person wearing a hat

Best UPF baseball cap for women: Eddie Bauer

4. Eddie Bauer Trail Packable UPF Cap

For a long run or a hike in the woods, Tareen also recommended Eddie Bauer for both safe and practical UPF hats. With UPF 50+ sun protection, a moisture-wicking sweatband and a reflective print, this packable cap is ready to guard you during outdoor adventures.

Eddie Bauer Trail Packable UPF Cap

a person wearing a hat: Eddie Bauer Trail Packable UPF Cap ('Multiple' Murder Victims Found in Calif. Home / 'Multiple' Murder Victims Found in Calif. Home) © 'Multiple' Murder Victims Found in Calif. Home Eddie Bauer Trail Packable UPF Cap ('Multiple' Murder Victims Found in Calif. Home / 'Multiple' Murder Victims Found in Calif. Home)
  • Eddie Bauer Trail Packable UPF Cap $30.00 at Walmart
  • Eddie Bauer Trail Packable UPF Cap $30.00 at Amazon
  • Eddie Bauer Trail Packable UPF Cap $30.00 at Eddie Bauer

Best sustainable hat for women: prAna

5. prAna Genevieve Sun Hat

PrAna is a Fair Trade-certified brand focused on sustainable and versatile options. This UPF 50+ sun hat is made from responsibly sourced paper that comes in three colors. It also features a recycled polyester blend sweatband, floppy brim and faux suede drawcord to keep it secure on windy days.

prAna Genevieve Sun Hat

a person wearing a hat: prAna Genevieve Sun Hat ('Multiple' Murder Victims Found in Calif. Home / 'Multiple' Murder Victims Found in Calif. Home) © 'Multiple' Murder Victims Found in Calif. Home prAna Genevieve Sun Hat ('Multiple' Murder Victims Found in Calif. Home / 'Multiple' Murder Victims Found in Calif. Home)

prAna Genevieve Sun Hat $27.00 at prAna

Budget-friendly fedora with UPF: Simplicity

6. Simplicity Women's UPF 50+ Wide Brim Hat

You can rock a stylish UPF hat that keeps your face not only out of the sun, but also protected from it. This braided straw fedora has UPF 50+ protection that keeps harmful rays from slipping through, a removable drawstring and an adjustable built-in strap to ensure the right fit.

Simplicity Summer Panama Straw Fedora

a close up of a hat: Simplicity Summer Panama Straw Fedora (Walmart / Walmart) © Walmart Simplicity Summer Panama Straw Fedora (Walmart / Walmart)
  • Simplicity Summer Panama Straw Fedora $22.99 at Amazon
  • Simplicity Summer Panama Straw Fedora $16.99 at Walmart

Best men’s hats with UPF

Best UPF baseball cap for men: Sunday Afternoons

7. Sunday Afternoons Sun Tripper Cap

Sunday Afternoons is highly recommended as one of the best UPF hat manufacturers, according to Minars — and this style is his personal favorite. “It folds in half, is super packable, is water-friendly, UPF 50+ and [is] just a tank for hard outdoor use,” he said. “I've left it on shorelines, swam with it, worked in it all day, etc. and it just keeps on going — probably 8 years later with no signs of compromise.”

Sunday Afternoons Sun Tripper Cap

Sunday Afternoons Sun Tripper Cap ('Multiple' Murder Victims Found in Calif. Home / 'Multiple' Murder Victims Found in Calif. Home) © 'Multiple' Murder Victims Found in Calif. Home Sunday Afternoons Sun Tripper Cap ('Multiple' Murder Victims Found in Calif. Home / 'Multiple' Murder Victims Found in Calif. Home)
  • Sunday Afternoons Sun Tripper Cap $32.00 at Backcountry
  • Sunday Afternoons Sun Tripper Cap $28.00 at Home Depot
  • Sunday Afternoons Sun Tripper Cap $28.00 at Amazon

Best UPF fedora hat for men: Coolibar

8. Coolibar Fairway Golf Hat

Whether you’re out golfing or spending some time at the beach, this stylish UPF 50+ hat will help keep you protected from the sun. Not only is it made from breathable natural straw, but it also sports an interior moisture-wicking sweatband and mesh grommets for increased airflow. A leather trim completes the polished look.

