A rash guard is more than just a garment you wear to have that mod athletic vibe on the beach. Beyond the sleek, smooth, and stretchy fabric is a fine clothing that protects you from harsh environmental threats.
As its name suggests, a rash guard is designed to protect your skin from rashes caused by the sun and ocean-induced irritation. Watersport enthusiasts, like surfers, tend to lay flat and paddle more than they stand. The constant movement causes friction which often leads to skin rashes. Aside from rash protection, a rash guard can also keep you warm when swimming in cold water. It can either be worn alone in warmer seasons or under a wetsuit to provide extra warmth in cooler seasons.
Rash guards come in different styles that cater to one’s need. Whether you’re someone who carves up the waves on a daily basis, a casual surfer, or someone who wants to protect your sensitive skin while relaxing on the shore, I hope this guide can help you pick the perfect rash guard for you.
Three Factors To Consider Before Buying A Rash Guard
Rash guards are made of synthetic fibers including spandex, nylon, polyester, or neoprene, which are stretchy and allow for breathability. These fabrics are also known to make other quality swimwear and swimming accessories including swimming caps.
Whether it’s hot or cold, you should make sure the fabric is quick drying so it won’t affect your body temperature. Check the smaller details, like stitches, as well. If you’re going to use it for an active watersport, choose the ones with flat-locked seams to reduce any chafing.
2. Location and climate
These two factors play a huge role in your shopping consideration, especially if you’re a watersport fanatic who spends most days on the beach. If it’s always hot and sunny, looking at the UPF (Ultraviolet Protection Factor) level will save you from drastic sun damage. Opt for a sun protective clothing made out of a UPF50+ fabric. Look for a high-collar rash guard as well to cover the back of your neck, which is one of the most sensitive to the sun.
If it’s cold, go for a clothing labeled with “thermo,” which means it’s made of thick, insulating fabric (mostly Neoprene). The thickness of the material, which is expressed in millimeters (mm), is also a great factor. Needless to say, the thicker the fabric, the warmer the feel.
Rash guards are designed to be form-fitting. In general, there are only two rash guard fits – skin-tight and loose-fit. The fit has something to do with why and how you’ll use the clothing.
For surfing, diving, or swimming, skin-tight is better. Such fit allows you to move more efficiently in the water with less resistance since there’s no excess fabric getting in the way. A looser-fitting rash guard, on the other hand, works well if you’re just looking for sun protection in your chilled out day on the shore.
Types Of Rash Guards
1. Regular Rash Guard
For general sun protection, you may opt for a regular, lightweight rash guard. While surfing, for instance, the rash guard can be worn alone to protect the skin from surfboard rash and sunburn, or as an additional layer under a wetsuit to protect the skin from suit-induced abrasion.
Regular rash guards are made to fit tight. They come in both short and long sleeve cuts. The former provides increased mobility while the latter contributes additional support and protection.
2. Full-Body Rash Guard
Full-body rash guards are comprised of the same materials found in regular rash guards. They also have the same snug fit, but they have the cut of a full-body wetsuit. They are recommended for a number of watersports, like surfing, wake boarding, water skiing, kayaking, and canoeing. The only drawback is since they are form-fitting from top to bottom, they can sometimes restrict the freedom of movement. An alternative to wearing a full-body rash guard is using boardshorts connectors which attach a regular top to its bottom so it won’t ride up.
3. Rash Guard Vest
Rash guard vests are sleeveless ocean sports clothing that provides additional warmth just when you need it. The perk of having a sleeveless clothing is the shoulder mobility it provides, which is an obvious edge for any athletic activity. Rash guard vests can be worn alone or under a wet suit. They provide an additional layer of warmth for the core, though it may not be enough for cold water use.
4. Thermal Rash Guard
Just because winter is approaching, doesn’t mean it’ll stop you from plunging. During these chilly seasons, thermal rash guards are advised to provide extra warmth in cold water for an extended period of time. Thermal rash guards are commonly used for aerobics and ocean sports, where the water may be too warm for a wetsuit but is too cold for bare skin.
5. Swim Shirt
If you don’t like the idea of tight, body-fitting rash guards but you want to protect your skin from the harsh sun, you might want to go for swim shirts. These are a cross between regular rash guards and comfortable tees. Unlike cotton t-shirts, swim shirts don’t get heavy and bulky when wet, which translates into greater ease of movement in the water. They are made of the same light, stretchy, breathable and quick-drying fabrics used in regular rash guards but are looser. The drawback, however, is swim shirts may be too loose for surfing.
Carmina Natividad is one of the writers for Swimprint, a go-to shop for swimming enthusiasts, specializing in swimming caps in the UK. While she’s fascinated in writing articles focused on sport fashion, health, and wellness, she swears to never give up pizza.
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