All shade is not the same, Hohenstein tests say
On hot summer days parasols, awnings and beach chairs help to keep us nice and cool and protect us from harmful UV radiation. However, major variations in quality for sun protection were revealed in tests carried out on various parasols by experts from the Hohenstein Institute in Bönnigheim on behalf of SWR's consumer affairs programme "Infomarkt" in 2000.
Since then there has unfortunately been little change in this situation - an illusion of safety has once again been created this summer by the many sun-protective shade textiles on offer: this is the conclusion reached by Sabrina Köhler. She is the person at the Hohenstein Institute responsible for determining the UV protection factor of textiles, the so-called Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF):
"All shade is not the same. During our tests we repeatedly come across products with an UPF of 10 or less – totally inadequate for the delicate skin of children and fair-complexioned adults without any additional protection from the sun."
When buying parasols, awnings and beach chairs Hohenstein's expert therefore advises paying attention to the UV protection factor without fail. This value, which is also known as the UPF Ultraviolet Protection Factor, corresponds to the SPF sun protection factor used for cosmetic sunscreens and indicates the factor by which the fabric lengthens the skin's intrinsic protection time. According to Sabrina Köhler textiles are ideal for providing protection from the sun:
"Special fibre and fabric constructions ensure maximum protection from high-energy UVA and UVB light. Good sun protective textiles have an UPF between 60 and 80 and so also offer children and people with a sensitive skin effective protection from sunburn or premature ageing of the skin."
However, Hohenstein's expert also always recommends wearing suitable additional clothing or using sun cream to protect the skin from lateral radiation.
Something that Sabrina Köhler considers important is for the UPF of UV-protective textiles to be assessed under realistic conditions, i.e. for example, taking ageing of the fabric into consideration: "For consumers the highest level of safety is offered by the UV Standard 801, both in terms of shade textiles and clothing. In addition, with these test methods it is only the lowest value from a whole series of measurements, which represent the worst-case scenario here, that can be adopted as the UPF".
The scientist from Hohenstein criticises the practice of some manufacturers who give the UV protection level of their textiles as a percentage: "Figures stating the percentage of the sun's rays blocked by a fabric are pretty incomprehensible to the general public. If for example 95% of sunlight is filtered out, this barely corresponds to a UPF of 20."
According to Köhler anyone wishing to play safe when buying shade textiles should therefore always take a critical approach, asking for figures to be explained in detail and comparing them with their own personal requirements, resulting from factors such as their type of skin and its intrinsic protection time.