Unless you live in the Southern Hemisphere, sun and sand are probably the farthest thoughts from your mind around this time of year. Warming up by the fire has taken the place of basking in the sun, and cozy scarves and wool hats have replaced sunscreen and big-brimmed hats as your most vital accessories. I was in a very different frame of mind when I embarked on my honeymoon to the beaches of Bali last month. Instead of shopping for new boots, I found myself trying on bikinis and searching for a travel-friendly sun hat.
I settled on a sun hat from Coolibar, a company that specializes in all things sun-protective. Coolibar carries every type of apparel, from swimwear and sunglasses to scarves and gloves. The company even sells accessories like jewelry, which have nothing to do with the sun, but presumably look like they were inspired by a tropical locale. You’re most likely familiar with Coolibar, however, from its extensive family of sunscreen brands. You might even own some without ever realizing their connection to Coolibar.
Under Coolibar’s umbrella of sunscreens, you’ll find All Terrain, Badger, Blue Lizard, ColoreScience, and SolBar, among others. Each of the aforementioned brands has been tested and approved by various members of the TIA staff. The natural ingredients of All Terrain AquaSport Performance Sunscreen SPF 15
got Jimmy’s stamp of approval, and the quick application of All Terrain’s KidSport Spray SPF 30
won over Lisa and her kids. Badger SPF 15 Sunscreen
, Blue Lizard Australian Sunscreen
, and SolBar Liquid Sunscreen
each received top marks in reviews by Marta and me. Last but definitely not least, ColoreScience Sunforgettable
powder secured a spot on TIA’s “Five Best mineral sunscreen round-up
So what do all of these sunscreens have in common with my honeymoon sun hat? They all stem from Coolibar’s core mission to develop superior sun-blocking products that allow people to enjoy life in the sun. As the first sun-protective clothing company recognized by the American Academy of Dermatology, Skin Cancer Foundation, and the Melanoma International Foundation, Coolibar has created a vast range of fabrics embedded with UPF (Ultraviolet Protection Factor) technology. Though all fabrics disrupt UV radiation to a certain degree, materials carrying a UPF value, which can range from 15 (good) to 50+ (excellent) provide the most protection.
The UPF system is relatively new compared to the well-known SPF rating for the effectiveness of sunscreens. Like the SPF standard, the UPF rating increases in proportion to its degree of protection. Unlike SPF (which only pertains to effectiveness against UVB light), UPF measures the amount of both UVA and UVB light absorbed by a fabric. This does not mean that the fabric soaks up UV radiation like a sponge, but rather, it interacts with UV radiation in a way that converts its energy to heat, rendering most rays harmless. Every item of Coolibar clothing is UPF 50+, which means that it will block 98% of the sun’s UVA and UVB radiation. Each fabric is tested with spectrophotometer equipment and subjected to 40 wash cycles and over 100 hours of UVA/UVB exposure.
I was first introduced to sun-protective apparel by UNIQLO’s UV Cut Collection
. Compared to Coolibar, UNIQLO’s line is more focused on form and fashion than serious sun defense. The stylish basics that I bought at UNIQLO last spring ranged from the heavy-duty armor of UPF 50 to the weak cotton shirt strength of UPF 10. Any UPF-infused layer of protection is certainly better than run-of-the-mill materials, but I needed to bring the big guns for my trip to Bali, where I planned to (safely) flaunt my faux tan. Coolibar’s Marina Sun Hat seemed like the ideal travel companion.
It’s a good thing I arrived in Bali equipped with sun-protective gear, because the majority of our trip was spent outside under a blazing sun. It would be more apropos to call our honeymoon a honeysun (I never understood the meaning of the “moon” part anyways). After unpacking the Marina Sun Hat from a compact corner of my suitcase, I expected it to be wrinkled or deformed. But the bones of the hat held up and the brim was easily bent whichever way I pleased. I proceeded to test its “crushable construction” by compressing it into a ball in my beach tote, squishing it into my purse while shopping, and folding it over and sitting on it during a boat cruise. I felt stylish and well-shaded everywhere I went.
With its faux straw exterior and generous brim, the Marina hat looks much like any basic designer sun hat. But clearly it was designed with practicality in mind. The interior rim sports a fast-drying sweatband, which is more useful than you might think, since perspiration tends to happen when the sun beats down on your head for hours. I didn’t fully appreciate this feature until - lying in the shade for hours by the pool one day - I noticed beads of sweat collecting all over my body but not a drop running down my face. I even wore my Marina Sun Hat in the pool and it survived a few dunks gracefully. After drying in the sun for about an hour, it was as good as new.
The nice thing about wearable sun-screening fabric - unlike standard lotions, oils, and sprays - is that the protection doesn’t wash off or wear out. Whereas traditional sunscreen should be reapplied every 2-3 hours to minimize UV exposure of the skin, UPF clothing provides continuous protection throughout the day. Granted, it never hurts to double your sun defense with a coating of sunscreen. I rarely leave home without a layer of SPF on my face, and if I’m planning to spend an extended amount of time in the sun, any exposed skin gets the same treatment - regardless of what kind of clothes I’m wearing.
It’s not hard to find an attractive sun hat. But finding one that can be crushed into a bag and maintain its shape is a tall order. If you’ve got a tropical getaway from the cold coming up, then Coolibar might have some UPF-charged clothes with your name on it. And now is the perfect time to take advantage of off-season sales! As a born snowbird and a frequent visitor of Florida during the winter, I plan to pack my Marina Sun Hat every time I escape to a sunny locale.