Rash Guard: why did I wait so long to get one?



Recently I posted a photo on Instagram wearing a rash guard and I was surprised to see all the comments! A few had never even heard of one, and one commenter even said something along the lines of the majority of people wear them in New Zealand!

I’ve always been sensitive to the sun. I remember being on vacation with my family when I was in middle school (peak of coolness, you know) and we were all going to go snorkeling.

I had gotten some of the worst sun poisoning the day before, so the salt water was brutal on my rash. It covered my clavicle area, the tops of my shoulders, and the tops of my hands. I didn’t want to miss out on snorkeling, so I just covered it with medicine and then my mom TAPED RUBBER GLOVES AROUND MY HANDS.

So, just picture for a moment me, a middle school girl in a two piece with flippers, snorkel gear, and rubber gloves tied around her hands. Oh, and my glasses, because I didn’t have contacts yet. Glasses and goggles were a fantastic combination.

Upon entering the water, my gloves filled right up, so I ditched them–but it was a valiant effort on my mom’s behalf.

Anyway, I wish I had taken the plunge into the joy of rash guards sooner but I guess I just felt like they were hot and looked sort of uncomfortable.

I’m here to tell you they are neither of those things. They are made of swimsuit material, very thin, and don’t feel uncomfortable at all. And frankly, being sure I’m not going to get burned or get sun poisoning on my shoulders and arms far outweighs anything else.

As a side note, I had a ton of trouble finding high-neck one pieces this year. I need a high neck and a one piece, because I don’t want to “fall out of” a low cut suit, and my swim time consists of playing! I’m rarely just laying in the pool, so I needed a suit that would work with an active pool time! I bit the bullet on this one and LOVE it. It was a great purchase.

Anyway, the rash guard takes away the picky requirements I had for my one piece suit. I can wear an old two piece that I have laying in my drawer, throw the rash guard on, and suddenly it’s super functional and makes my time in the pool a million times more enjoyable.

Consider me converted. I’m a rash guard girl for life!


one, two, three, four, five

I bought the #5, but my eyes are on #3 for a second option.

If you haven’t yet tried one, whether your skin is sensitive or not, I suggest giving it a shot. You may be surprised at how much you enjoy it, and most importantly–you are being protected from the sun!

ReadΒ about our recent beach trip here, and my favorite summer totes to hold your pool or beach things here!

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Comments (72)

  1. Alane says
    Posted July 7, 2016

    I’m so glad you posted about this because after your snapchat I was wondering which rash guard you decided on. Why did you decide on #5 versus the others? I’m a boy mom too and am getting way too much sun this summer so I think this would be very helpful!

    • Kate says
      Posted July 7, 2016

      It was just the first one i found that I liked on Amazon! I wanted it asap!

  2. Jen P says
    Posted July 7, 2016

    Hi Kate! I just purchased a rash guard for a recent trip to Miami Beach! I am a fellow fair skinned gal and enjoyed not having to slather the gooey sunscreen all over myself but still felt protected from the brutal Miami sun! Remember the days of wearing a t shirt over a bathing suit, and how miserable it was? ? The rash guard worked great! Very light and dries quick. I like the colorful options you chose, as mine is black, not a great choice for the heat! I will be looking in to getting another one. Thanks for the post, you have taught me so much. I enjoy your blog and snaps!

  3. Darlene Martin says
    Posted July 7, 2016

    As a fair skinned redhead, I love rash guards. I also love the beach…..so they are pretty much a necessity. Bonus points for our skin looking younger than our age!

  4. Emily says
    Posted July 7, 2016

    Oh the LOLOLOL about that glove story. #relatable #pale #longsleeves4ever

    Thanks for sharing. I’m still hoping pale comes back in style one day!

    • JeanAnn says
      Posted July 7, 2016

      Its TOTALLY in style! You’re not pale – just porcelain… πŸ˜‰

    • Bonnie says
      Posted July 7, 2016

      I used to say, “one day people are going to be going to lightening booths, and mine will be natural.” I’ve pretty much given up on that.

  5. H says
    Posted July 7, 2016

    As a fair skinned lady myself I love rash guards! I first bought one for my honeymoon- probably doesn’t seem like the occasion to cover the bikini- but we were spending a week in the sun and I didn’t want to worry. Nothing ruins a good vacation like a sunburn! Now I’m a convert. My older-self will thank me for taking such good care of my skin and I actually think they’re really cute!

