FAQs & Learnings



What is Broad Spectrum?

Broad spectrum, in sunscreen and clothing, defines protection against both UVA (aging rays) and UVB (burning rays). ALL Coolibar clothing, accessories and products offer broad spectrum UPF 50+ protection and protect against the full spectrum of ultraviolet radiation. When choosing a sunblock, be sure to read the label and look for broad spectrum as well.

What is SPF?

SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor. SPF is the rating given to lotions, liquids, sprays and solids sunblock and sunscreen products. Of note is that SPF only measures the product’s effectiveness against UVB rays only and it’s a measure of how much time you can stay in the sun before getting burned. But, UVA rays are not measured by SPF. The ability of any sunscreen to do its job depends on how well it’s applied. Most people only apply 1/3 of the sunscreen they need. Dermatologists recommend using 3 tablespoons of sunscreen to protect your whole body. SPF ratings are significantly decreased if you don’t apply enough. Experts recommend an SPF 30 or higher, and particularly if you are fair skinned, light-eyed, have freckles and red hair or have a family history of skin cancer. While all skin tones can be affected by UV rays, lighter skin tones have the highest incidence of skin cancer. Use enough and don’t neglect easily forgotten places like your ears, feet, backs of legs and calves, under arms and upper back.

What is UPF?

UPF stands for Ultraviolet Protection Factor and is the rating given to clothing for its broad spectrum protection against both UVA and UVB rays. SPF in sunscreen measures only effectiveness against UVB rays, while UPF measures protection against the full spectrum of ultraviolet radiation. ALL UPF 50+ Coolibar clothing, accessories and products offer broad spectrum protection that blocks 98% of UVA and UVB rays. No Coolibar products have a rating less than UPF 50+.

What are UVA rays and UVB rays?

UVA (aging) rays penetrate deep into the dermis, the skin’s thickest layer, while UVB (burning) rays are primarily responsible for premature skin aging, brown spots, wrinkling and blotching. UVA rays have been shown to cause skin damage at the cellular level and may cause a great deal of internal damage, such as organ problems. Unprotected exposure can lead to premature skin aging and wrinkling (photoaging), and suppression of the immune system. UVB rays are more intense rays that usually burn the superficial layers of your skin and damage the outer layers of the skin. UVB rays play a key role in the development of skin cancer.

What’s the difference between Aqua and Aqua Plus fabric?

Aqua SUNTECT is our standard swim fabric; it’s quick dry and comfortable. Aqua Plus is like Aqua SUNTECT but has the added feature of a water repellent finish. So, water will bead up and rolls off the surface of Aqua Plus. All men’s and boys trunks are Aqua Plus and many swim shirts are Aqua Plus. Once immersed in the water, the water repellency feature is no longer relevant, but if you’re sitting poolside and want to avoid a soaking, the finish on Aqua Plus will assist in deflecting water droplets. One bit of advice: Aqua Plus can feel slightly cooler, so bear that in mind if you’re swimming on a chillier day. That said, if it’s really toasty out, Aqua Plus feels great.

Is there a big difference with UPF 50+ and UPF 30?

In the world of sun protection, more is better is generally better. UPF 30 blocks 97% of UV radiation while UPF 50+ blocks 98%-100%. Truly a case of more is better. Of note, when looking at SPF in sunscreens, a larger number does not necessarily mean higher level of protection. Look for “broad spectrum” coverage of at least SPF 30 to protect against both UVA and UVB rays.

What does your “+” in UPF 50+ stand for?

The fact is Coolibar’s level of sun protection exceeds all worldwide published standards for UPF 50 ratings. That means, when we test our fabrics and clothing, our ultraviolet protection factor far exceeds the protection level of 50. But, because the standard for certification stops at UPF 50, we indicate that we go above and beyond by using the “+” symbol, so you know our clothes can block more than 98% of UV rays.

Why is Coolibar more expensive than other brands?

Coolibar was the first clothing company to be receive The Skin Cancer Foundation’s Seal of Recommendation. Our R& D team develops innovative, proprietary fabrics that are guaranteed UPF 50+ for the life of the garment. We test more than any other brand and stand by our work. We infuse millions of sun-bouncing minerals at the fiber or fabric level, and they never wash out. We also weave our fabrics in such a manner that makes the fabric virtually impermeable by UV rays. When it comes to sun safety and sun protection, we believe saving money puts lives at risk. So, while you may spend more on our pieces, you’ll be happy you did. They are designed to last and our fabrics are second to none.

