Best Rashguards for Women

Updated July 2019
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
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How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

15 Models Considered
6 Hours Researched
1 Experts Interviewed
103 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.

Buying guide for best rashguards for women

Last Updated July 2019

Soaking up some sun isn’t as harmless as we all once thought, and that’s not the only potential danger you might encounter while in, on, or around the water. A rashguard is a protective piece of clothing — often in the form of a long-sleeved shirt — that’s worn in the water to protect the skin from a number of hazards related to your favorite water-related activities.

Many rashguards are designed to offer extra ultraviolet protection factor, or UPF, blocking out harmful UVA and UVB rays. If you’ll be in and out of the water surfing, wakeboarding, or water skiing, a rashguard can help protect your skin from chafing. It can also be worn underneath a wetsuit for another layer of protection against irritation. In addition, some rashguards can aid thermoregulation in cold water.

The kind of rashguard you need depends on the activities you participate in as well as the average water temperature and climate where you’ll be wearing it. The water is calling, so take a good look at our shopping guide to find a rashguard that’s right for you.

Rashguards come in numerous colors, patterns, and styles. Light colors are cooler and more transparent, while dark colors may be warmer and more opaque. When you’re choosing a rashguard, be sure to think about how much coverage you need.

Key considerations

Types of rashguards for women

  • Thermal: These thick, insulated garments retain body heat in cold temperatures. They’re great for triathletes, surfers, and others who don’t let temperature dictate when they’re going to enjoy the water.

  • Rashguard vest: Rashguard vests are often worn underneath wetsuits as an extra layer of skin protection. They leave the arms and shoulders exposed for improved mobility.

  • Full-body rashguard: The term “full-body rashguard” can mean a rashguard that covers to the wrists and ankles, or it may be used to describe a one-piece swimsuit that doubles as a rashguard with short or long sleeves. Some full-body rashguards are designed to be worn underneath a wetsuit, while others can be worn on their own.

Swim/surf tees and shirts

Swim tees and shirts aren’t exactly rashguards, though they function similarly. Some swim tees are crop tops that are a fashion statement rather than effective barrier against sun, sand, or a rash. In general, swim tees have a looser fit and are generally made of lightweight materials. The loose fit doesn’t make them the best option for water sports because they have reduced aquadynamics and may ride up when you’re getting on and off a surfboard or other equipment.

Compression rashguards

Compression rashguards increase blood flow throughout the upper body and are a great option for high-intensity water sports. These rashguards may also be designed and used for sports outside the water, such as the martial arts, where they protect the skin from burns and irritation during sparring.

Rashguard purpose

Rashguards provide benefits, but not every rashguard provides every benefit. For example,  a long-sleeve rashguard with UPF protection will shield you from the sun, but it can be too hot in warm climates. In that case, a short-sleeve, sleeveless, or vest-style rashguard may be a better pick.

Similarly, if you need warmth, a thermal rashguard with a tall collar would likely be your best choice. Of course, if all you want is a cover-up that offers some modesty while you’re chillin’ at the beach, a swim tee might be a practical option.

DID YOU KNOW?

UPF protection may be added to a rashguard in one of two ways. The rashguard may receive special UPF treatment after the garment has been assembled, or UPF protection may be woven into the threads during manufacture. Both methods are effective.

Features

Materials

The most common rashguard materials are spandex, nylon, polyester, neoprene, or a mix of any of these. Each fabric has its own texture and breathability, which can affect your comfort. Neoprene offers extra buoyancy, but it doesn’t have good breathability. Spandex provides a tight fit, while nylon and polyester are lightweight, dry quickly, and tend to cost less.

Choose a material that’s appropriate for your activities and that feels comfortable against your skin.

Fit

There are two fit choices when it comes to rashguards: loose and fitted. While fit affects how the rashguard looks while you’re wearing it, it’s more the performance of the rashguard and what you need it to do that should impact your choice. Fitted rashguards provide protection from skin irritation while increasing aquadynamics. They provide sun protection, too. Loose rashguards aren’t great at rash protection, but they do well when it comes to sun protection and breathability.

Sleeve length

  • Sleeveless: Vests and sleeveless rashguards leave the shoulders and arms exposed, which increases mobility for swimming and other activities that require arm and shoulder movement.

  • Short: Short sleeves may be anywhere from cap to elbow length. They give you extra sun protection but also leave more skin exposed than a long-sleeve rashguard, which can help keep you cool.