Coolibar Fairway Golf Hat

a man wearing a hat and glasses: Coolibar Fairway Golf Hat (Amazon / Amazon) © Amazon Coolibar Fairway Golf Hat (Amazon / Amazon)
  • Coolibar Fairway Golf Hat $69.00 at Amazon
  • Coolibar Fairway Golf Hat $69.00 at ebay
  • Coolibar Fairway Golf Hat $69.00 at Coolibar

Best affordable full coverage UPF hat for men: Simplicity

9. Simplicity UPF 50+ Unisex UV Sun Protect Hat

This versatile, adventure-ready hat can handle anything that nature throws its way. It’s water-resistant, breathable, UPF 50+ and adjustable, according to the brand. With a wide brim, interior sweatband and flap to protect your head, neck and ears, this foldable hat is a solid choice for keeping you covered in the sun this summer and beyond.

Simplicity Unisex UV Sun Protect Hat with Neck Flap and Chin Strap

a close up of a hat: Simplicity Unisex UV Sun Protect Hat with Neck Flap and Chin Strap ('Multiple' Murder Victims Found in Calif. Home / 'Multiple' Murder Victims Found in Calif. Home) © 'Multiple' Murder Victims Found in Calif. Home Simplicity Unisex UV Sun Protect Hat with Neck Flap and Chin Strap ('Multiple' Murder Victims Found in Calif. Home / 'Multiple' Murder Victims Found in Calif. Home)

Simplicity Unisex UV Sun Protect Hat with Neck Flap and Chin Strap $16.99 at Simplicity-Line

Best UPF boating hat for men: Coolibar

10. Coolibar Men's Convertible Boating Hat

Stay protected during a day on the water with this UPF 50+ hat. The convertible style allows you to add extra neck coverage when you want while a covered mesh panel and sweatband help keep you cool. Plus, there’s a removable toggle chin cord and adjustability at the crown to combat the wind and keep this hat securely in place.

Coolibar Men's Convertible Boating Hat

a man wearing a hat: Coolibar Men's Convertible Boating Hat (Amazon / Amazon) © Amazon Coolibar Men's Convertible Boating Hat (Amazon / Amazon)
  • Coolibar Men's Convertible Boating Hat $69.00 at Amazon
  • Coolibar Men's Convertible Boating Hat $69.00 at Coolibar

Best UPF hats for kids

Best UPF water hat for kids: Coolibar

11. Coolibar Surfs Up Bucket Hat

Whether they’re splashing in the pool or enjoying some time at the beach, this travel-friendly UPF 50+ hat will be a water day staple. You don’t have to worry about the fabric fading thanks to the chlorine- and saltwater-resistant material — the crown is also adjustable so it can grow with your kiddo over the years.

Coolibar Kids Surfs Up Bucket Hat

a blue hat: Coolibar Kids Surfs Up Bucket Hat (Amazon / Amazon) © Amazon Coolibar Kids Surfs Up Bucket Hat (Amazon / Amazon)
  • Coolibar Kids Surfs Up Bucket Hat $24.00 at Amazon
  • Coolibar Kids Surfs Up Bucket Hat $24.00 at Coolibar

Best UPF convertible hat for kids: UV Skinz

12. UV Skinz Sunny Flap Bucket Hat

UV Skinz is a go-to brand for Tareen. As a mom of five, she appreciates both the safety and practicality of these UPF 50+ hats that she said actually stay on little heads. Plus, this versatile style has a sun flap to cover ears and necks but can also be tucked away.

UV Skinz Kids Sunny Flap Bucket Hat

a close up of a hat: UV Skinz Kids Sunny Flap Bucket Hat ('Multiple' Murder Victims Found in Calif. Home / 'Multiple' Murder Victims Found in Calif. Home) © 'Multiple' Murder Victims Found in Calif. Home UV Skinz Kids Sunny Flap Bucket Hat ('Multiple' Murder Victims Found in Calif. Home / 'Multiple' Murder Victims Found in Calif. Home)

UV Skinz Kids Sunny Flap Bucket Hat $19.95 at UV Skinz

Best UPF baseball hat for kids: Coolibar

13. Coolibar Kid's Lenny Sport Cap

With an internal mesh sweatband that absorbs sweat that helps the hat stay in place, this UPF 50+ hat and its water-friendly version offer both adjustability and protection. It is available in four colors and two sizes: S/M and L/XL.

