When temperatures are scorching, a sun hat can provide some much-needed heat relief. But it does more than keep you cool -- a hat can shield you from the sun’s harmful, sunburn-causing UV (ultraviolet) rays. In fact, most dermatologists recommend wearing a hat or sun-protective clothing in addition to slathering on sunscreen. “Many people forget to reapply sunscreen every few hours so wearing a hat is a good backup measure,” says Joshua Zeichner, MD, director of cosmetic and clinical research at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City. So which hat fits your fashion sensibilities? Here are the five best styles to help you play it safe in the sun.
Wide-Brimmed Hat. “In terms of sun protection, a wide-brimmed hat is your best bet,” says Jessica Wu, M.D., a Los Angeles-based dermatologist and author of Feed Your Face. “And the wider the brim, the better.” The brim will shield your neck and ears, where skin cancers commonly develop. “A wide brimmed hat will protect you from direct UV rays, as well as reflected rays from the water and sand,” says Wu. The good news is that these styles have been seen all over the runways, making them as fashionable as they are functional.
Shade Cap. If you love wearing baseball hats, the shade cap is for you. This hat fits like a ball cap but has about seven inches of fabric that drapes down the sides and back to help protect the neck and ears—both of which are vulnerable to skin cancer. Made from lightweight material (to help keep you cool), most styles can be folded into the crown of the cap for those times when you don’t need the extra protection. They’re ideal for people who love to camp and hike and can be found at sports and outdoor supply stores.
Floppy Hat. Just like wide-brimmed hats, the floppy kind is great for protecting your face, ears and neck. But stay away from those made from straw—the holes in them can let in harmful UV light. “For the most protection, look for those made from dark, thick, opaque fabric,” says Wu. Ideally, you want a fabric that’s been rated with a UPF (ultraviolet protection factor) of 25 or higher. And since floppy hats aren’t as sturdy as typical wide-brimmed hats, be sure to slather on plenty of sunscreen, especially on your neck and ears.
Bucket Hat. You don’t have to be a fisherman to don a bucket hat. This old-school style has gotten a modern update in recent years and can be found in a plethora of bold colors and patterns. Make sure yours has at least a 2- to 3-inch brim all the way around to protect your face and ears. You should also look for those that have a dark, non-reflective underside to the brim, which can keep UV rays from reflective surfaces (such as the water) away from your face.
Fedora. For stars like Justin Timberlake, a fedora is the ultimate accessory (the hat was also a must-have of the film character Indiana Jones). Luckily, with a brim that’s typically 2.5 inches, this hat provides plenty of sun protection. Just be sure to avoid those made of straw, as they can let in harmful UV (ultraviolet) rays. Stick to fedoras made from thick, tightly woven fabric in darker colors, which will block the sun better than lighter material. And remember: “Wearing a hat doesn’t mean you don’t have to wear sunscreen,” says Zeichner. “Make sure you’re applying it daily.”