When you participate in water sports, there are many things that can cause skin irritation or damage. Particularly, harmful sun rays can quickly burn you when you are out on the ocean. For diving or snorkeling, you may come across objects in the water like jellyfish or general debris that can cause discomfort. It's always a nice feeling to have an extra layer of protection - and that's where a rash guard comes in.
When choosing a rash guard, you need to consider when you will be wearing it and what water sports you will be doing. You want to make sure it has a good amount of UV protection, durability, and flexibility to allow you to move easily in the water. Here are a few tips and reviews to help you find the best rash guard for diving and snorkeling for your next outdoor adventure
Our top Pick
Best Rash Guards for Scuba Diving and Snorkeling
Best Overall Rash Guard
Features At a Glance
- SPF 50
- 4-way stretch
- Relaxed fit
- Quick drying and comfortable
- Lots of stretch
- Excellent sun protection
Designed to ease the surfing experience, the BPS Men’s Swim Shirt is made from a premium lycra material that dries super quickly. Mixed with a little poly fabric, this swim shirt helps it stretch in four different ways. This breathable rash guard also provides up to 50+ UPF sun protection and can block out UV rays on the hottest days.
Offering a roomy neck collar and sleeves, the BPS Men’s Swim Shirt provides additional sun protection for your neck and arms. Featuring a connector loop at the bottom for board shorts, the shirt is prevented from rolling up periodically. With minimal seam placement, this rash guard has a relaxed and comfortable fit that is also lightweight.
Available in several colors including cream, charcoal grey, black, and white, this swim shirt also comes with a warranty. Not only is this swim shirt guaranteed for 12 months, but you can also replace it or return it for a complete refund.
Best Value Rash Guard
Featuring an attractive design, the Quiksilver Long Sleeve Rash Guard was created to complement any wetsuit as well as provide some insulation. Providing optimal warmth to your body, this rash guard is perfect for exploring cold water conditions. With a four-way stretch, this rash guard will guarantee the perfect fit to your body, plus it won’t shit or ride upon you even when you are completely drenched.
With its appealing style, the Quiksilver Rash Guard is a great value thanks to its aesthetics and durability. Made with a mix of polyester and elastane, this rash guard is rugged and strong. It also offers UPF 50 UV protection, and, when you wear it, this rash guard will protect your many different elements without having to compromise at all.
This rash guard has a more form-fitting style (performance fit) compared to the slightly more relaxed fit of the BPS rash guard.
Highest Quality Rash Guard
Offering a tight fit as well as flexibility, the O’Neill Men’s Rash Guard has a UPF over 50. Made with a combination of spandex and polyester, this rash guard can give you a four-way stretch. It also has great sweat-wicking and breathability thanks to the polyester.
Providing balanced temperatures in warm and cool water, the O’Neill Men’s Rash Guard is comfortable, durable, and fast-drying due to its spandex content. With minimal seal placement, this swim shirt offers the best in protection from rashes along with most functionality. This form-fitting rash vest provides an adequately tight layer on your wetsuit or skin.
Improving both maneuverability and speed, the O’Neill Men’s Rash Guard also improves your overall performance. With seamless paddle zones that are strategically placed, this rash guard also helps to enhance your motion in the water. It is available in a range of sizes, colors, and sleeve styles, plus, it offers a comfortable grip.
Best Women's Rash Guard
Popular for water adventures, the Cressi Long Sleeve Rash Guard is great for snorkeling and surfing as well as diving and paddling sports. This is a versatile long-sleeve rash guard that will protect your skin from exposure to any harmful elements, in or out of the water. Plus, it’s insulated allowing you to wear it for many different types of water sports.
With a UV protection rating of 40, the Cressi Long Sleeve Rash Guard gives you a decent amount of coverage. Made of a mix of nylon and spandex, this rash guard is super flexible and can accommodate any body type for a perfect fit. Just keep in mind that it does run small in size.
If you are willing to spend a few more dollars on a rash guard, the Platinum Sun Rash Guard is a great choice. Made with lycra-spandex, this rash guard is flexible and rugged. This is a premium made rash guard that is unique when compared to all the choices on the market today.
Featuring an anti-glide feature, this rash guard has a silicone line and a flatlock stitch that will also improve the overall convenience and comfort that you feel when you wear it. The Platinum Sun Rash Guard also prevents rashes and skin irritation.
Offering a UV protection rating of 30, the Platinum Sun Rash Guard uses fabrics with antibacterial properties. You also don’t have to worry about odors. This is a very versatile rash guard that can be used for surfing, swimming, and kayaking.
Offering UV protection up to 50+, the Huge Sports Long Sleeve Rash Guard is made with 20 percent Spandex and 80 percent nylon. Offering great stretching ability, this is a great rash guard to wear while snorkeling thanks to its flexibility. Featuring two-way stretch, this vest will stabilize your muscle movement through compression helping to prevent exertion or fatigue.
Featuring sweat-wicking and breathable material, the Huge Sports Long Sleeve Rash Guard is able to balance temperatures and release extra heat and moisture from your body. Perfect for typical athletic water sports like snorkeling, swimming, surfing, and kayaking, this 50+ UPF sun protection rash guard helps to prevent sunburn on your arms, chest, and neck.
This rash guard is available in short sleeves and offers a unique look with an asymmetric design. It also offers repeated and irregular patterns in 3D versions. This fast-drying rash guard offers exemplary stitching that is elastic and strong. Plus, these stitches are wider with very precise lines that add to the stylish appearance of the rash guard.