Coolibar Kid's Lenny Sport Cap

a close up of a hat: Coolibar Kid's Lenny Sport Cap (Amazon / Amazon) © Amazon Coolibar Kid's Lenny Sport Cap (Amazon / Amazon)
  • Coolibar Kid's Lenny Sport Cap $29.00 at Amazon
  • Coolibar Kid's Lenny Sport Cap $29.00 at Coolibar

Best splurge hat for kids: Wallaroo

14. Wallaroo Shark Hat

Baby Shark fans will likely appreciate these playful shark and crocodile designs, but it’s the UPF 50+ fabric that will have parents loving them just as much. Made from 100 percent cotton, these adorable hats feature a velcro chin strap to keep them in place, as well as an internal adjustable drawstring to help achieve a close fit.

Wallaroo Shark Hat

a blue hat: Wallaroo Shark Hat ('Multiple' Murder Victims Found in Calif. Home / 'Multiple' Murder Victims Found in Calif. Home) © 'Multiple' Murder Victims Found in Calif. Home Wallaroo Shark Hat ('Multiple' Murder Victims Found in Calif. Home / 'Multiple' Murder Victims Found in Calif. Home)

Wallaroo Shark Hat $30.00 at Wallaroo

Best sports UPF hat for kids: Coolibar

15. Coolibar Surfs Up All Sport Hat

When it comes to shopping for optimal sun protection accessories, board-certified dermatologist Anna Guanche, MD, FAAD, founder of Bella Skin Institute, turns to Coolibar for her UPF needs and called the brand “amazing.” This full coverage sports hat features an attached neck drape for additional protection as kids splash in the water, and comes in a quick-drying, UPF 50+ material that’s both chlorine- and saltwater- resistant, according to the brand.

Coolibar Surfs Up All Sport Hat

a person with hat: Coolibar Surfs Up All Sport Hat (Amazon / Amazon) © Amazon Coolibar Surfs Up All Sport Hat (Amazon / Amazon)
  • Coolibar Surfs Up All Sport Hat $22.00 at Amazon
  • Coolibar Surfs Up All Sport Hat $22.00 at Coolibar

Best UPF bucket hat for kids: Coolibar

16. Coolibar Taylor Chin Strap Hat

From backyards and road trip adventures to running around the park, this UPF 50+ bucket hat with a 3-inch brim keeps kids shielded from harmful rays. But it’s the internal sweat band and breakaway chin strap that makes this a standout option for kids. Coolibar’s 100 percent cotton hat is available in three colorways: Light Pink Picnic Stripe, Tan and Navy Chambray/Ticking Stripe.

Coolibar Taylor Chin Strap Hat

a close up of a hat: Coolibar Taylor Chin Strap Hat (Amazon / Amazon) © Amazon Coolibar Taylor Chin Strap Hat (Amazon / Amazon)
  • Coolibar Taylor Chin Strap Hat $22.00 at Amazon
  • Coolibar Taylor Chin Strap Hat $22.00 at Coolibar

Best UPF hats for babies

Best water hat for babies: Coolibar

17. Coolibar Baby Splashy Bucket Hat

“This brand has the lightest fabrics and [its] materials stand up to sweat, salt and chlorine for a lifetime,” said Tareen. “That’s particularly important if you have five kids like me and pass down clothing over the years.” This wide-brimmed sun hat offers UPF 50+ protection and a quick-drying fabric to keep little ones protected and comfortable.

Coolibar Baby Splashy Bucket Hat

a close up of a hat: Coolibar Baby Splashy Bucket Hat (Amazon / Amazon) © Amazon Coolibar Baby Splashy Bucket Hat (Amazon / Amazon)
  • Coolibar Baby Splashy Bucket Hat $24.00 at Amazon
  • Coolibar Baby Splashy Bucket Hat $24.00 at Coolibar

Best affordable UPF water hat for babies: i play. by green sprouts

18. i play. by green sprouts Baby Brim Hat

Anya Stassiy, a certified Physician’s Assistant who specializes in medical and aesthetic dermatology, loves these i play hats for the coverage they give little necks and ears. They are also machine-washable, come in a UPF 50+ water-wicking material and feature an adjustable toggle to grow with the baby.

i play. by green sprouts Baby Brim Hat

i play. by green sprouts Baby Brim Hat ('Multiple' Murder Victims Found in Calif. Home / 'Multiple' Murder Victims Found in Calif. Home) © 'Multiple' Murder Victims Found in Calif. Home i play. by green sprouts Baby Brim Hat ('Multiple' Murder Victims Found in Calif. Home / 'Multiple' Murder Victims Found in Calif. Home)
  • i play. by green sprouts Baby Brim Hat $14.00 at Bed Bath and Beyond
  • i play. by green sprouts Baby Brim Hat $14.00 at buybuy BABY
  • i play. by green sprouts Baby Brim Hat $14.14 at Amazon

Best bucket hat for babies: Durio

19. Durio Baby Sun Hat Summer Beach UPF

With reversible patterns, playful 3D animal details and a range of colors, there’s an adorable option for every baby fashionista from Durio. The brand also makes the Summer Beach UPF Hat for toddlers and kids up to 8 years old. These lightweight sun hats block up to 98 percent of UVA and UVB rays with a UPF 50+ cotton and polyester fabric.