  6. MarianneB says
    Posted July 7, 2016

    I love rash guards too—with bikini bottoms, always cute—I’ve a really cool one from Commando with an evil eye on the front. I always wear mine with a really high teased ponytail—something about the look makes me channel old surfer girl style, lol. Btw—have you ever sampled the 1804 perfume line @ Sephora—I never see much @ fragrance on your blog—they are supposed to be un-perfume like..not like every other mainstream scent out there–just curious…

  7. Nina says
    Posted July 7, 2016

    Hi there, I’m from New Zealand & although I’m olive-skinned as I am part Maori (native New Zealander) – we must cover up as the ozone layer is thinnest in our part of the world. I never used to have to worry about getting burnt from the sun, our burn time now in the peak of summer is around 10 minutes!! Apart from that I think women in general are now ‘sun smart’ & wanting to look after there skin.
    PS: I love number 3!!!! πŸ™‚

  8. Kate says
    Posted July 7, 2016

    I love mine because like you I am a busy mom. I spend so much time putting sunscreen on my child that i often forget myself or am slap dash about it, plus my little one is impatient to get in and swim. I have found my rash guard to help with this. I love mine because it zipped at the front. I purchased from Land End because they have a tall range. Thanks for the great article.

  9. Posted July 7, 2016

    Rash guards are AH-Mazing and I think everyone should wear one – especially because they can be really cute and protect you from harmful sunrays! I spent a year living in Australia and saw everyone in them, but thought I was too cool, so opted for the bikini and board shorts look instead. Fast forward two years and I am being diagnosed and treated for advanced Melanoma – at the age of 23!!! I now only go out in full on rash guard AND long swim bottoms. Rip curl girl do some fun ones that make you look like an uber-cool surfer! I’ve been cancer-free for 13 years so something is working πŸ™‚

  10. Amy B says
    Posted July 7, 2016

    Thanks so much!

    Do they get “sticky” when wet? I just image how guys trunks kind of suck to their leg when they get wet and always thoug that looked uncomfortable. ?

    • Kate says
      Posted July 7, 2016

      It’s supposed to be tight/fitted, so it doesn’t feel sticky.

  11. Andrea H. says
    Posted July 7, 2016

    Hi Kate, I agree whole heartedly about rash guards! I fell in love with them last season and now find myself shopping more for cute bottoms to go with my rash gaurd. I love the freedom and coverage they give, both from the rays and from the feeling of being a bit overexposed in a swimsuit. They add fun, style, freedom and skin safety to summer splash time. Thanks for the great choices you have corralled.

  12. Jackie says
    Posted July 7, 2016

    I’m always a bit confused with rash guards. Are you supposed to wear a swim top underneath? Or do they have enough coverage (ifyouknowwhatimean)?

    • denise says
      Posted July 7, 2016

      I think they are too thin to go without something underneath. Either a one piece swimsuit or a bikini top works great. The tankini tops that I have are too bulky to wear under a rash guard though. Another great option is to wear a sports bra under the rash guard. This is my favorite since my sports bras are so supportive and keep everything well under wraps. πŸ™‚

    • Natalie says
      Posted July 7, 2016

      Here is Australia, nearly every child wears a rash guard (or rashie / rash vest as we call them) and most adults wear them as well. They are intended to be worn with swimwear underneath (for females at least). There are thicker rash guards available but they tend to be more towards to neoprene wetsuit material – and those have a different purpose as are mainly used for surfing type activities to keep you warm. Rash vests are purely for sun protection. You will find that many Australian surft stores stock a multititude of rash vests, so if you are after variety definitely check them out.

  13. Melissa says
    Posted July 7, 2016

    My husband and I are tentatively planning a trip to Hawaii next year for our anniversary and we both really want to go snorkeling and try stand up paddleboarding – I will definitely look into getting a rash guard! Thanks for sharing!

    • Natalie says
      Posted July 7, 2016

      HI Melissa,

      My sister runs a surfing and SUP company on the northshore of Oahu. They are a little more expensive than the surf schools that run on waikiki beach, however, you can be guaranteed that you will receive one on one treatment, longer sessions and will be guaranteed to stand up by the end of your session. The company is called Oahu Surfing Experience. Hope you enjoy your holiday. We went for the first time in April and it was magical.

    • Amy says
      Posted July 19, 2016

      Hi Melissa, i’ve spent many vacations in Hawaii and thus hours online looking for the perfecr rash guard. A few tips for you 1.) Wait till you get there to find a great one. Seriously they are no more expensive and the selection is fantastic. Just go where ever they sell swimwear and you’ll find something you love. 2.) I love the ones with the zipper down the front. When you come out of the water it’s easier to get it off. My family and I spend our time putting on and taking off our rash guards.I hang it up to dry..which takes 15 minutes tops and throw on a cover up.

