Originally developed to protect surfers’ bodies from the waxy, sandy surface of their boards, rash guards have become increasingly noticeable among swimmers. These lightweight, quick-drying shirts offer numerous benefits for both pool and beach swimming. Consider your needs and budget before you buy, then have fun choosing the color and style that most appeal to you.
Keeping You From the Chill
For cold-water swimming, rash guards offer warmth. The tightly woven fabric of the stretchy shirts is available in different thicknesses and with different sleeve lengths. Often worn as an additional layer under a wetsuit to add warmth and prevent chafing, when worn alone, rash guards can keep you from feeling chilled when you swim. Because a rash guard’s fabric dries more quickly than a regular garment, you're likely to warm up more quickly when you leave the water.
Ease of Movement
The snug fit of a rash guard translates into greater ease of movement and improved safety conditions in the water. Cotton T-shirts become heavy and cumbersome when wet, which can restrict your range of motion significantly. Your head and limbs can get caught in the fabric as you swim and weigh you down. Because rash guards are light, stretchy and relatively formfitting, you won’t become encumbered by the fabric.
Protection from Sunburn
The American Cancer Society suggests wearing protective clothing to prevent direct skin exposure to the sun’s damaging rays, adding that tightly woven fabrics that are treated to absorb the sun’s ultraviolet rays are a helpful tool for preventing skin cancer. Rash guards are often labeled according to the sun protection factor. The American Cancer Society does warn that covering up with a rash guard or other protective garment doesn't block out all ultraviolet rays.
Before You Go to the Pool
If you plan to wear a rash guard to your local indoor or outdoor pool, check pool regulations to confirm that rash guards are permitted. Many pools do not allow swimmers to wear anything but bathing suits in the pool. And check your rash guard’s care label to determine how best to preserve the fabric. If you plan to wear the garment when swimming indoors, check the manufacturer’s tips or warnings to establish whether the garment can safely be exposed to chlorine.
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Judy Fisk has been writing professionally since 2011, specializing in fitness, recreation, culture and the arts. A certified fitness instructor with decades of dance training, she has taught older adults, teens and kids. She has written educational and fundraising material for several non-profit organizations and her work has appeared in numerous major online publications. Fisk holds a Bachelor of Arts in public and international affairs from Princeton University.