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5 Best Rash Guards (For Men And Women Updated 2022)

Table of Contents

Anyone who loves to spend time in or around the water needs a reliable rash guard. It’s a highly versatile piece of kit that will look after you whatever your chosen water activity.

some divers hanging out in rashgaurds around the dive shop

With almost every clothing brand on the planet selling some sort of rash guard, rash vest, or swim shirt it’s not easy to know which one to pick. That’s why we’ve done all the hard work for you and compiled a list of the very best rash guards available.

Simply pick your favorite and get back in the water ASAP!

Want to learn more about these options? Keep reading as below we’ll be reviewing each of these in detail, so you can pick the very best rash guard for you.

What Is A Rash Guard?

A rash guard, also known as a rashie, rash vest, or swim shirt, is a lightweight, stretchy shirt made to be worn for in the water different sport and activities.  They can be worn on their own or layered underneath a wetsuit.

Rash guards are usually made from materials like spandex, lycra, neoprene, nylon, polyester or a combination of them. Typically they come in long or short sleeve options. Depending on the specific features, a rash guard can provide sun protection, thermal protection, and of course, rash prevention.

some rash garuds hanging to dry or some snorkellers wearing rash gaurds in the water

Rash guards were originally worn by surfers to protect them from friction rashes caused by their boards, hence the name. These versatile tops have become a staple piece of kit for a wide range of water sports.

I enjoy them even just for living at the sea, it is a great piece of gear that will protect you from the sun all day. Depending on where you are diving jellyfish are also an issue. I know some will wear a rash guard just to protect from the jellyfish.

Best Rashguards

Although all of these rash guards are versatile enough to be used for pretty much anything, we’ve split up our list into different categories and activities to make it easier for you to choose.

Best Overall

Oneill Rashgaurd for women on white background
Oneill rash guard for men on white background

As one of the most trusted brands in surfing apparel, O’Neill creates high-performance garments that enhance your experience in the water. And this ergonomically designed rash guard is no exception.

Featuring 4-way stretch fabric, this rash guard doesn’t ride up or shift around when you’re in the water. The strategically designed seams and flatlock stitching means there are less chafing and a much greater range of movement than most other rash guards.

This rash guard is breathable and quick-drying, but it’s also exceptionally soft and comfortable. The fabric may seem quite thin, but it’s very durable meaning that this rash guard will last you a long time.

With the highest UPF rating of 50+, the O’Neill Premium Skins Rash Guard is recommended by the Skin Cancer Foundation for its excellent sunburn protection.

When it comes to comfort, style, and performance, the O’Neill Premium Skins Long Sleeve Rash Guard provides incredible value for money.

Also available in women’s fit, the O’Neill Premium Skins Long Sleeve Rash Guard is easily one of the top rash guards available.

What we love

  • 4-way stretch fabric
  • Strategic seam placement
  • Flatlock stitching
  • Quick-drying & breathable
  • 50+ UPF Sun protection
  • Boardshort Connectors
  • Hard-wearing
  • Sleek & stylish design
  • Multiple colors & sizes available for both men & women

Downsides

  • Doesn’t offer any thermal protection
  • No thumb loops

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Best Budget Rashguards

mares trilastic rash guard on white background

If you’re looking for a reliable rash guard on a tight budget then the Mares Trilastic is a great choice.

This no-frills rash guard is lightweight, quick-drying, and comfortable. Perfect for a variety of water sports and traveling.

A high neckline helps keep the sun off the back of your neck.

The flatlock stitching ensures there’s no chaffing and the elongated torso means it’s not prone to riding up. But there are no thumb loops to help keep the rash guard in place when sliding into a wetsuit.

The Mares Trilastic rash guard is also available with long sleeves and in a women’s fit.

What we love

  • Super cheap
  • Breathable & quick drying
  • Variety of colors available
  • Lightweight
  • Flattering fit
  • Excellent sun protection

Downsides

  • Not very long-lasting
  • Doesn’t provide any warmth

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Best Luxury Rash Guards

Looking to invest in a high-performance rash guard? Then these innovative garments are for you.