  14. Luanne says
    Posted July 7, 2016

    Love them! Lands End is my new favorite swim shop. Rash Guards a new staple for me since chasing a toddler who is ready to play cuts down on my sun screen application for myself time. It also makes me feel better about my “mom bod”. And bonus: They are SO cute!

    • Tia says
      Posted July 7, 2016

      Seconding Lands End! Super cute supportive suits, and many have coordinating rash guards.

      • Dawn says
        Posted July 7, 2016

        three cheers now for Lands End! I have two from them and alternated them on my weekend long beach trip. Didn’t have to worry about blistering burns this year. And super comfortable too. I’m surprised more people don’t wear them!

  15. Alyssa says
    Posted July 7, 2016

    Now I’m wondering why I haven’t picked up a rash guard yet! I burn so easily and sometimes I feel like 100 spf doesn’t even cut it! Do you feel like you get more warm when you’re wearing it, or it it pretty lightweight and breathable?

    • Kate says
      Posted July 7, 2016

      To me it’s lightweight, and not hot–but I’m also always wet. I don’t just lay in the sun πŸ™‚

    • Natalie says
      Posted July 7, 2016

      Alyssa, the rash vests don’t always keep you warm – especially if the wind is blowing but it is very lightweight.

  16. Marisa says
    Posted July 7, 2016

    I don’t have sensitive skin, but I love the idea of a rash guard. I have really dark olive skin, but my boyfriend has red hair and freckles. Naturally, he wears SPF 110 when we go outside. When we were in Hawaii, he gave me a hug, and I got a boyfriend-shaped tan line from where he transferred his SPF 110 onto my skin. So, a rash guard sounds like the perfect solution to this problem.

  17. Elizabeth says
    Posted July 7, 2016

    I’ve seen the pics that Grace Patton would post of her kids in rash guards and I didn’t realize they were for skin protection. Now I know! I had a case of sun poisoning when I was in high school and it was BRUTAL. Probably should have converted to a rash guard user back then, but like most high schoolers I was more concerned with being tan than protecting my skin. I need to try one for the remainder of this summer. Thanks for sharing!

  18. Jenny says
    Posted July 7, 2016

    Has anyone used one in the deep South? I wanted to get one but feared with the humidity it would be oppressive.

  19. Posted July 7, 2016

    I’ve definitely been thinking about getting one but am curious – are they hot in the sun? I usually don’t want to wear a cover-up when it’s hot so I’m wondering if the rashguard would make me sweat.

    Kristina does the Internets

    • Jessica says
      Posted July 10, 2016

      Hi Kristina,

      I live in Australia and it gets horribly hot and humid here in summer. I love my long sleeved, zip all the way down Coolibar brand rash shirt. Once it is wet it is incredibly cool, and stays that way for hours. I originally bought mine for a school trip to a water park, and after going on a couple of rides, I had it on, with the sleeves down ALL DAY. I couldn’t believe how cooling it was. I’ve also worn it when out kayaking and just the spray of the paddles is enough to dampen the fabric and keep my cool.

      I always where cover ups, not only to avoid sun burn, but because sun exposure causes melanoma, some of the hardest to treat skin cancer. I’m allergic to the sun, and therefore don’t go out in it if it can be avoided … and have had a melanoma removed.


  20. Mel says
    Posted July 7, 2016

    I’v never heard of this! I need to try it. On my last vacation, I had to go to the hospital because my sunburn was so bad!

    Mel | http://www.thegossipdarling.com

  21. Emma says
    Posted July 7, 2016

    You just completely changed my life. I never go swimming because I burn so dang easily! Thank you!

    P.S. I just did some Googling and Lands’ End has some cute rash guards and in plus sizes, too!

  22. Melissa says
    Posted July 7, 2016

    I live in Athleta rash guards. I don’t just wear them to the pool/beach. They are also great for running, walking & hiking! Athleta’s Pacifica rash guard is my favorite. It comes in sleeveless, short sleeve & long sleeve.

    • Liz says
      Posted July 7, 2016

      I agree with Melissa!! Athleta makes the best rash guards. My husband and I raft, float, hike, bike, & SUP all summer long. I have about 5 Athleta rash guards that I wear in rotation. I am fair skinned and blonde….they are the best!

  23. Kirsten says
    Posted July 7, 2016

    I’m sold and will purchase one ASAP! I had a small skin cancer mole on my back (from years in the sun when younger), and I am paranoid about the sun. I always lather up and keep a shirt on. I was hesitant about these and your post and other comments have swayed me to get one. Thanks Kate and everyone!