How does your fabric block UV rays?

There are a variety of ways our fabrics do their work to keep your skin safe. We use particular kinds of materials, one, for example, is viscose or material from bamboo. Bamboo is a natural UV deterrent. We blend it with cotton and the sun blocker Zinc Oxide. This is our ZnO fabric. It’s our own proprietary fabric. Other fabric fibers are infused with Titanium Dioxide, and these tend to be fabrics designed for activities like swimming. We also use a highly technical weave to our fabrics, weaving them so tightly, they’re like Fort Knox to UV rays.

Explain your Coolibar UPF 50+ lifetime guarantee?

We guarantee our fabrics are UPF 50+ from the first day you wear your clothing until the last, because we are obsessed with testing and tracking our fabrics. The rating of UPF 50 means the minimum rating, and our “+” means we exceed the minimum level of protection and will continue to do so for years to come. Now, it doesn’t mean your shirt will never get torn, over worn, snagged or pilled. Our lifetime guarantee is for as long as you wear your garment.

If you believe you’ve received a sun burn or skin damage while wearing Coolibar, please call our customer service line directly at: 1-800-926-6509. Or, mail your garment to us and we will re-test the fabric. Mail to: 2401 Edgewood Ave. So, Suite 400, Minneapolis, MN 55426. Our mission is protection and prevention, so your safety is our first concern.

What is UV testing and why does it matter?

It matters because your safety is our first concern. While most other brands only test against one UV safety standard, Coolibar invests in testing our fabrics multiple times against multiple published UPF standards for UV transmittance and safety. Testing evaluates UV transmittance before and after life cycle tests – laundering, sunlight and chlorinated water. What’s equally important to know is that UV rays react differently to colors, patterns and fabrics. We are very cautious and use a protocol of testing every bolt of every fabric in every color and every pattern. And we do this for every season and every new production run. Let’s take our ZnO tee-shirt, a customer favorite for over a decade. We offer this shirt in standard colors, like Navy, and we have had Navy for as long as we’ve had the shirt. However, every time we make the Navy-colored ZnO tee-shirt, every single time we produce it, every season of every year, we test that same fabric over and over before we ever stitch a shirt. We test that fabric sample three times over and measure performance against the Australian New Zealand testing standards, the world’s highest rating standard, as well as U.S. standards. Last year alone, we tested more than 900 samples of production fabrics and can match the UV transmittance to every Coolibar garment made with those fabrics. We will never produce any garment without testing the fabric first. That means, the shirt you bought 5 years ago, we can report the testing data to you. That’s how we can guarantee Coolibar is the safest, UPF 50+ clothing you can wear.

Does Coolibar UPF 50+ protection ever wash out?

Never. We infuse sun-bouncing minerals into some fabrics, and that, in combination with a uniquely tight weave means blocks 98% of UV rays. It’s confirmed through rigorous testing against American and International standards at independent testing labs. We test multiple samples from every dye lot of every fabric we use and each one is serialized with testing results. Let’s get sciency for a moment. After an initial UVA/UVB transmittance test, we launder the fabric dozens and dozens of times, expose it to 100 fading units of simulated sunlight, expose swim fabrics to chlorine, then conduct a second UV transmittance test. If you are ever in doubt about protection, send us your shirt (or your item), we’ll test the UPF level. We have data on every bolt, every dye lot, going back 15 years. Yes, we are obsessed with protection.

Are there do's and don'ts with Coolibar fabrics?

