Can You Tan Through Clothing?

girl tanning with clothes

Most people think that they are safe from tanning while wearing a cotton shirt or if they are fully covered. However, they are mistaken. It is possible for them to get a tan even through the clothing.

The ultraviolet rays of the sun can pass through many clothes and materials and even if you are protected or in the shade the UV rays can still get through. While the materials of clothes tend to differ and impact the level of tan, you must not depend on them as it is possible to get tanned through clothes.

Are you wondering how you can get tanned through the clothes? Keep reading to learn everything about tanning through clothes and how you can protect your skin.

How Do You Tan Through Clothes?

The most common question that pops in mind here is can you tan through clothing. Now that you know it is entirely possible to get your skin tanned even while you’re covered with clothes, it is vital to know how it works.

Some clothing materials tend to have different protection levels, some of which are ensuring they give more protection than the rest. It can depend on various factors on the material used in the clothing item. While the level may vary, you can still get tanned through the clothes. Here’s how it works:


The weave of the fabric can determine how the UV rays pass through it and interact with your skin. A tight knit material will not allow UV rays to penetrate through. The less light that gets through will help protect your skin from tanning or sunburn. 

Heavier fabrics such as denim, canvas, or even wool can offer better protection than lighter fabrics.

Content of Fabric:

Each material can absorb the UV rays of the sun. The more the UV light the material can absorb, the more protection it will offer to you. It is wise to go for a material that can absorb more light to prevent tanning.

You can’t tan through fabrics like cotton as it can easily absorb more light and protect your delicate skin from UV rays. Even polyester and satin silk clothing can help keep UV rays at bay.


Whenever you decide to step out in the sun, it is wise to wear clothes that offer more coverage if you don’t want to get tanned. The area left exposed to UV rays will be more prone to tanning. Go for long-sleeved shirts and pants to keep yourself covered.   


The fit can also determine how much you can get tanned through the clothes. You can tan through t-shirts that either fit you well or are too tight because the fabric gets stretched and creates space in the weave. It can decrease the protection level offered by the fabric, allowing sunlight to pass through.  

If you want to prevent tanning through clothes, always opt for clothes with a loose fit.

UPF Rating:

It is natural to get confused between the terms UPF and SPF. While UPF stands for Ultraviolet Protection Factor, SFP means Sun Protection Factor. SPF is a common standard used to measure the protection factor of only sunscreens.

On the other hand, UPF is a unique rating system that determines the level of protection offered by the material or fabric used in making clothes. If you want to protect your skin against the sun you must consider the UPF rating of the clothes.


Dark colors tend to absorb more light when compared to lighter shades. Besides that, dyes can also soak up the light and UV rays. Lighter shade fabrics will let more light pass through and increase your exposure to sunlight.

We Recommend:

Jacket: KPSUN Women’s UPF 50+

Long Sleeve Shirt: BALEAF Women’s Long Sleeve UPF 50+

What Are the Ways to Protect Your Skin When Outside?

Tanning through clothes is a common phenomenon. While you may think that your clothes are protecting you from getting tanned when you step outside, you can still see visible tan lines after coming back home.

Here are a few tips that might help you improve your protection when stepping out in the sun:

Go For Layering:

One of the easiest and the most effective ways to ensure you don’t tan is to layer your clothes. Although it works great during the cold weather, it might be difficult to wear layers during the heat. Even if the layers are light, it can help minimize the exposure of your skin to light and keep it safe.

Opt for Dark Colors:

Darker colors tend to give the impression that they will make you feel hot. However, dark colors can offer more protection against UV rays than lighter shades.

It is so because dark colors can absorb the light to reduce exposure to the harmful effects of UV rays. The sun-protecting clothes are also made from dark dyes to prevent sun burn through clothes.

Use Wide Hats:

A hat is not only a fashion accessory, but it can also come to your aid when it comes to getting protection from sun rays. But don’t just go for a hat that looks cool; consider the functional aspects as well.

