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A rash guard is an essential wardrobe item for anyone with a passion for watersports. You can wear them on their own to protect against surfboard chafing, sunburn, and jellyfish stings; or you can wear them under your wetsuit to provide an added layer of insulation. When choosing your rash guard, things to look out for include UPF sun protection, comfortable flatlock stitching, and a good amount of stretch provided by materials like spandex and polyester. Read on for our pick of the best rash guards to buy this year.
Our Top Picks
Best Overall (Men): O’Neill Men’s Basic Skins Long-Sleeve Rash Guard
Those who want a classic rash guard from one of the most respected names in the watersports industry should opt for the O’Neill Men’s Basic Skins Long-Sleeve Rash Guard. A performance fit shirt with a comfortable crew neck, it’s designed to act as a second skin and is ideal for warmer climates. It provides UPF 50+ UV protection and is recommended by the Skin Cancer Foundation. The six-ounce polyester/spandex material is durable, quick-drying and exceptionally stretchy, giving you great freedom of movement.
It’s also breathable, allowing heat and moisture to escape, so you stay cooler for longer when you’re not in the water. Flatlock stitching looks good and minimizes the likelihood of seams chafing against your skin. The seams are also strategically placed to avoid surfer paddle zones for the same reason. Choose from a wide selection of sizes and colors, ranging from basic black to more adventurous red or lime. Whichever color you go for, your shirt features the distinctive O’Neill logo on the front and back. Women’s versions are also available elsewhere on Amazon.
Best Overall (Women): Kanu Surf Women’s Keri Long-Sleeve Rash Guard
Although many of the items on this list are either unisex or available in women’s versions, the Kanu Surf Women’s Keri Long-Sleeve Rash Guard is a great option designed specifically for ladies. It is simultaneously functional and flattering, offering UPF 50+ UV protection and a slimmer rash guard fit. Made from 86 percent polyester/14 percent spandex, it is quick-drying and breathable - making it ideal for use both onshore and in the water.
The long raglan sleeves and banded crewneck provide ultimate sun protection, while the seams are well-placed to avoid contact with your surfboard. There are 10 colors to choose from, all with a contrasting screen-printed logo on the chest. Choose feminine shades of aqua, coral or pink; or opt for gender-neutral colors like navy or slate gray. Either way, your rash guard is machine washable. Note that sizes range from XS to XL.
Best Thermal: Lavacore Long-Sleeve Shirt for Scuba and Water Sports
The Lavacore Long-Sleeve Shirt has an ingenious three-layer design that helps it to provide superior protection against wind chill and surface splash. It’s ideal for wearing under your wetsuit in cooler climates, or as a wetsuit replacement in tropical countries. Reviewers state that it’s particularly well-suited for scuba diving as it’s both neutrally buoyant and very warm, thanks to the inner layer of antibacterial thermal fleece.
The middle layer is wind-proof and breathable, helping to wick perspiration when the insulation works too well. Finally, the outer layer is water-resistant, allowing the rash guard to dry quickly once you’re above water. The four-way stretch material offers excellent freedom of movement, while gussets sewn into the underarms ensure that you can stretch your arms to their full extent. Available in black only, the rash guard comes in a range of sizes and boasts SFP 30+ sun protection.
Best Short-Sleeve: Speedo Men’s UPF 50+ Short-Sleeve Rash Guard
Short-sleeve rash guards may not provide the same level of sun and chafing protection as long-sleeve shirts, but many people prefer them for their increased movement and cooler feel. This is certainly the case with the Speedo Men’s UPF 50+ Short-Sleeve Rash Guard, which reviewers love for its looser fit. It’s a flattering option for those with a bulkier build, and a welcomed alternative for anyone who finds skin-tight clothing claustrophobic.
Made from 100 percent polyester, this swim shirt-style rash guard features a crew neck and raglan sleeves for a greater range of motion. It’s quick-drying and boasts UPF 50+ sun protection to save your skin from damage on hot summer days. Choose from a range of colors including black, granite and cyan and enjoy the stylish look of the shirt’s contrast stitching.
Best Full Body: NeoSport Full Body Sports Skin
The NeoSport Full Body Sports Skin is intended for use in tropical countries for head-to-toe protection from UV rays or biological irritants (including sea lice and jellyfish stings). Although it offers minimal insulation, it can also be worn under your wetsuit to prevent chafing or to simplify the process of getting your suit on and off.
Made of Lycra spandex, the rash guard is naturally form-fitting, helping to reduce drag in the water. It features a long front zipper, and stirrups that prevent the legs from riding up and becoming uncomfortable. Reviewers love the fact that the suit provides full body protection yet is so lightweight that it is easy to roll up and transport in your beach bag or suitcase. Sizes range from XS to XXXL.
Best Neoprene: ScubaPro Hybrid-T Rash Guard
Available in men’s and women’s sizes, the ScubaPro Hybrid-T Rash Guard is a great choice for scuba divers. It combines conventional FlexTec material on the sleeves, sides and collar with 1mm neoprene panels on the front and back torso. The FlexTec provides UV sun protection and enough freedom of movement to make the rash guard easy to put on and take off.
The neoprene panels provide added insulation and dry quickly to prevent evaporative heat loss. They are also ideally placed in high-friction areas to defend against chafing from your BC and weight belt, helping to increase the rash guard’s lifespan. The collar is higher than that of your average crew neck rash guard, preventing irritation from your wetsuit’s neck seal. Order yours in black or black/blue.
Best Compression: Elite Sports Long-Sleeve Compression Rash Guard
Not all rash guards are intended for watersports. The Elite Sports Long-Sleeve Compression Rash Guard is custom-made for martial arts training, including MMA, Brazilian jiu-jitsu and kickboxing. Polyester/spandex compression material encourages better blood flow, improving your performance and recovery time. The material is also treated to prevent bacterial growth after a sweaty workout session. Anti-slip bands at the waist and sleeves stop the rash guard from riding up mid-fight, while honeycomb inserts on the back and underarms provide added strength. Approved for IBJJF and EBI tournaments, the rash guard comes in sizes S to XXL and is equally comfortable for men and women.
Best for Kids: City Threads Little Boys & Girls Rash Guard
One of the most popular kids’ rash guards on Amazon, the City Threads Little Boys & Girls Rash Guard comes in sizes 2T to 6. You can opt for long-sleeve or short-sleeve versions depending on how much sun protection you want; while a rainbow of available colors ensures there’s something to suit the tastes of every pint-sized customer. Most importantly, the rash guard offers UPF 50+ protection and is made using safe dyes that won’t irritate your child’s sensitive skin. Made in the USA, the high-quality, silky soft fabric is designed to last, while contrast stitching adds a stylish element for budding fashionistas.
What to Look for in a Rash Guard
Material You’ll want material in your rash guard that gives you plenty of movement and flexibility—the larger the range of motion, the better. Spandex and polyester are going to be your best friends for a great day on the board, and keep an eye out for flatlock stitching for added comfort.
UPF Fabric technology has come a long way in rash guards in recent years, and many have sun protection built right in. Look for rash guards that have UPF protection to ensure that you're keeping your skin safe from the sun's harmful rays.
Short-sleeve or long-sleeve Traditionally, rash guards have been long-sleeved, mostly to guard against the sun and chafing that comes along with a day of movement during watersports. Some rash guards are short-sleeve, though, and offer a greater range of motion. So figure out which style is most comfortable for you.