Coolibar fabrics are highly specialized, and our primary goal is that you wear UPF 50+ clothing. That said, we do have specific recommendations for specific fabric types and styles based on your specific activity. Fabrics are developed with particular purposes in mind, and you'll gain the best coverage and performance by following suggested wear. For example, in our swimming collection, we recommend wearing only Aqua or Aqua Plus styles. They are both chlorine-and saltwater-resistant. Aqua Plus fabric is water repellent and features Lycra® Xtra Life™ to resist perspiration and wear from chlorinated water up to 10 times longer than most spandex. The water repellent feature can feel cooler, a nice feature on a hot day. But, if you chill easily, avoid wearing it in the evening due to the cooling effect. Swim fabrics do not wick perspiration; fitness fabric like Knit Active is recommended. ZnO, our fabric blend of cotton and bamboo with zinc oxide, is a tee-shirt-like fabric for everyday wear. We do not recommend tee-shirts for swimming. Avoid wearing ZnO in pools and oceans. It is not chlorine or saltwater resistant. Coolibar 3D dri fabrics, made for travel and every day, hold up to a light sun shower with a water and stain resistant finish. However, don't wear them in a downpour; they are not water proof. We don't recommend sleeping or overnighting in swim or fitness/performance fabrics. Both are intended for daywear, and these fabrics can feel cooler at night.

What does “+” stand for in Coolibar UPF 50+?

The fact is Coolibar’s level of sun protection exceeds all worldwide published rating standards for UPF 50 including the Australian UPF ratings, the highest standard in the world. That means, when we test our fabrics and clothing, our ultraviolet protection factor exceeds the protection level of 50, yet because the standard for certification stops at UPF 50, we indicate the protection level goes above and beyond by using the “+” symbol, so you know our clothes block more than 98% of UV rays.

I heard that long sleeves can keep you cooler?

It may seem counter-intuitive, but the reality is you’ll feel cooler with long sleeves. Sleeves allow your skin to perspire, then wick moisture away. They also keep the sun from beating down and burning you. Researchers studied the Bedouins who wear heavy black robes in the unrelenting desert sun and found their heat gain was actually a loss. They stayed cooler. You don’t have to go that extreme, but, yes, sleeves will keep you cooler, as will wearing a sun hat or using a UV umbrella.

It feels like I may have sunburned through my Coolibar shirt, what do I do?

Immediately send your shirt or the questionable item to us. We’ll check its original testing data (we keep data on every item we sell) and we’ll put it through our testing procedures to determine the level of UPF 50+ coverage. We take this as seriously as though lives depend on our protection, because many do. Send your item to: Coolibar Testing, 2401 Edgewood Ave. So, Suite 400, Minneapolis, MN 55426. Include your name, contact information and your concerns. We’ll get back to you immediately.

Do I need sunscreen if I’m wearing Coolbar?

If you have any skin exposed, yes. We recommend you protect all your skin with a combination of clothing, hats, broad spectrum sunblock and lip balm of SPF 30 or higher. We also recommend good sunglasses. Eyes are susceptible to ocular melanoma, and UV damage contributes to cataracts and macular degeneration. We all love the warmth of the sun, but we love having you stay safe even more.

I’m young and healthy, do I really need sun protection?

Outside of the risks of skin cancer, and those can occur at any age, daily sun exposure causes damage. In fact, today, skin cancer is the number one cause of death in young women 25-35, not breast cancer, heart attacks or traffic accidents, but skin cancer. Sun damage is cumulative and never completely heals. By wearing a daily broad-spectrum sunblock and practicing other sun safe measures – wearing a hat, protective clothing, sunglasses and staying in the shade – you’ll minimize the dangers of skin cancer and will slow aging. Experts say 90% of aging is caused by sun exposure, so to stay safe and healthy, maintain supple and smooth skin, cover up.

Isn’t my tee-shirt at the beach enough?

Wearing a cotton tee shirt over a swimsuit is a classic beach scene, but a cotton tee also blocks only about 3% of UV rays when wet. It’s not protecting skin by any stretch. In fact, those cotton fibers, when wet, do stretch and allow UVA/UVB to penetrate to your skin. Your tee-shirt is simply not enough. On the other hand, our tee shirts are UPF 50+ dry and UPF 50+ wet. So, lather up with a broad-spectrum SPF 30 or more, cover your exposed skin and wear UPF 50+ clothing. We care about your health.

What’s the difference between the new mineral sunblocks and chemical sunscreens?

