I sat for 45 minutes last summer in the hot sun (100°F/38°C). I was pinned in on the bleachers so I wasn't able to get up and move. I could feel the sun burning through my pants. Now I have everyday burning and stinging on my right front upper thigh.

Is it possible that I got sunburned through my clothes?

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    Welcome to The Great Oudoors Donna. We're not really a medical help site, but I've done my best to edit your question so that you can get some answers. There are two questions contained in your post. "Do I have a sunburn" and "Should I see the doctor". I've leaned towards the first as it is more related to the great outdoors. May 28, 2012 at 19:23
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    There's a good explanation of this phenomenon in this answer.
    – Eyal
    Jul 2, 2012 at 15:02
  • I am a particularly pale redhead and have (very rarely) burned through white-cotton t-shirts. It happens. But I am very pale, even for a redhead, and seem to lack the ability to tan. Feb 19, 2013 at 19:35
  • Yes. It just happened to me I was in the car and I had black pants on and I feel the heat going through my legs into my flesh!!!!!! I got home and I had red spots
    – user5715
    Mar 13, 2015 at 20:49

2 Answers 2


Yes it is possible to sunburn through clothing. Clothing does block some of the Ultraviloet radiation but not 100%. A lot of outdoor recreation clothing is now marketed with treatments that gives additional UV protection.

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    A pro-tip is to look at a lamp through the clothing: the less light goes through the better the protection. May 29, 2012 at 4:28
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    @HenrikHansen true, but fabric designed to have high UPF can definitely be thin/breathable and still provide excellent protection
    – Ryley
    May 29, 2012 at 4:35

The wikipedia article on sun protective clothing is very informative. A summary of the relevant parts:

Apart from clothing specifically marketed as protecting against the sun most clothing will not block all sun to fully protect you against sunburn depending on circumstances.

Some general rules of thumb:

  • Darker clothes provide more protection than lighter clothes
  • Heavier material provides more protection
  • Tighter weave improves protection
  • More Stretchy/flexible material decreases protection
  • The same material provides less protection when wet (important consideration when you can expect to sweat a lot)
  • -1, at least one of the answers to this related question explicitly indicate that lighter colors offer better protection than darker ones. Jul 11, 2012 at 21:12
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    @AdamMosheh -- The other article is about heat exhaustion which is a separate issue from sunburn. It is completely possible that something be better at preventing sunburn, but worse for heat exhaustion. Jul 11, 2012 at 21:29
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    @AdamMosheh: Think about curtains made from light or dark material of similar thickness. The room behind the lighter curtains will be lighter. This is because more of the light (and presumably more of the UV rays, but this depends on the material) is transmitted through the curtain. The effect on the damaging UV rays depends more on the fabric, but darkness of the fabric is a good indicator (given that you generally don't have a UV transmissivity measuring device on you in the clothing store). Jul 13, 2012 at 8:52

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