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What Is a Rash Guard? | RuffleButts

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What Is a Rash Guard?

Picture this: You head to the beach stocked up on iced drinks, sand toys, and high expectations. But you come home with hot-pink sunburns, scrapes, and rashes in your little one’s tender armpits, and an oath never to go to the beach again. Sound familiar?

Chances are, we’ve all been there. But what you need isn’t less beach—it’s more rash guard protection.

What is a rash guard, exactly?

Rash guards are a simple, comfortable piece of clothing designed to protect your little water lover from sun, sand, and scrapes—whether you’re at the beach, pond, reservoir, or pool. Before you pack up your beach bag, read on for all the details on rash guards, what they’re made from, and how to choose the right baby girl swimsuits for your little swimmer.

A Tradition Passed Down from Surfers to Babies

Originating in Australia—where they’re called “rashies” or “rash vests”—rash guards were initially developed as a protective layer to keep surfers’ chests and belly skin from chafing against the rough surface of their salty, waxy surfboard.

Over time, however, beach-going parents realized that rash guards also make an excellent sun protection device for little ones who are sweating, swimming, and playing all day.

Thus, the rash guard was born—in miniature sizes.

Today, rash guards for children range in size from newborn to big kids, and are available in a wide variety of colors, styles, fabrics, and weights. But no matter their cut or hue, all rash guards are meant to do three things:

  • Protect from chafing due to sand and saltwater
  • Protect from the sun’s harmful UVA and UVB rays
  • Be worn in the water, on the sand, on the pool deck, and even as a coverup

Just because all rash guards share a singular purpose doesn’t mean that there’s only one style available. In fact, it’s quite the contrary.

The Many Styles of Rash Guards

While it started as a rash vest, there are many styles for a kids rash guard. From a pullover t-shirt rash guard to a long-sleeve zippered one-piece, the style of rash guard that’s right for your child depends on several personal factors. So, before heading out to shop for rash guards, consider what is a rash guard shirt and what duties you need it to perform.

Luckily, we’ve already laid out a few style options and the benefits of each:

  • Swim tee – This is the most simple style of rash guard—a short-sleeved, athletic t-shirt that can be used in or out of the water. Paired with or over a swimsuit, the pros of a swim tee are that it’s fast-drying, easy to slip on and off, and can double as an everyday clothing item. The downside of a swim tee is that is leaves the lower arms exposed to the sun and can bunch up if not properly fitted.
  • Long-sleeved swim tee – The long-sleeve rash guard is a popular alternative to the short-sleeve rash guard. While these are a little trickier to get out of when wet (hello, super sticky arms!), they completely protect your child’s tender skin from neck to navel, making them a top choice for a day in the sun. However, you’ll have to be mindful to keep your child’s head, legs, and feet protected by sunscreen or fabric to keep them fully sun-safe.
  • One-piece rash guard suit – What is a rash guard bathing suit? Mostly for toddlers and younger children, a one-piece swimsuit rash guard combines the sun-protective goodness of the long-sleeved swim tee with the convenience of an all-in-one style. A one-piece swimsuit but with long sleeves, this style usually has a zippered back to keep it snug and comfortable throughout the day.
  • High-neck rash guard – A little fabric goes a long way when it comes to the neckline of a rash guard. Because it can be tricky to keep the edge between the neck and the suit properly slathered with sunscreen, having a rash guard that fits a bit higher up is a bonus.
  • Thermal rash guard – Although warmth-providing, a thermal rash guard is geared toward older kids and surfers. It's helpful, as a beach-going parent, to understand the intricacies of thermal rash guards. The “mm” in the description of these rash guards refers to the thickness of the material in millimeters. When there are two numbers in the thickness description, the first number refers to the thickness of the material on the torso, and the second number refers to the thickness of the material on the arms.
  • Wetsuit-style rash guards – Traditionally, a rash guard is meant to be worn alongside or over a regular swimming suit or swim trunks. However, there are certain wetsuit-style rash guards that can entirely take the place of regular swimwear. Thinner than a wetsuit, these rash guards usually have a shorts-style cut and a zip up the front, making them easy to slip on and off and comfortable for all-day wear (unlike a thicker wetsuit).

When shopping for a rash guard, the fabric composition is another important consideration. Many rash guards are made of some combination of the following fabrics:

  • Spandex
  • Nylon
  • Polyester
  • Lycra
  • Neoprene

That said, no matter the overall composition of the rash guard textile, you’ll want to look for UPF-rated material.

