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August 6, 2022  |  Apparel

Swimwear perfect to protect you from the sun

Nothing brings summer fun to a halt faster than a sunburn. Even the most diligent sunscreen wearer may forget to reapply or find themselves burning when pool water washes off sunscreen faster than expected. Luckily, sun-protective swimwear is an easy way to protect your skin from UV rays that you never need to reapply. These swimsuits are made with high-tech fabric that can shield UVA and UVB rays no matter how many hours you spend in the water.

How UPF swimwear works

As you're shopping for a swimsuit, you may notice some described as offering UPF protection. UPF stands for "ultraviolet protection factor." It describes the sun-protective fabric's ability to shield the wearer from UVA and UVB rays. Since ultraviolet rays can penetrate certain types and colors of fabric, UPF swimwear is a safer option for long days at the swimming pool or on a beach vacation. UPF fabric is also used to make sun hats, swim coverups and other outdoorsy clothing.

UPF levels

Just like sunscreen, the higher the UPF number on your swimsuit, the better protection it gives you against UV rays. UPF swimwear levels can range from 30 to 50 or 50+. This number indicates what fraction of UV rays can penetrate the fabric. UPF 50 fabric only allows 2% of ultraviolet rays, or 1/50, to penetrate to your skin.

Coverage and fit

A simple way to get more sun protection is by increasing the amount of coverage your swimwear offers. This can include wearing longer swim trunks, a rash guard with long sleeves, or swim shorts or skirts. 

It's also important to consider how your swimsuit fits if you're worried about sun exposure. Since the fabric in a skintight swimsuit is thinner from being stretched out, it actually provides less sun protection. Look for tankinis or swim dresses made with more fabric and offer a looser, more protective fit.

Quick-drying fabric

Choosing a swimsuit made with quick-drying fabric is more comfortable, and it's better for the suit's ability to protect you from the sun. A wet UPF swimsuit will lose some of its ability to block UV rays, so a quick-drying fabric will help the swimsuit get back to protecting you faster.

Are UPF and SPF the same?

While they perform similar functions, and some swimsuit product descriptions may use both terms, UPF and SPF do differ. UPF measures the amount of ultraviolet radiation that penetrates the fabric, while SPF measures the time it takes for skin that’s been exposed to ultraviolet radiation to start burning. Also, UPF addresses broad-spectrum sun protection while SPF only measures UVB rays.

Don’t forget sunscreen

Wearing a sun-protective swimsuit is only one of the defensive measures you should take when you're outside in the water. Wear sunscreen with a minimum SPF of 15 and apply it at least 15 minutes before sun exposure. Reapply your sunscreen at least every 80 minutes if you're swimming or exercising and every two hours if you're just lounging.

Men’s swimwear with sun protection 

Lands' End Short Sleeve Swim Tee

Lands' End Short Sleeve Swim Tee

Made with moisture-wicking UPF 50 fabric, this short-sleeved rash guard features flatlock seams to prevent chafing. Its high neckline and durable stretchiness add protection and comfort. It comes in 10 color choices. Sold by Amazon

 

Columbia Back Cast III UPF 50 Water Shorts

Columbia Back Cast III UPF 50 Water Shorts

These pull-on shorts are easy to wear swimming or simply at a poolside barbecue. The quick-dry fabric also offers UPF 50 sun protection. They’re made from textured nylon and include a mesh-brief lining. Sold by Macy’s, Backcountry, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Kohl’s and Amazon

 

Under Armour Harbour Heritage Colorblock Swim Trunks

Under Armour Harbour Heritage Colorblock Swim Trunks

The boldly colored polyester exterior offers UPF 50+ protection. It’s also water-repellent and boasts a four-way stretch. The trunks feature an elastic waistband and drawstring, two side pockets and an interior coin pocket. They have a 7-inch inseam and come in five colors. Sold by Kohl’s and Amazon

 

Nike Contend Water-Repellent Colorblocked Swim Trunks

Nike Contend Water-Repellent Colorblocked Swim Trunks

While these swim trunks don’t include built-in UV protection, they offer a 9-inch length for additional skin coverage. The trunks include a mesh brief lining and a stretch drawstring waistband. Along with hand pockets in the side seams, hook-and-loop closure pockets are hidden in the back’s design. They come in nine color choices. Sold by Macy’s, Kohl’s and Dick's Sporting Goods

Women’s swimwear with sun protection

Nike Essentials Long Sleeve Solid Hydro Rash Guard

Nike Essentials Long Sleeve Solid Hydro Rash Guard

Featuring Nike’s patented polyester/elastane Dri-FIT fabric, this long-sleeved swim top helps wick away moisture while providing lots of sun protection. Pair this rash guard with a swim skirt or shorts for additional coverage. It’s available in four solid colors. Sold by Macy’s

 

Swim Solutions Pull-On Swim Shorts

Swim Solutions Pull-On Swim Shorts

These pull-on nylon/spandex swim shorts are an easy way to get added sun protection during your swim session or beach volleyball game. Pair them with a rash guard or tankini top for more coverage. They come in black to easily mix and match with your swimwear. Sold by Macy’s

 

Lands’ End High Neck UPF 50 Modest Tankini Top Swimsuit

Lands’ End High Neck UPF 50 Modest Tankini Top Swimsuit

Featuring a high neck and back, a longer cut and a built-in soft-cup bra, this tankini top offers plenty of coverage as well as comfort. The high-tech spandex fabric is chlorine and sweat-resistant, providing UPF 50 sun protection. It comes in six solid colors and 20 prints. Sold by Amazon

 

Speedo Quantum Fusion One-Piece Swimsuit

Speedo Quantum Fusion One-Piece Swimsuit

Stay protected during your laps with this performance-fit one-piece suit. The spandex fabric is chlorine-resistant and offers UPF 50+ sun protection. It comes in several color choices and includes a high-support mesh bra with removable cups. Sold by Dick’s Sporting Goods and Amazon

 

Calvin Klein Pleated One-Piece Swimsuit

Calvin Klein Pleated One-Piece Swimsuit

This suit features UPF/SPF 50+ sun protection and full bottom coverage. The pleated front panel and square neckline offer flattering styling. It comes in five solid neutrals and four color-blocked prints. Sold by Amazon and Macy’s


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Laura Duerr writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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