Rash Guard Buying Guide
What is a Rash Guard?
Often called a swim shirt, a rash guard is a multi-purpose shirt that was created to be worn for in-water activities. The term rash guard was derived from surfers that first used them to protect themselves from a rash that could be brought on by the board and friction.
Today a rash guard is created for many uses. Kids often use on to stop their arms and chest from getting sunburned while beachgoers and swimmers will also use them for UV protection. And, instead of a wet suit, snorkelers and divers use a rash guard in warm water.
Why Is It Important to Wear a Rash Guard?
Protecting your skin from exposure to the sun and chaffing, a rash guard can be made with any fabric. Typically, a rash guard will be designed like a shirt with some designs available as shorts. Made with fabrics like nylon polyester, and spandex, rash guards are usually lightweight and can be worn under a wet suit.
During warm weather, a rash guard can be worn instead of a wet suit. In colder conditions, you can wear one under a wetsuit to stay warm. Plus, they can protect you from harmful UV rays.
Choosing the Best Rash Guards
Types of Rash Guards
Thermal Rash Guards
Ideal for added warmth when you are in cold water, thermal rash guards are a good choice when you will be in cold water for long periods of time. Typically used for ocean sports or aqua aerobics, a thermal rash guard is made with insulated fabrics to provide warmth. The thickness of the rash guard is measured in millimeters where the higher the number, the warmer it is.
A surf shirt is mostly used to protect your skin from the sun. unlike a rash guard, a surf shirt is lightweight and loose-fitting. Too loose to be used for surfing, surf shirts are typically worn like a regular shirt.
Rash Guard Vest
A rash guard vest is a good choice for added warmth when participating in ocean sports. Either used under a wetsuit or by itself, a rash guard vest provides flexibility and maneuverability, which can be helpful in any type of athletic activity. A rash guard vest gives your core an extra layer of warmth, however, it won’t be warm enough to use in cold water activities.
Full-body Rash Guard
A full-body rash guard has the same fit and is made out of similar materials as a typical rash guard, but with a full-body wetsuit design. Used for many types of ocean sports, a full-body rash guard can be worn under a wetsuit or alone. Full-body rash guards are commonly used for surfing, kite surfing, windsurfing, water skiing, wakeboarding, kayaking, and canoeing.
Things to Consider
Rash guards are also a good choice if you just want general sun protection. Depending on the UPF level, they can provide coverage for anyone that doesn’t want too much sun exposure. Since they are lightweight and come in both long and short sleeves, you can easily find one that is comfortable and will offer you the protection you need while hanging out on the beach or are doing any outdoor activity or sport.
Available in different sizes, a rash guard is like typical clothing. But, you really want your rash guard choice to be based on your planned activities.
If you are going to be doing intense activities or competitions like kayaking, swimming, and surfing, you want to choose a rash guard that has a tight fit. You don’t want something that will fly around your body, which will increase your possibility of chafing and decrease hydrodynamics.
Made out of neoprene, nylon, spandex, or polyester, a rash guard can also be a combination of any of the four. Typically, a rash guard is airy and lightweight, which makes them very comfortable.
Offering UPF protection, rash guards can protect from UVB and UVA. Each rash guard will have a different UV rating, but the rash guards with a high UPF will give you the best UV protection.
FAQs (frequently asked questions)
Will a Rash Guard Keep You Warm?
While a rash guard is designed to protect you from abrasion as well as the damaging effect from the sun, it can also provide you with warmth when you wear it under a wetsuit.
Can You use a Rash Guard for Swimming?
Of course. A rash guard offers protection and warmth. You don’t have to worry about chafing or encounter harmful particles in the pool water.
Will a Rash Guard Shrink?
A rash guard can’t shrink since it is made from natural fibers. Rash guards can be made from neoprene, spandex, nylon, and polyester, which are all artificial fibers.
Should You Wear a Rash Guard when you are in the Pool?
Since a rash guard is made from materials that are also in a typical swimsuit, they are completely appropriate for the pool. However, rash guards tend to be lighter and can handle the effects of being in a pool with chlorine. Plus, they don’t have loose fibers that could clog up a pool filter.
Is there a Difference Between Dry Shirts and Rash Guards?
Of course, there is a difference. The rash guard is more breathable and is the best in warm water conditions. Dry shirts, on the other hand, can be worn in colder conditions and it doesn’t absorb water like rash guards.
Do You Need a Rash Guard for Snorkeling?
Known as a rashie or rash vest, a rash guard is an athletic shirt that is made with a stretchable material like polyester, nylon, or spandex. This is a piece of protective clothing that will guard you against getting sunburns or rashes caused by abrasion.
You can wear a rash guard by itself, or under a wetsuit. Other benefits of a rash guard include:
Offering good sun protection, rash guards typically offer some SPF protection and provide a cover against UV rays that can damage your skin as you play in the water.
Sting protection is another benefit of a rash guard. It will protect you from getting stung by jellyfish corals, and rocks.
Providing an additional layer of protection, rash guards are a great choice when snorkeling and encountering animals in the water. If you don’t like feeling them moving past you, then a rash guard will protect you from their touch.
Rash guards are available in a range of types that include short and long-sleeved shirts as well as full-body coverage from your head to the bottom of your legs.
If you are serious about protecting your skin, getting a rash guard is a good first step. Not only will it protect your skin from chaffing, but it can also keep it protected from the sun’s damaging effects. Just make sure that you find the rash guard with the right fit, durability, and protection that you need for diving, snorkeling, and the other water activities you'll be engaging in.