The Best Hats to Protect You from The Sun to Prevent Premature Aging, According to Dermatologists

November 24, 2021

While skin cancer anywhere on the body is a major concern—and a reason to slather on plenty of high-quality SPF early and often—about 90% of all skin cancers are basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas. These two uber-common cancers frequently manifest on the head and neck, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation.

This is where hats can come in clutch: “Hats are a really important part of sun protection,” says Channa Ovits, M.D., a dermatologist at Westmed Medical Group in Westchester, New York. Especially for those who have less hair on their scalp, but really for all people, a hat is the best way to reliably protect the part of their body facing the sun. “Chemical sunblocks need time to absorb to become effective and physical sunblocks need thorough application, while hats work immediately and consistently. A hat doesn’t come off when you sweat or need to be reapplied. The brim of a hat helps keep the sun off your nose and neck, two areas that get a lot of sun exposure.”

Plus, they can also help you stop squinting from the sun, which can lead to those pesky around-eye skin wrinkles, adds Annie Gonzalez, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist at Riverchase Dermatology in Miami.

The best hats for optimal sun protection:

  • Are more than visors; seek out a cap with a top that covers your entire head.
  • Have 3 inches of brim, ideally angled downward, to shade the face, neck, ears while covering the scalp.
  • Are tightly-woven with a fabric like canvas or denim, or another fabric made with ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) 50 fabric that’s proven to block 98% of the sun’s UV rays.
  • Come in bright or dark colors (beyond white) that can absorb UV radiation better than light hues.

A brimmed or bucket hat is ideal to protect the forehead, nose and ears, while a flap hat/legionnaire’s hat (the kind with the neck protection flap) is ideal for covering your neck and nose. A baseball cap lands in the middle, above a visor but below those fully-brimmed options, according to the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency.

A good rule of thumb from Dr. Ovits: “With hats, the bigger, the better. Simply put, you get more sun coverage with a larger brim. A baseball cap, though definitely better than no hat, gives no coverage to your neck or ears.”

4 of the Best Hats to Protect You from The Sun to Prevent Premature Aging

Read on for sun hats with all of the expert-recommended elements, all of which can be ordered online and delivered to your door. Remember that even the best sun protection hat doesn’t cover all of your skin coverage needs, so wear sunscreen and a hat—plus protective clothing—to max out the anti-aging and cancer-preventing qualities, Dr. Gonzalez suggests. We’ve ordered the sun hats here from most to least (but still far better than nothing) coverage.

Lanzom Women’s 5 ½-Inch Big Bowknot Straw Hat

$19.99

“The Lanzom Big Bowknot Straw Hat contains UPF 50 , and its large brim will cover your neck, face, and ears. Its lightweight material will also keep you cool from the hot sun,” Dr. Gonzalez says. It comes in 39(!) colors and designs, including ones with cute sayings like “do not disturb” and “out of office.” Made with natural paper straw and easily foldable for travel purposes and beach days, this sun hat also features a windproof belt to keep it firmly in place on breezy days. One five-star reviewer says, “After I bought this hat, I almost wear it everywhere; to the beach, garden, parks, etc. It can be folded into one-third of its volume. But when you wear it, the edge is pretty strong around you, so it will give you enough protection from the sun.”

El Campo Ultrabraided Sun Hat

$33.00

“San Diego Hats is a commonly-recommended brand in my office as well,” adds Ted Lain, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist and the chief medical officer at Sanova Dermatology in Austin, Texas. “They offer a great selection of trendy hats at reasonable prices that offer sufficient protection.” This unisex style comes in five neutral colors and three sizes to fit a variety of heads. It’s 5-inch brim, polyester and paper material also has UPF 50 . “The inner band can be tightened to fit securely on any head size, plus there is the chin strap in case it is windy. I have worn this paddle boarding, hiking, riding my cruiser and kayaking. Comfortable, sturdy and great coverage,” on fan raves. “The quality is superior as always!”

Coolibar Women’s Tempe Sun Hat UPF 50

$59.00

Dr. Lain points to Coolibar as one of the best sun protection clothing brands, and they are tops at tops (ahem, caps) too. This sun hat is made with densely-woven, cotton-lined polyester that offers UPF 50 protection. The brim is 4 inches wide for ample face and neck coverage, and a chin strap ensures it won’t get lost in the wind. According to one fan, it’s “my new favorite hat for yard work. Ticks all the boxes: great sun protection (both face and neck/shoulders), stiff brim that doesn’t get in your way, adjustable fit, lightweight and comfortable to wear.”

Eddie Bauer Resolution UPF Baseball Cap

$30.00

Dr. Ovits admits, “The best hats are the ones you want to wear! It should look cute or represent your favorite team or colors. I personally love any hats that are made to have a high UPF.” This one delivers on that front with UPF 50 , and will please those who prefer baseball styles—and options that will stay firmly in place when jogging or doing other high-impact outdoor activities. Available in blue, pink, gray or black, “this hat is super-comfortable and great if you are out in the sun all day,” one user says. “The moisture-wicking fabric is great for keeping the sweat lines that can form on caps over time.”

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