You’ll know Zinc Oxide by that familiar ghostly white color left on your skin, although many brands now have found solutions to minimize that look and are virtually invisible. Mineral sunscreens use natural ingredients Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide, and both natural ingredients are physical blockers of UVA and UVB. Mineral sunblocks are called physical sunscreens because they form a protective layer on the skin to block and reflect UVA and UVB rays. Products for babies and kids often use mineral blockers, and if you have skin sensitivities, minerals may work best, Common chemical sunscreens are a combination of two to six active ingredients like: oxybenzone, avobenzone, octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate and octinoxate, because one ingredient works against UVA rays while another against UVB rays. Chemical sunscreens actually absorb rays - UV rays enter the skin, are absorbed and come out usually as infrared rays. Some experts do not recommend chemical sunscreens because they break down faster and require more frequent re-applications. There’s been a trend toward spray sunscreens, but, candidly, the good old-fashioned lotion that requires a vigorous rubbing to blend allows time for skin absorption and often gains better coverage.

How do you choose the sunscreens you sell?

It’s hard to get to be a sunscreen sold by Coolibar. Only the best “broad spectrum” sunscreens that rate well with the EWG (Environmental Working Group) and provide extra benefits to skin are even considered. The EWG rates sunscreens on how harmful they are to people and the environment, the reefs, their toxicity and more. We also look for highest quality ingredients, how well it is applied, how well it stays on. We only sell sunscreens we wear ourselves. And we are absurdly picky.

How much sunscreen should I use?

If you have a shot glass, use that as your measure. You need at least 1 ounce for hands, face and neck. If your body isn’t covered in UPF 50+ clothing, you’ll need to cover with 3 ounces to ensure you have the right amount of sunscreen. Then you need to reapply. Sunscreen should be reapplied immediately after toweling off, and after 40 or 80 minutes of swimming or sweating.

Why do my lips get chapped and burned?

Interesting fact about lips, we have no melanin in our lips. Melanin is the skin’s natural protection against the sun; it’s what makes our skin turn color in defense of UV rays. Lips have no melanin, so that means, you need to wear an SPF lip balm. We recognize some men don’t like this. They want to be tough guys, but tough guys can get lip cancer. We know. One of our best customers just experienced this. So, please put on your SPF lip balm. It’s comforting and soothing.

Do you really need sunscreen or UPF 50+ clothing if you have dark skin?

While it’s true that more skin pigment = more melanin = more natural protection, people with dark skin are still at risk for skin cancer and sun damage. We recognize that fair and light toned skin and light-eyed people have the highest incidence of skin cancer, darker skin tones have a higher mortality rate, often because a spot of skin cancer is not detected until it’s too late or it’s hidden in places like hands and feet and goes undiagnosed until it’s in a serious stage. The artist Bob Marley died at the age of 36 from skin cancer that went undiagnosed for years on his foot. All skin tones need sunblock or sunscreen. Please protect yourself.

Can sunscreen expire?

Believe it or not, like food in your refrigerator, sunscreen can expire. It’s often an overlooked date on the bottom a bottle. Most sunscreens all have a shelf life of 3 years. To get an idea of when a product was made, look at the bottom, it will either have an expiration date or a lot number. If it has a lot number the first two digits represent the year the product was filled. We recommend you get out a permanent marker and write the date of purchase on the bottle, so you can track how long you’ve had your sunscreen. If it’s coming up on 2 years, we encourage you to refresh your supply with the best broad-spectrum SPF 30 or higher brand you can afford.

Do I need sunscreen on my face if I bought a hat?

We are asked this frequently. Here is the good news/bad news about face protection. Hats are really made for covering the tops of heads, where melanoma likes to hide in hair. Rarely do we see people apply sunscreen to their hair and heads, so a hat is essential. Your head is the highest point and first point for UV rays to reach. But you still need sunscreen on your face. UV rays are sneaky. They reflect and bounce up at your face from a variety of surrounding surfaces like grass, sand, water, snow and cement sidewalks. We’ve had customers wearing a hat, thinking their face is protected. Even though a brim of 3” or greater is effective coverage for heads and tops of ears, your face, neck and chest require protection. For better daily protection, use a broad-spectrum sunblock of SPF 30 or greater and reapply after 2 hours.

How does Coolibar sizing run? How do your clothes fit?

Our sizing follows industry standard sizing, so if you’re a size 10 or 12 in a department store, you’ll be about the same size with Coolibar. When it comes to styling, however, our clothes are slightly more generous. Here’s why. Through our 20 years of sun protection experience, we’ve found people stay cooler when there’s a slight room for air to circulate under fabric. And, our styles offer some room for movement, particularly for activities like fitness, fishing, golfing and tennis.

Why are the sunglasses you sell more expensive?