But what is UPF clothing? Ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) ratings for fabric are a bit like SPF ratings for sunscreen and are used to indicate much sun protection is provided. It's important to understand the difference between UPF vs SPF and how they each work with sun exposure. UPF refers to how much UV radiation (both UVA and UVB) is absorbed by the fabric prior to reaching the skin beneath. A rating of UPF 50 means 1⁄50 of the sun’s UV rays may reach the skin. In other words, 49⁄50 of the sun’s rays will not. Protecting a child's skin from harmful UV rays is important, especially at such young ages. Wearing a rash guard during water sports and activities is a simple way of ensuring UV protection.

Best Rash Guards for Your Beach-Going Babe

Rash guards can be beach essentials for toddlers and older kids, so choosing the right one is important. With so many styles to choose from, we thought we’d simplify your packing list by narrowing it down to a few of our favorites:

  • Seersucker Ruffled Rash Guard Bikini – This sweet seersucker option is a bikini and rashguard in one. The top features a short-sleeve rash guard with ruffled details, and the bottom offers modest coverage and our signature ruffles on the rear. The best part? Both top and bottom are made with UPF 50+ fabric for maximum protection from the sun.
  • Long-Sleeve Zipper Rash Guard Bikini – If you love the look of a bikini but prefer to have more protection up top, opt for this long-sleeve rash guard instead. It boasts a zipper front which allows for simple dressing and undressing, sun-protective fabric from top to bottom, and an assortment of prints and patterns.
  • Birds of Paradise One-Piece Rash Guard – If a one-piece is your preferred style for the sand and sea, pack your adventure tote with this must-have. Featuring long sleeves, a one-of-a-kind design, and UPF 50+ fabric, you simply can’t go wrong.

How to Fit a Rash Guard Correctly

Choosing the best rash guard for your little one is only half the battle. Now, you’ve got to make sure that the rash guard is properly-sized. While a too-big rash guard will bunch and bag when wet, a too-tight rash guard will be uncomfortable and can even increase the risk of rashes in some cases

Getting the right fit for a rash guard means doing two things:

  • Measuring your child
  • Reading the size chart for the rash guard

This might seem simple enough, but just because your baby is 6 months old doesn’t mean she necessarily fits the 6-month-sized rash guard. You’ll save yourself money and hassle by spending a little time measuring before buying—trust us.

Caring for a Rash Guard

Like other swimwear, rash guards need special care in the laundry and storage. Although it can be tempting to toss them into the washer or leave them in your beach tote at the end of a long day—don’t. By taking a few easy steps, you’ll extend the lifespan and vibrancy of your little one’s rash guard for this whole season and even into the next.

Cleaning a rash guard isn’t hard, but it does require a bit of forethought. Here are a few steps to make the process as seamless as possible:

  • Step 1 – Rinse in cool, fresh (not salt) water as soon as your child is done with the rash guard for the day.
  • Step 2 – Once at home, handwash the rash guard with a gentle biodegradable detergent in cool or lukewarm water.
  • Step 3 – Give the rash guard a gentle shake—don’t wring or twist the garment.
  • Step 4 – Lay flat to dry out of direct sunlight.

Stay Sun-Safe and Sassy with RuffleButts’ Rash Guards

Being mindful of the sun in the summertime can feel like a full-time job. Staying ahead of the sun while at the beach? Phew—that’s a whole new level of parenting.

But at RuffleButts, we’ve got your back.

When combined with a hat and sunscreen on any exposed body parts, a rash guard is the best defense for your little one’s skin while playing in the sun, sand, and saltwater.

At RuffleButts, our collection of rash guards has everything you’re looking for—sun protectant UPF 50+ fabric in standout prints, diaper snaps on many infant sizes, long- or short-sleeves, and zippers for easy on-and-off changes.

In our signature sassy style, there’s something in our UPF-collection that is suited to every little body. You can also shop little boy and little girl swimsuits and accessories to let them be stylish while protected from the sun.

Surf and Chill. Do You Need a Rash Guard for Surfing? https://surfandchill.com/do-you-need-a-rash-gaurd-for-surfing/
Skin Cancer Foundation. Sun Protective Clothing. https://www.skincancer.org/skin-cancer-prevention/sun-protection/sun-protective-clothing/#:~:text=Ultraviolet%20Protection%20Factor%20(UPF)%20indicates,reducing%20your%20exposure%20risk%20significantly.
The American Cleaning Institute. Caring for Rash Guard Clothing. https://www.cleaninginstitute.org/cleaning-tips/clothes/fabric-care/caring-rash-guard-clothing