What Exactly is a Rash Guard?

What Exactly is a Rash Guard?

Do you find wetsuits irritating and uncomfortable on your skin? Or do you sometimes want a little more insulation from your wetsuit? If so, you may well be in the market for a rash guard.

What exactly is a Rash Guard? In short, a rash guard is a thin piece of clothing used to protect your skin from rash and irritation whilst also providing warmth and protection from the sun.

They can be worn underneath a wetsuit for extra insulation and rash protection, or in warmer climates, they can be worn by themselves for rash and sun protection. They’re usually made from materials such as spandex, nylon, polyester or neoprene and are designed to insulate and breathe at the same time.

Rashies are used across all sorts of water sports and are particularly popular among surfers and kayakers as they protect your skin from rashes and irritation that can be experienced from repetitive movement (paddling) or brushing your skin up against rough surfaces (surfboards).

Sun Protection

You’ll find that a lot of the rash guards out there will offer sun protection, with a UPF rating. This means the Ultraviolet Protection Factor and shows how much sun protection the clothing can provide.

The higher the rating, the more protection the clothing can give you. Unlike the ratings given to sunscreen lotions (SPF), the UPF rating can show how much of the sun’s rays can be blocked by the fabric rather than how long you might be able to stay in the sun before you burn.
UPF rated clothing can protect your skin from both UVA and UVB rays.

Temperature Control

Rash guards are often designed for warm weather use when it would be too warm to wear a wetsuit, so they will tend to be lightweight. A rash guard is generally not designed to keep you warm.

The fabric used will often be the lightweight, moisture-wicking fabric that is designed to wick moisture away from your body, which can also help to draw perspiration away.
These moisture-wicking fabrics are also designed for breathability and because of their moisture-wicking properties, they should dry pretty quickly too - meaning if you do sweat, your rash guard shouldn’t theoretically stay wet.

You may come across several materials that can be used in rash guards, each offering different levels of breathability and weights, with polyester being one of the most breathable.


If you’ve been to the beach or pool recently, you might have noticed people wearing rash guards for swimming and they can often be ideal for swimming.

However, you might find that some of the looser fitting options may not be the best choice, as the tighter performance fit options can provide less resistance in the water.

Plus, with the tighter fitting rash guards, there might be less chance of you getting caught on other objects, particularly if you’re surfing too.
A rash guard could provide you with more sun protection than traditional swimwear, which can be a good reason to wear one. This can often be why you might see lots of younger kids wearing them at the beach.

Types of Rashies

Rash guards come in various styles for various uses. Some are made primarily for rash protection and are designed to protect your more sensitive areas such as armpits, nipples, and necks. Others are made more with insulation and sun protection in mind.

Short sleeve rash guards are simple, fitted shirts that cover your shoulders. They’re great for extra insulation under a wetsuit or ideal to wear alone in warmer climates.

Long sleeve rash guards have fitted shirts that cover you up to your wrists. They cover more of your body, providing more insulation and are therefore great for cooler waters.


Rash guards have three major functions. They are designed to protect your skin from rashes and irritation, provide warmth and insulation and also protect your skin from the sun. They come in various styles, all of which catering to different uses and conditions.

When selecting your rash guard, consider whether you will be using it alone or under a wetsuit, what kind of climates and whether you will encounter and finally what kind of activity you will be doing. This will help guide you towards the style you need.


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