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Innovative fabrics keep sun, bugs at bay

JoAnne Klimovich Harrop
| Friday, June 20, 2014, 7:29 p.m.

Some clothing does more than cover the body.

Some items have what might be considered special powers, protecting people from blistering sun, annoying bugs and beads of sweat.

Hot weather means finding clothing that will keep you dry and cool, says Morris Rishty, CEO of Real Underwear out of New York. The lingerie is made of a microfiber material that is breathable and will keep skin dry. It is seamless, which means no panty lines when wearing a favorite summer dress, skirt or shorts.

Microfiber material is ideal for the summer because it wicks perspiration away from the body.

“That is why Real Underwear is ideal for the summer because it won't stick to your clothing or to your skin,” says Rishty.

Bugs can be another problem in hot weather. According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are 300,000 cases of Lyme disease per year. It is now the most commonly reported vector-borne illness in the United States.

There is clothing available to help shield against bugs. ExOfficio, based in Seattle, makes a line called BugsAway. It was one of the first brands to introduce EPA-registered Insect Shield Repellent Apparel to the United States. The clothing effectively repels mosquitoes, ticks, ants, flies, chiggers and midges through 70 washings. This type of clothing is increasing in urban settings because of the rise of Lyme disease and the tick issue in the Northeast. It's also good for worldwide travel, especially safaris.

“The innovative collection combines sun protection and insect-repellent treatments for maximum outdoor protection,” says Alexa Licata, ExOfficio spokeswoman. “ExOfficio is expanding its assortment to include over 30 BugsAway products for men and women, including jackets, shirts, pants, hats and socks. The expansion is timely given the rise in insect-borne diseases such as Lyme and West Nile virus.”

And then, there is sun protection.

“I think over the past 20 years that people are a lot more sensible about their skin when it comes to sun protection and have embraced wearing sunscreen,” says Shaun Hughes, founder and president of Sun Precautions, a company based in Seattle which creates a sun-protective clothing line called Solumbra.

The Solumbra line offers 100-plus SPF, a measurement of the number of minutes skin is protected by a fabric or sunscreen compared to the amount of time for unprotected skin to get a minor sunburn.

“It is more convenient to wear clothing with sun protection versus applying and reapplying sunscreen,” says Hughes, a melanoma skin-cancer survivor. “Most people don't know how much sunscreen they are supposed to apply in terms of dosage to get the proper coverage. They also miss spots.”

People still need sunscreen for exposed parts of the body — hands, ears, face, neck and feet, says John Barrow, president and founder of Coolibar, based in St. Paul, Minn., that creates clothing and accessories that are highly breathable and wick moisture, with a 50-plus UPF, which measures the amount of sunlight that passes through fabric.

“We are constantly testing to continue to offer quality sun-protective clothing and to introduce new fabrics and options,” Barrow says. “The goal is for people to focus on and enjoy life in the sun while being protected.”

The process involves taking sunscreen ingredients and incorporating them into fabrics. All its products are UPF 50 or higher, and that is guaranteed for the life of the garment.

“We try to make our garments lightweight and breathable and that drape well, as well as having wicking ability to help keep you cool,” Barrow says. “We also are offering more prints these days, because we want the people who wear our clothing to look good while being prepared for the sun.”

For little ones, an online company called Sun Angels makes UPF 50-plus sun-protection gear for kids. One of its newest accessories is arm sleeves, which slip on easily. UV Skinz of out Sonora, Calif., creates baby sun shirts which offer UPF 50-plus rating.

“I would like to think that UV Skinz sells peace of mind from the suns damaging rays,” Rhonda Sparks says on the company's website. She created the company after losing her 32-year-old husband to skin cancer. “We make it a top priority to bring our customers the most fun, fashionable and affordable sun-protection apparel and accessories on the market. We take sun protection very serious.”

JoAnne Klimovich Harrop is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7889 or

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