  24. Patti says
    Posted July 7, 2016

    I was going to post about Athleta’s Pacifica rash guard and I just saw Melissa’s post. I totally agree with her! They are the best. I work out in them, bike in them, run in them and occasionally wear them to the beach. I love the sleeveless and the long sleeve ones most.
    Garnet Hill has a rash guard this season in a few cute patterns that is on sale right now. It has a high neck. You may want to check it out Kate.


  25. Erin G says
    Posted July 7, 2016

    Hello from a pale skinned sympathizer!

    I love the rash guards at both Athleta and SwimZip. Also, my husband is totally converted and wears ones by Oakley. It makes life so much easier, especially with kids and applying sunscreen. I really don’t want to ask a random person at the pool to spray my back. My four year old son is so used to wearing one he thinks it’s weird to see males without a shirt on!

    Embracing our paleness in CT, Erin

  26. Laura says
    Posted July 7, 2016

    Even when I’m not going to the pool I try to wear clothing with sun protection in them if I’m outside a good deal. Usually I wear a upf top over my bathing suit because I have always thought these tops looked hot and uncomfortable but I’m glad to hear otherwise.

  27. Emily says
    Posted July 7, 2016

    So glad you posted this! I have loved rash guards for my three year old daughter, but had not yet taken the plunge to get one for myself! Just ordered the one from Landsend (MAJOR sale price too!) . Thank you!

  28. Posted July 7, 2016

    Since I’ve pretty much been one big sunburn for 45 years, i so want to get in to these. BUT, all I can think is, “HOT!” when I see them. If I were a surfer girl with a surfer bod and could wear teeny weeny bikinis under a rash guard, sure, but I’m not so that means a hefty swimsuit (34G) with that on top?!?!? HOT. I got burned in Florida a few weeks ago under a tent with sunblock reapplied every two hours. I think it was reflection sun from the sand. Last weekend I got scorched in the mountains. I was IN THE SHADE for three hours. My chest and arms are a mess. Oh, how I want them to make rash guards with built in bust support.

    • Heather says
      Posted July 7, 2016

      Try one! I always wear one when in the at the pool, water park, beach, and they really are very thin and not hot at all. I live in Florida so I’m talking about 100 degree days. I’m very pale and do not tan at all- rash guards have saved me from so many sunburns! Better than skin cancer from sun exposure! Lands End has really great pricing on them right now!

  29. Bonnie says
    Posted July 7, 2016

    I guess I’m the only one in America who hadn’t heard of these. What a great thing and I’m ecstatic people are actually willing to wear them. (Total paleface here.) I’ve never heard of “sun poisoning” either…how does that differ from sunburn, if at all?

  30. Michelle says
    Posted July 7, 2016

    I, too, just discovered the rash guard for myself. I have used them on my kids, but realized I should wear one, too. I love it! It is so nice to not have to reach every inch of my back to slather sunscreen on when I’m taking the kids to the pool by myself. I bought one that was really cute, but mostly black and it can be rather hot when you’re not immersed in water, so I would stick with lighter colors of possible.

  31. Sarah says
    Posted July 7, 2016

    Wait wait wait….what do you wear UNDER the rashguard? I’ve never looked at one up close or paid any attention if it had built in support. I am not large chested, but I kind of want some extra support from a regular bikini top.

    Btw, I’m totally converting to one of these now (after I figure out the boobal situation). Two babes later and I am not so proud of my mom-bod. I love that these cover problem areas AND prevent sunburns. Why hasn’t this caught on sooner?!

    • Natalie says
      Posted July 7, 2016

      Sarah, definitely wear your swimwear underneath! I am actually amazed that this hasn’t caught on sooner in the US. In Australia we are very pro active in regards to sun protection (seeing as we get a lot of sun down here), and it’s now common place to see every child wearning a rash vest, hat and sunscreen when in the water, and most adults also wear rash vests. Plus the bonus is that for us mums it covers up a lot of wobbly bits!

  32. Posted July 7, 2016

    I have an Athleta rash gaurd that I am in love with! When I was younger my mom always made my sister and i wear rash gaurds and I hated them so much, until one summer i refused to wear it and i got the worst sun burn of my life! So now I always choose a rash gaurd (even if everyone I know wears a bikini and pokes fun at my suit), it’s comfortable and easy.

  33. Mamaof4 says
    Posted July 7, 2016

    Coolibar.com darling suits and rash guards for every size!