  • Long: Long-sleeve rashguards offer the most sun and rash protection, but they might be too hot when it’s warm outside.

Stitching

Rashguards generally have one of two stitch types: flat-lock seams or overlock seams. Flat-lock seams lie flat and are less irritating to the skin. Overlock seams don’t lie as flat, which puts the fabric edge and stitches against the skin where they’re more likely to rub and chafe.

Rashguards for women: prices

Women’s rashguards range in price from $15 to around $60. The price varies based on fabric, style, and the quality of the garment’s construction.

There are long-sleeve rashguards with UPF protection in the $15 to $25 range. These lower-priced rashguards are typically made of thinner material than those in the $25 to $50 range. In that mid-range, there are rashguards made of thicker materials with extra side seam lines for a closer fit and reduced chafing. You’ll also see designer models that are designed more for sun protection and beach lounging than water sport purposes.

At the top of the price range, between $50 and $60, are neoprene rashguards that offer thermal and rash protection. This is the type of rashguard you need if you’re devoted to your sport and refuse to let cold water slow you down.

EXPERT TIP

Rashguards with good breathability/airflow will keep you cooler. A loose fit and short or no sleeves enhances airflow. However, they increase drag in the water and may not provide good rash protection if you’re participating in a water sport like surfing.


Staff  | BestReviews
EXPERT TIP

A zipper can make getting in and out of a rashguard easy and fast. Furthermore, you have the option of unzipping it part way to cool off while you’re not in the water. However, a zipper might not be the best choice if you’ll be climbing on a surfboard, as it could scratch or scrape your skin.


Staff  | BestReviews

Tips

  • Some rashguard vests are designed to aid thermoregulation. You can identify these vests by the “mm” in their product name.

  • There are rashguards that have a long torso for extra modesty. They often have ties on the side so you can adjust the length according to how you’d like to wear it. These rashguards work well if you want something that can be worn for a casual day on the beach or while participating in your favorite water sport.

  • A rashguard is a great way to cover up a one-piece or two-piece bathing suit while you’re on the way to the beach or once you’re out of the water ready to relax.

  • Women’s and men’s rashguards are made of the same materials, but women’s rashguards taper toward and at the waist and then flare out at the hips. They’re also narrower in the arms and shoulders.

  • Be careful when applying sunscreen, as the chemicals could damage the rashguard fabric. Your best bet is to apply sunscreen and let it soak into the skin before putting on your rashguard.

Other products we considered

Here are a few other rashguards for women that stand out for their excellent fit, design, and quality. The REKITA Women’s Long Sleeve Rashguard comes with a matching swim bottom for an attractive look that still protects your skin. It has a slightly looser fit, so it’s comfortable for a day at the pool or while you’re hitting the surf with a board.

The TSLA Women’s UPF 50+ Long Sleeve Rashguard has a half zipper and ruched sides so you can extend the length. It’s got excellent UPF 50+ sun protection, and there are lots of fun colors to choose from.

Water sports aren’t the only reason you might need a rashguard. Many martial artists also use rashguards for skin protection. In fact, some rashguards are specifically designed for this purpose, which means they’ll be fitted and may not have UPF protection.

FAQ

Q. Do rashguards have special washing instructions?

A. Read the manufacturer’s washing instructions, and follow them every time. Some may recommend hand-washing to preserve UPF protection, while others can handle cold water and the gentle cycle. Most rashguards should be air dried because excess heat could damage spandex. Neoprene should never be machine washed. It should be rinsed and thoroughly air dried before being stored.

Q. Are women’s rashguards see-through?

A. The transparency of the rashguard depends on the type of fabric, the color, and whether it’s wet or not. If you’re worried about transparency, look for one made of thick fabric in a dark color. Some colors that are opaque when dry become uncomfortably transparent when wet, so check before you head outside for the day.

Q. Do rashguards come with a swim bottom as well?

A. High-performance rashguards are typically sold on their own, while swim tees and fashion rashguards are more likely to be sold as a set. Rashguards don’t typically have a built-in bra or other support, so you may need a bikini or tankini top to wear underneath for adequate breast support.

The team that worked on this review
  • Devangana
    Devangana
    Web Producer
  • Eliza
    Eliza
    Production Manager
  • Kristin
    Kristin
    Writer
  • Melinda
    Melinda
    Web Producer
  • Melissa
    Melissa
    Senior Editor
  • Stacey
    Stacey
    Writer

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