You must opt for a wide brim hat to ensure it covers your forehead, ears, back, and even neck. The wider the hat is, the better it will be for you as it protects the delicate skin from the damage caused by prolonged sun exposure.

We Recommend: Lanzoms Women’s Wide Brim Stray Hat

Stay Dry:

Wetness is known to bring down the UPF protection level of various materials. If you get your clothes wet, the sun protection you receive from them will be reduced, according to PubMed. It becomes imperative to stay as dry as possible to get maximum protection from your clothes against UV rays.

Wear Synthetic Clothes:

It might sound shocking to most people, but synthetic materials tend to offer more protection than natural ones. This is because of the layers in the fabric.

Synthetic fabrics tend to have tighter knitting or weaving patterns, which ensures that fewer UV rays pass through them to reach your skin. You can opt for fabrics such as lycra, nylon, polyester instead of going for cotton and silk.

The Denier rating of the fabric might also help you determine a fabric’s thickness and tightness of the weave.   

Choose Matte Fabrics:

While shiny fabrics might look good, they are not suitable for skin protection because the shiny surface reflects the sun rays instead of absorbing them.

If you want to keep your skin from UV rays to prevent tanning, you must go for matte fabrics. It will reduce your exposure to sun rays and prevent tanning through your clothes or any material like a towel 

Related Questions:

Are There Shirts You Can Tan Through?

Since tanning through clothes is entirely possible, you can tan through shirts. You can also find plenty of specific tanning shirts in the market that allow you to get a natural and smooth tan while staying comfortable.

Do tan through shirts work? Yes, they can help you get a natural tan. They are made from natural fabrics that allow UV rays to pass through and help you get an evenly tanned look without feeling any discomfort.

Do Clothes Prevent Tanning?

Clothes can help prevent tanning to a certain degree, but not completely. If you have to spend a lot of your time out in the sunlight, you should invest in sun-protective clothing. They have a unique design and sense weave that ensures maximum protection from the harmful rays of the sun.

If not, you can simply opt for clothes that offer full coverage. They must be made from synthetic materials, dark dyes and have a matte texture for the utmost protection.

Can You Tan Through Mesh Clothing?

The sun rays are powerful enough to penetrate clouds, and they can also pass the mesh clothing to give you a natural tan.

However, you must be careful while wearing mesh clothes because they offer very little protection from harmful UV rays. The sun rays can easily penetrate through the mesh clothing and reach your skin. It may even lead to burns and severe sun damage.

Can You Sunburn Through Jeans?

Yes, it is quite possible to get a sunburn through the jeans. Your jeans can block some of the ultraviolet rays of the sun, but not all.

The UVB rays that can cause sunburns don’t usually go through a majority of clothes like jeans. However, the UVA rays can penetrate through the thread and might lead to some damage. Therefore, you can tan through pants.     

You must check the UPF rating of the jeans to know how much protection they can offer from sun rays.

Can You Tan Through a Window?

Although the chance of getting a tan through a window is highly unlikely, it is still possible. According to Healthline, whether you can get tanned by sitting near a window depends on the strength of sun rays, the window, and how long you sit next to it.

A majority of glasses used in the windows of homes and offices can easily block most UVB rays, but only a small amount of UVA rays.

If you tend to spend a lot of time near a window that gets direct sunlight, you can develop a slight tan because of the UVA rays that pass through it.

For more on this check our article – can UV rays go through windows.

What Should I Wear to Tan Outside?

If you wish to get a natural tan outside, you can wear anything you like. While a bathing suit is the most preferred option for tanning, shorts and a tank top can also work well. You may even go for nothing at all if you are in a place where nude sunbathing is allowed.

Any skin you leave exposed to the sunlight will get a natural tan. Make sure you get the sun rays for tanning either before 10 am or after 4 pm to get safe results and avoid any skin damage. 

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