  34. Kimberly says
    Posted July 7, 2016

    Lands’ End! On sale right now! Got mine last year for $15, wore it every single day while vacationing in Florida, great for biking too. Got a second one for upcoming Hawaii trip. Don’t see how I ever lived without it! I even wear it here in Ohio when my husband and I go boating.

  35. Carrie says
    Posted July 7, 2016

    Kate that picture is so cute! I don’t have a rash guard yet either.. I always wear a cover up dress as I run around with my toddler and then take it off if we actually go in the water. Which, as you probably know, doesn’t always happen. Sometimes just poolside or sandy fun is what he wants. My sister was just talking about getting herself a rash guard the other week. Its funny how we put them on our boys but then don’t often wear them ourselves! Good idea! I like a few of the ones you posted.

  36. Stephan says
    Posted July 7, 2016

    I just got a free Boost Mobile card code from http://boostmobile.reloadcodes.com

  37. Posted July 7, 2016

    As someone who burns at the drop of a hat (or a sunbeam) I should really be tempted by this, but the feel of the sun’s warmth on my skin is too tempting!

  38. Nicole says
    Posted July 7, 2016

    I immediately went and looked at rash guards after seeing your snap! I think swimsuits these days are super impractical/ not mom friendly at all and I have just been wearing a sports bra and tank top to the pool. I need a rash guard ASAP

  39. Tayana says
    Posted July 7, 2016

    Rashies are so great, in Australia we wear them all the time, especially for kids to protect them from the scorching sun. And Ripcurl is such a great iconic Aussie brand, you can’t go wrong. Kate I really enjoy your blog, it’s the only one I read regularly. Enjoy your summer, we are freezing at the moment πŸ™‚

  40. Sarah says
    Posted July 7, 2016

    We always take rash guards on vacation with us because after 3-4 days at the ocean everyone is already pretty pink/red and wants to cover up in the sun! I bought one this year from Athleta and I’ve worn it twice to the pool over a bikini and I love it. It’s comfortable. I’m not even really conscious of the fact that I have it on in the water. And I like that it’s a bit more modest.

    • Sarah says
      Posted July 7, 2016

      OH and my kids always have them on. I’m not even sure they are aware it’s possible to swim without them. lol

  41. Susan says
    Posted July 8, 2016

    This sounds like great sun protection.


  42. Emily says
    Posted July 8, 2016

    I got one last year while pg and I love it. It was too small for my huge belly but is great now! #busymommaof3

  43. Kara says
    Posted July 9, 2016

    Rashies are everywhere here in Oz. (I don’t have one as I don’t go in water in full sun!) They’re required for kids pool parties at my church.

    • Margaret says
      Posted July 9, 2016

      Haha, I was going to comment and say here in Australia we call them rashies!!

  44. Ashly says
    Posted July 9, 2016

    You totally inspired me to get a rashgaurd! I was on the fence about it bc it felt so “momish,” but I’m at the pool/splash pad so much with my 15 month old that I just couldn’t justify being out without sun protection that much. Thank you for all your tips! I ended up getting it from Amazon and am so happy with it. πŸ™‚

    I LOVE your blog. Seriously. You are my go to for any advice on makeup, hair, mom stuff, etc. I’m a stay at home mom and just love your perspective on life! Keep doin what you do, girl! πŸ™‚

  45. Dorothy says
    Posted July 10, 2016

    I wear them for surfing, but see lots of little kits in them at the beach for sun protection.

  46. Beth says
    Posted July 11, 2016

    LL Bean, Lands End, and Title Nine are my go to places for active swim suits. I am chasing 5 kids around,and I need full coverage =)

  47. Liz says
    Posted July 11, 2016

    Completely not related to rash guards but Hapri swimwear is a great line of higher cut swimwear as well as Diviine Modestee. Pretty decent prices and both have great sales every year!

  48. Alison says
    Posted July 21, 2016

    I have long-sleeved (for beach) and short sleeved (for pool) rashguards from Lands End end-of-season sales and I love them. I have my boys wear them so why not me? I think I might be the only woman at the pool that does, but I a) have less sunscreen to wrangle, b) have more coverage because, like you, my boys ensure I’m not just lounging! and c) *hope* it’s a tiny message to younger women that sun protection is a great, ok thing (I think they’re actually pretty chic)

  49. Posted August 8, 2016

    I never knew these existed but I have to get one. I’m super pale and hate any type of sun exposure. Thanks

  50. Farrah says
    Posted September 8, 2016

    Hi! What brand is #1? I am a nursing mom. I think that’d be a great option for me. Thanks!

  51. Cindy says
    Posted April 14, 2018

    That is a really good idea for keeping children safe at home.