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The best UV-protective rash guards for hitting the beach this summer

Sunscreen isn't enough to shield your little one from a sunburn this summer. Here are our top picks for some protective—yet still stylish!—rash guards.

By Natalie Harmsen

The best UV-protective rash guards for hitting the beach this summer

Photo: iStockphoto

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.

Best UV-protective rash guards

OshKosh B’gosh Palm Tree 2-Piece UV Swim Shirt Set

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

The best UV-protective rash guards for hitting the beach this summer

Nozone Fiji Sun Protective Baby Swimsuit

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

The best UV-protective rash guards for hitting the beach this summer

MEC Skylight Dress

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

The best UV-protective rash guards for hitting the beach this summer

Kawaii Ice Cream Unisex Rashguard

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

The best UV-protective rash guards for hitting the beach this summer

Kawaii Ice Cream Unisex Swim Trunks

These matching swim trunks are perfect for splashing and swimming. $34, whistleandflute.ca

The best UV-protective rash guards for hitting the beach this summer

Level Six Aurora/Apollo Rashguard Onesie

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

The best UV-protective rash guards for hitting the beach this summer

Cute Lemons Baby Rashguard Swimsuit

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

The best UV-protective rash guards for hitting the beach this summer

Kids’ Toddler Sandy Shores™ Long Sleeve Sunguard Shirt

This Omni-Shade™ shirt is stretchy and light with fast-drying, moisture-wicking fabric that’s rated UPF 50. $35, Columbiasportswear.ca

The best UV-protective rash guards for hitting the beach this summer

Boys’ Toddler Sandy Shores™ Board Short

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

The best UV-protective rash guards for hitting the beach this summer

H&M Dinosaurs Swim Set UPF 50

This protective set is UPF 50 and lined at the front to shield your baby from the sun’s rays. $25, H&M.com

The best UV-protective rash guards for hitting the beach this summer

Toddler Graphic Raglan Rashguard

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

The best UV-protective rash guards for hitting the beach this summer

Toddler Rashguard Swim Set

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

The best UV-protective rash guards for hitting the beach this summer

Wheat Dilan Swim T-shirt for Infants

 This long-sleeved floral rash guard has a high neckline, so you won’t have to worry about sunburns. $35, mec.ca

The best UV-protective rash guards for hitting the beach this summer

Wheat Eli Swim Shorts for Infants

 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

The best UV-protective rash guards for hitting the beach this summer

Read more:
13 top mineral sunscreens for your whole family
How to keep a baby under six months old safe from the sun

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