Durio Baby Sun Hat Summer Beach UPF

a blue and white umbrella hat: Durio Baby Sun Hat Summer Beach UPF (Amazon / Amazon) © Amazon Durio Baby Sun Hat Summer Beach UPF (Amazon / Amazon)
  • Durio Baby Sun Hat Summer Beach UPF $12.99 at Amazon
  • Durio Baby Sun Hat Summer Beach UPF $18.59 at ebay

Best overall hat for babies: i play. by green sprouts

20. i play. by green sprouts Breathable Swim and Sun Flap Hat

It doesn’t matter if your family plans involve swim or sun — this breathable unisex sun hat is ideal for all outdoor adventures. With a water-friendly foam brim to help keep its sun-blocking shape, an elastic back to grow with baby and secure straps, this quick-drying UPF 50+ hat is both versatile and budget-friendly.

i play. by green sprouts Breathable Swim and Sun Flap Hat

a close up of a hat: i play. by green sprouts Breathable Swim and Sun Flap Hat ('Multiple' Murder Victims Found in Calif. Home / 'Multiple' Murder Victims Found in Calif. Home) © 'Multiple' Murder Victims Found in Calif. Home i play. by green sprouts Breathable Swim and Sun Flap Hat ('Multiple' Murder Victims Found in Calif. Home / 'Multiple' Murder Victims Found in Calif. Home)
  • i play. by green sprouts Breathable Swim and Sun Flap Hat $16.80 at Bed Bath and Beyond
  • i play. by green sprouts Breathable Swim and Sun Flap Hat $16.80 at buybuy BABY
  • i play. by green sprouts Breathable Swim and Sun Flap Hat $18.00 at Amazon

Best beanie hat for babies: Coolibar

21. Coolibar Baby Fauna Critter Hat UPF

Keep your baby’s head safe from harmful sun rays with adorable UPF 50+ critter hats. The organic cotton fabric is made with a blend of bamboo that’s soft yet protective for a baby’s sensitive skin.

Coolibar Baby Fauna Critter Hat UPF

Coolibar Baby Fauna Critter Hat UPF (Amazon / Amazon) © Amazon Coolibar Baby Fauna Critter Hat UPF (Amazon / Amazon)
  • Coolibar Baby Fauna Critter Hat UPF $15.00 at Amazon
  • Coolibar Baby Fauna Critter Hat UPF $15.00 at Coolibar

Best swim cap for babies: Coolibar

22. Coolibar Baby Paddle Swim Cap UPF

From the adorable bow to the variety of prints with snap brim detail, these baby swim hats are precious, but also functional. The Paddle Swim Cap has an internal terry sweatband and is made from UPF 50+ fabric and water-repelling material that’s both saltwater- and chlorine-resistant. This option is available in three sizes: 6 to 12 months, 12 to 24 months and 2T to 3T.

Coolibar Baby Paddle Swim Cap UPF

a close up of a green hat
  • Coolibar Baby Paddle Swim Cap UPF $14.99 at Amazon
  • Coolibar Baby Paddle Swim Cap UPF $19.99 at Coolibar

Best sun hat for babies: UV Skinz

23. UV Skinz Reversible Sun Hat

Given the amount of time Tareen’s five kids have spent in these UPF 50+ sun protective hats, she knows that they aren’t only safe, but actually stay on with their simple tie. These water-friendly, reversible hats also come in an array of patterns with a ruffle detail to complete any adorable sun-safe ensemble.

UV Skinz Reversible Sun Hat

UV Skinz Reversible Sun Hat (Amazon / Amazon) © Amazon UV Skinz Reversible Sun Hat (Amazon / Amazon)
  • UV Skinz Reversible Sun Hat $18.95 at Amazon
  • UV Skinz Reversible Sun Hat $18.95 at UV Skinz

Related: From an inflatable basketball hoop to a remote-controlled car, these pool toys can keep both kids and adults cool this summer.

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