As a parent, having a pool day or beach adventure with your kids most likely isn’t the relaxing luxury it once was. Between making sure everyone’s avoiding the deep end or staying out of the surf at high tide to slathering on more family safe SPF every 20 minutes to wrangling floaties and swim diapers and baby sunglasses (whew!), it’s a lot more work than it used to be. Which is why those teeny string bikinis you used to wear are, quite frankly, no longer up to the task at hand (not that they have to be total mom bathing suits, either). Enter rash guards, the comfy, chic—and yes, functional—alternative you need for your next water day.
Rash guards are the swim version of a mom cardigan (we mean no shade!), equating to waaaay less tugging and zero re-tying so you can keep your mind on other matters, like how to keep sand off those sandwiches you lovingly prepped for lunch. Full-coverage rash guards also offer extra sun protection, so you have one less thing to worry about (but please still wear SPF underneath, too!).
We’ve rounded up the best rash guards for women and men in a range of options, from long sleeve to short sleeve, from one-piece rash guard swimsuits to crop tops. Find your fave, then sit back and revel in its sheer functionality. We found the best skin-safe rash guards for kids as well. You’re welcome!
Rash Guards Under $50
If you’re in the market for something a little feminine, don’t miss Aerie’s floral print rash guard. We’re obsessed with the flowery pattern on this ocean blue top—a little fashion romance even when you’re kickin’ it in the kiddie pool? Sold. Post playtime, with a giant sunhat, round frame sunglasses and denim shorts, you’re basically brunch-ready, too. Aerie is known for their bold and bright swimwear, and this rash guard is no exception—it’s pretty yet practical for the mama who works hard and plays hard. Pair it with the matching floral bikini bottom or with your own pastel or black one plus your best Birkenstocks, and wait for the compliments to roll in. Available in sizes XXS up to XXL.
When it’s total sun protection you’re after, slip on this mock neck top and don’t worry about shoulder or back burn again. You can wear this pulled down (almost like a mini dress) or ruched up at the sides for more movement while doing activities (yes, lawn sports count).
There are 6 bright, poppy colors to choose from, in addition to white, black and navy. So basically this matches all of your suits and looks sporty enough to wear with your cut-offs and flip flops. Walking the boardwalk? Perfect when pulled over your swimsuit yet you can still get the all-over sun protection. More than 2,000 stellar reviews on Amazon tell us this is a winner. They all sounded similar to this one, “I purchased it for a sunny trip to the beach and I found it it was the perfect protection for my skin and especially my shoulders. It is super slimming and looks fantastic because you can pull it down to make it look like a dress I plan on getting it in every color I possibly can!”
While you’re stocking up on rash guards and swimsuits for the littles at Old Navy, grab a short-sleeve rash guard for Dad, too. This affordable option offers UPF-50+ sun protection and is formulated with a quick-drying nylon so he’ll stay cool and comfortable in between games of water polo (or Marco Polo with the kids). “Nice and thick, not see-through. Great color and material!” notes Danielle on Old Navy’s website. “This rashguard looks like a T-shirt and is great for a run,” says Krys C. With a crewneck and a minimal graphic print, it’s a solid choice for the guy who wants a little casual coverage at the pool or the beach—or just a comfortable athletic shirt to wear for summer workouts. Available in regular, big and tall sizing, there’s sure to be a fit for every dude.
If you’re just looking for a little more bust coverage, this cropped rash guard might be the happy medium you’ve been seeking. It adds extra support over your bikini top, meaning you can layer this on over your suit for any and all water sports (yes, that includes catching your kids as they zoom down the slip ‘n’ slide) and not worry about your girls um, slipping and sliding all over the place. Made from quick-drying, UPF-50+ fabric, this smooth, sleek white tropical-print crop top is sporty and chic. Pair it with solid bottoms or mix it up with a funsy print. It also looks summertime ready with wide-leg linen pants for drinks on your deck after pool time’s over. If you don’t want to be seen in the same top every single day, there’s a darker version available as well.
For the dad who’s always diving into the deep end with your oldest kiddo, a rash guard will keep him protected from the elements (the errant kick or fingernail scratch?) as well as armored against any harmful rays. Patagonia’s long-sleeved rashguard top is super lightweight and made from recycled polyester but also is UPF-50+, ideal if he’s always reluctant to reapply his SPF. Reviewers love this shirt for everything from surfing, swimming, fishing and cycling, as it keeps guys cool and comfortable. “I bought these for my husband for Father’s Day and he loves them,” says Morgan H. on Patagonia’s website. “He’s found that they are just as comfortable while mowing the grass as sitting by the pool. They look great, wash well, and feel cool.”
Ripcurl’s coral zip-up long-sleeve rash guard channels all those ‘70s surfer flicks in the best way, and we’re here for it. The full-zip is a major plus–meaning you can easily pop it on or take it off—no tugging over your ponytail. We can’t decide what we love more—the subtle pattern and flattering paneling or the UPF-50 sun protection. This swim shirt is fitted and unlined, so it’s best worn layered over your two-piece for added support if you’re going to be doing sporty things. But for lounging poolside or lightly supervising your kiddos with your toes in the sand, just pair this pretty rash guard with matching bottoms and grab a can of seltzer, Mama. It’s slim-fitting, so if you’d like it to be roomier like a true jacket, size up.
Rash Guards Under $100
Boden’s navy striped short-sleeved rash guard channels your fave striped tee—meaning that it goes with practically any look and is eternally chic. Pair this classic swim shirt with the matching swim shorts for a pulled-together look, or pair it with a solid navy or something bright—pink, perhaps? It’ll work with anything. Reviewers note that it’s lightweight and super flattering (note those navy side panels) without being too formfitting. The half-zip top lets you control the amount of skin you want to show—and the cap sleeves mean you’ll get shoulder coverage without having to worry about getting your sleeves wet. Wear this without a second thought at all your summer pool parties and you’ll be comfy allllll season long.
If you’re not one to shy away from brights, this hibiscus-pink, long-sleeve rash guard has your name all over it. Preppy yet modern, sporty yet chic, the navy accent stripes and paneling lend a fun geometric look that can amp up even the most basic black swimsuits. Made from 75% recycled materials, this sustainable swim shirt features slight compression for a snug, secure feel. Summersalt is known for their high-quality construction and incredible fit (they’ve taken more than 1.5 million measurements from 10,000 women—crowdsourcing for the win) and it holds up. Take this punchy rash guard everywhere from your tot’s swim lesson to a family beach day and don’t even think twice about needing to tug at your top.
We’re longtime fans of Roxy’s West Coast-inspired styles that are practically synonymous with chill vibes—and this long-sleeve, one-piece rash guard swimsuit is no exception. Feminine florals meet a sleek navy body suit for the just-right dose of sweet and sporty. This smart one-piece will take you from morning paddleboarding to afternoon beach volleyball and even straight through to a backyard barbecue—just add a pair of bright shorts and sandals. Boasting built-in UV protection, this versatile UPF-50 suit lets you stay out in the sun as long as you like, and the fabric is soft and lightly stretchy but not constraining, so you won’t feel like you’ve been wearing Spanx all day, promise.
Looking for more summer fashion essentials? Spy our picks on everything from swimsuits to sun hats for the whole fam.