Skip to Content
From The Guest Room is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Read more

Can You Get Sunburn Through Denim? (Jeans, Shirts, Jackets, etc.)

Can You Get Sunburn Through Denim? (Jeans, Shirts, Jackets, etc.)

In this article, we’ll embark on a journey through the sun-drenched trails of the wild West to uncover the truth about denim’s defense against the relentless Texan sun.

Our mission is to blend the charm of cowboy culture with the wisdom of sun safety, ensuring that you can enjoy the Western way of life without compromising your skin’s well-being.

Let’s saddle up and ride into the heart of this matter. Can denim truly stand as a shield against the sun’s fiery embrace?

Join us as we uncover the science, style, and secrets behind the relationship between denim and sunburn protection.

Key takeaways:

  • Denim can indeed provide effective protection against sunburn and limit it significantly.
  • However, it’s important to note that this protection may not be 100%, as it depends on various conditions like denim thickness, UV intensity, duration of exposure, and the type of denim.

A man wears jeans and cowboy boots and is standing on the road

Can You Get Sunburn Through Denim?

Before we address denim’s role, it’s crucial to understand how sunburn occurs. Sunburn is primarily caused by the harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun.

These rays, namely UVA and UVB, can damage the skin’s DNA, leading to the familiar redness, pain, and peeling associated with sunburn.

Denim, a staple in Western fashion, is known for its durability and rugged appeal. But can it shield you from the sun’s harmful rays?

The answer lies in denim’s composition.

Denim is typically made from tightly woven cotton fabric, which offers good UV protection. This natural fabric acts as a barrier against UVB rays, the ones responsible for causing sunburn.

Denim’s UPF Rating:

To understand denim’s protective capabilities, we need to introduce the concept of UPF (Ultraviolet Protection Factor).

Similar to SPF in sunscreens, UPF measures how effective a fabric is at blocking UV radiation.

While denim doesn’t come with a specific UPF rating like specialized sun-protective clothing, its tightly woven fibers naturally provide excellent sun protection.

In fact, some sources suggest that certain denim jeans can achieve remarkably high UPF values, such as 1700 (Geis 2012), indicating their ability to block UV radiation effectively.

However, it’s important to note that UPF values for denim can vary widely based on factors like fabric type, thickness, and color.

This means that while denim offers significant protection, it may not shield you completely from the sun’s rays, especially during prolonged exposure.

Women are wearing cowboy boots with bootcut jeans under the sun

How Fast can You Get Sunburned through Denim?

The speed at which you can get sunburned through denim depends on several factors, including the type of denim, its thickness, the intensity of the sun, and the duration of exposure.

Denim, in general, offers some protection against UV radiation due to its tightly woven fibers, but it may not provide complete immunity.

Here are some factors to consider:

  1. Denim Thickness: Thicker denim fabrics provide better UV protection than thinner ones. Thicker denim will slow down the penetration of UV rays, reducing the risk of sunburn.
  2. UV Intensity: The strength of the sun’s UV rays can vary depending on factors like location, time of day, and weather conditions. On a very sunny and hot day, you might be at a higher risk of sunburn even through denim.
  3. Duration of Exposure: Spending extended periods in the sun, even in denim, can increase the risk of sunburn. Prolonged exposure without sun protection measures is more likely to result in sunburn.
  4. UV-Protective Denim: Some manufacturers produce denim with enhanced UV protection properties. If you have denim specifically designed for sun protection, it can offer better defense against sunburn.

In hot summer weather exceeding 90°F (32°C), wearing thinner denim fabric exposes me to the risk of sunburn if I spend several hours outdoors, especially during the peak intensity of the sun between 10 am and 4 pm.

To mitigate this risk, I limit direct sun exposure to 30 minutes to an hour. Beyond that, I seek shade or use additional precautions like sunscreen, a wide-brimmed hat, and sunglasses.

These measures are crucial despite denim’s protection because prolonged exposure to intense sunlight can still lead to sunburn.

Sun Safety Tips for Western Fashion Enthusiasts

While denim can provide a degree of sun protection, it’s advisable to take additional precautions:

  1. Apply Sunscreen: Always wear sunscreen with a high SPF on exposed skin areas.
  2. Limit Sun Exposure: Avoid prolonged exposure to the sun during peak hours (10 am to 4 pm).
  3. Accessories: Consider adding a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses to your Western ensemble for extra sun protection.

man is wearing felt cowboy hat, denim jacket and jeans under the hot sun


In conclusion, denim can offer some protection against sunburn, thanks to its natural UV-blocking properties.

However, it’s essential to supplement this protection with sunscreen and other sun-safe practices, especially when spending extended periods outdoors.

Embracing the Western lifestyle doesn’t mean compromising on sun safety, so be sure to take the necessary precautions to enjoy the sun responsibly.