At the risk of sounding flip, eyesight is priceless. It’s our mission to protect all of your skin, including eyelids and eye surfaces, from UV rays. Eyelid cancers and ocular melanoma are on the rise, and UVA rays contribute to cataracts and macular degeneration. Inexpensive dime store sunglass lenses can “expire,” meaning their protection level deteriorates rapidly over time. So, look for 100% UV protection and choose colored lenses that support your activity - for example, brown or bronze colored lenses improve depth perception on cloudy days when golfing, and blue mirrored lenses can reduce glare on open water.

How do I choose a hat?

A simple question with a complex answer. First of all, we recommend a 3” brim or larger for good protection followed by a broad-spectrum sunblock on your face and neck. From there, it really depends on your activity. If you are on a boat, you may want a chin strap for the breeze. If you’re running, you may want a neck flap to protect the back of your neck. If you’re golfing, you may want some ventilation and a moisture wicking sweatband for hours on course. We’ve designed hats that are made with specific fabrics with features that are made for your level of activity, so browse the ideas we have online. At the end of the day, any UPF 50+ hat you like is a great hat because you’ll wear it. Choose what you like.

I still love a tan, so are tanning beds better than the sun?

No matter what you may hear from tanning salons, the cumulative damage caused by UV radiation can lead to premature skin aging (wrinkles, lax skin, brown spots, and more), and is a known contributor to skin cancer. Exposure to UV radiation—whether it’s from the sun or from artificial sources such as sunlamps used in tanning beds—increases the risk of developing skin cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute (NCI). Melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, is linked to getting severe sunburns, especially at a young age. In fact, people who first use a tanning bed before age 35 increase their risk for melanoma by 75 percent. If you like the bronzed look of a tan, we recommend a high-quality self-tanner that has an SPF. If your bronzer does not have SPF, use a broad-spectrum sunscreen over your self-tanner.

Do I really need sun protection in the fall and winter?

Yes. While UVB rays change their intensity based on the sun’s position and the seasons, deeply penetrating UVA rays are present with equal intensity during all daylight hours throughout the year. Even if you are not going outside frequently, UVA rays can penetrate clouds and automotive glass. Damage caused by UVA rays, known as the “A” for aging rays, is cumulative and is suspected of contributing to skin cancer. On a daily basis, UVA causes wrinkling, brown spots, freckles, sagging skin and collagen loss. Skincare starts will protecting against UVA rays year-round. Wear UPF 50+ clothing and a broad-spectrum sunblock that protects against UVA rays.

Don’t I need some sun for Vitamin D?

You’ll hear people suggest 15-20 minutes of direct sunlight daily will help your body make Vitamin D, but the reality is, there are safer ways to get Vitamin D besides exposing yourself to damaging rays. Foods like egg yolks, milk, orange juice, mushrooms and fatty fish like tuna and salmon are all Vitamin D-rich options. You can also take a multivitamin or supplement containing Vitamin D. Skin cancer experts caution against unprotected sun exposure, so consider adding vitamin D into your diet before sitting in sunlight.

Is getting a base tan before vacation safe?

To anyone who fears that “pasty” looking skin tone, we believe in embracing our natural skin color. A base tan is a misnomer. Working your way up to more sun exposure has a compounding effect adding to long term sun damage. Any sun exposure damages and ages the skin, so even a hint of suntan means you’re creating wrinkles, sagging, and causing cell injury that could lead to skin cancer. Darker toned skin has more natural protection with more melanin, but we remain firm in our recommendation that even dark skin tones avoid unprotected sun exposure. We have all faced the moment where we let go of our tans and created a new relationship with the sun, one that pushes UV rays away. So, embrace your pasty self. It’s cool.

Is tanning really dangerous?

At this stage of our lives, this question still surprises us. Yes, it is dangerous. We are realistic to know the sun feels good and warms us, but tanning is like walking into a busy intersection during rush hour with a blind fold on. Someone will get hurt. We don’t want that someone to be you. Besides the cellular and DNA damage UV rays cause, these rays cause rapid aging, wrinkling, brown spots and sagging skin. Even worse, skin cancer is diagnosed more than all other cancers combined, and melanoma is the most-deadly of all skin cancers. You like the look of a slight tint to your skin. So, grab a self-tanner and avoid a real tan line.