Best Rash guards for Women

Updated October 2020
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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.Read more 
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How we decided

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

30 Models Considered
8 Hours Researched
3 Experts Interviewed
60 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

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

Buying guide for best rash guards for women

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 rash guard 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 rash guards 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 rash guard 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 rash guards can aid thermoregulation in cold water.

The kind of rash guard 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 rash guard that’s right for you.

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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 rash guards 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.

  • Rash guard vest: Rash guard 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 rash guard: The term “full-body rash guard” can mean a rash guard that covers to the wrists and ankles, or it may be used to describe a one-piece swimsuit that doubles as a rash guard with short or long sleeves. Some full-body rash guards 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 rash guards, 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 rash guards

Compression rash guards increase blood flow throughout the upper body and are a great option for high-intensity water sports. These rash guards 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.

Rash guard purpose

Rash guards provide benefits, but not every rash guard provides every benefit. For example,  a long-sleeve rash guard 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 rash guard may be a better pick.

Similarly, if you need warmth, a thermal rash guard 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.

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Did you know?
UPF protection may be added to a rash guard in one of two ways. The rash guard 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.
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Features

Materials

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

Sleeve length

  • Sleeveless: Vests and sleeveless rash guards 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 rash guard, which can help keep you cool.

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

Stitching

Rash guards 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.

Rash guards for women: prices

Women’s rash guards 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 rash guards with UPF protection in the $15 to $25 range. These lower-priced rash guards are typically made of thinner material than those in the $25 to $50 range. In that mid-range, there are rash guards 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 rash guards that offer thermal and rash protection. This is the type of rash guard you need if you’re devoted to your sport and refuse to let cold water slow you down.

Expert Tip
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Tips

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

  • There are rash guards 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 rash guards 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 rash guard 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 rash guards are made of the same materials, but women’s rash guards 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 rash guard 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 rash guards for women that stand out for their excellent fit, design, and quality. The REKITA Women’s Long Sleeve Rash Guard 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 Rash Guard 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.

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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 rash guards 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 rash guards 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 rash guards see-through?

A. The transparency of the rash guard 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 rash guards come with a swim bottom as well?

A. High-performance rash guards are typically sold on their own, while swim tees and fashion rash guards are more likely to be sold as a set. Rash guards 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.

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