Wearing rash guards and UV-protective clothing at the beach, pool or park is one of the fastest ways to keep your kids safe from the sun: it allows you to skip applying (and re-applying) sunblock to your kids' chests, backs and arms. (Note: you should still apply sunscreen under their sleeve cuffs and on their tummy, if they're wearing a rash guard that might ride up while playing.)
Fortunately, clothing and swimwear brands have started stocking plenty of cute (and functional) rash guard options, from babies to big kids. You might see them labelled with a “UPF” number—that stands for ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) and it’s a rating given to clothing that’s designed to shield us from the sun’s rays.
Some UV-protective rash guards are made using special fibres and a dense weave to block the sun, while other UPF clothing is pre-treated with a UV-deflecting coating. Like SPF in sunscreen, the protection number relates to how much UV the clothing filters out. A swim shirt with a UPF of 25, for example, will allow approximately 1/25 (or roughly four percent) of UV light to pass through it. This should be considered the minimum rating for kids’ clothes with UPF, says Victoria Taraska, a dermatologist at the Derm Centre in Winnipeg. “All clothing is somewhat sun protective,” she explains. Any dark-coloured tightly woven fabric can do the job. In general, polyester and nylon do very well at blocking UV. Wool and silk fibres are moderately effective, and cotton, rayon and hemp fabrics rate lower on the scale. The easiest way to tell if a regular shirt will protect well enough is to hold it up to the sun. The rule of thumb is that if you can see the light, it can reach your kid’s skin, too. And if your little one is swimming in a long-sleeved shirt, but it’s not a UPF-rated rash guard, be sure to check how it performs when it’s wet. Think of a white cotton tee: It might provide a bit of protection on the beach, but it’s useless in the water.
Here are a few of our favourite rash guards, swim sets and beach cover-ups for outfitting active kids this summer.
This cute two-piece comes in an adorable print complete with a fun peplum hem, so your tot can be covered in style. $18, Carteroshkosh.ca
This durable Canadian-made swimsuit has a super convenient leg zipper for diaper access, and it’s designed to give 98 per cent sun protection. $40, Amazon.ca
This UV-coated, UPF 40 dress is a great beach cover-up for when kids are building sandcastles or playing at the splash pad. Bonus: there’s a pocket for stashing treasures while beachcombing. $29, mec.ca
Sunshine and ice cream go hand in hand, so this rashguard made from recycled water bottles is a perfect summer staple for your kiddo. $38, whistleandflute.ca
These matching swim trunks are perfect for splashing and swimming. $34, whistleandflute.ca
This one-piece has a UPF rating of 50+, comes in three different colours and sizes up to 6T, and has special fabric treated for chlorine and saltwater resistance. $44, mec.ca
This adorable rashguard onesie for babies (in sizes 3-24 months) snaps at the inseam. The UPF 50 fabric is chlorine- and saltwater-resistant, and machine washable, so you can toss it in with the rest of the laundry after a long day at the beach. $42, Hatley.com
This Omni-Shade™ shirt is stretchy and light with fast-drying, moisture-wicking fabric that’s rated UPF 50. $35, Columbiasportswear.ca
These practical, corodinating swim trunks provide a ton of movement with a stretchy waistband, and they come in a colourful tropical print. $35, Columbiasportswear.ca
This protective set is UPF 50 and lined at the front to shield your baby from the sun’s rays. $25, H&M.com
This comfy UPF 40 crewneck rash guard comes in several fun designs that your kid will love. The long raglan sleeves provide great coverage. $25, Gapcanada.ca
This UPF 40 suit has a front zipper, an elasticized waist and matching bathing suit bottoms, in sizes 12 months to 5T. A day at the beach with your baby or toddler has never been cuter. $29, Gapcanada.ca
This long-sleeved floral rash guard has a high neckline, so you won’t have to worry about sunburns. $35, mec.ca
The matching shorts are super-stretchy and feature an elastic waistband with a drawstring, so you’ll have esay access for changing that swim diaper. $29, mec.ca
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