Mens Oneill Thermo X rash guard on white background
Womens Oneill Thermo X rash guard on white background

Another high-performance rash guard from O’Neill, the Thermo X rash guard is the most versatile rash guard on our list.

It’s incredibly soft, odor-resistant, water-repellant, quick-drying, low-bulk, and lightweight. With the whole garment weighing less than 220g!

The patented Thermo X technology helps regulate your core body temperature whatever climate you’re in. Not only does this rash guard provides incredible thermal insulation without adding any bulk, but it’s also breathable and moisture-wicking. So it’ll also keep you comfortably cool when active.

What’s more, the 4-way stretch fabric and ergonomically designed seams ensure that there’s absolutely no restriction in your movements.

Plus the slim fit looks sexy on everyone! And there’s also a women’s version available.

Although to enjoy the benefits of such an innovative rash guard, you will need to spend a little more.

What we love

  • Ultra-soft & stretchy
  • Great thermal protection
  • UPF 50+ Sun Protection
  • Long-lasting & durable fabric
  • Strategically designed flatlock seams
  • Odor-resistant & breathable
  • Super lightweight
  • Boardshort connectors

Downsides

  • A little pricey
  • Only available in black

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Best Rash Guard For Scuba Diving

Although all of the rash guards on this list are great for scuba diving, this one’s our top pick for scuba fanatics, the other benefit is that it comes in long and short sleeve as well. 

ScubaPro long sleeve womens rash guard on white background
ScubaPro long sleeve mens rash guard on white background

The ScubaPro Long Sleeve rash guard is our favorite rash guard to scuba diving. Not only does it look awesome (let’s face it, that’s one of the most important rules of scuba diving), but it’s also comfortable and hard-wearing.

Although this rash guard doesn’t provide any thermal protection, the form-fitting design sits snugly against your body making it perfect for layering underneath a wetsuit. And the high neckline also prevents any chaffing caused by your wetsuit.

With a 50+ UPF rating and durable construction, it can also be worn by itself for snorkeling or diving in tropical waters. Plus it’s super lightweight and quick-drying, perfect for traveling!

The ScubaPro Long Sleeve rash guard is also available with short sleeves and in a women’s fit.

What we love

  • Affordable & versatile
  • High UPF rating
  • Durable & long-lasting
  • Comfortable & flexible
  • Form-fitting design
  • Stylish colors & designs

Downsides

  • Doesn’t offer any thermal protection
  • No boardshort connectors
  • No hood

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Best Women's Rash Guards

roxy womens zip up on a model

When it comes to hanging out at the beach, the Roxy Essentials Zip Up rash guard is our favorite for women. It is also made from recycled plastic bottles, which many companies do not do. 

The soft and stretchy fabric is super comfortable and gives you plenty of flexibility. Although the material is quite thin so you need to be careful of scratches and tears.

The front zipper makes this rash guard easy to put on and take off (without the fear of losing your bikini top and flashing the whole beach). The cut is slightly longer than most rash guards to create a sleek silhouette.

Sizes tend to run a little big so if you want a snug fit we recommend going down a size.

What we love

  • Flattering design
  • UPF 50+ Sun Protection
  • Full-length zip
  • Quick-drying & lightweight
  • Very comfortable

Downsides

  • No thermal protection
  • Only available in black
  • No thumb loops
  • Fabric is very thin

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Things To Consider When Choosing A Rash Guard (FAQ)

Now you know what the best rash guards are, let’s take a closer look at what to consider when buying a new rash guard.

How Should A Rash Guard Fit?

A rash guard should be tight, fitting nice, and snug against your body.

If a rash guard is too loose it’ll cause unnecessary drag in the water and won’t be able to offer any warmth. 

Plus it’ll get all bunched up if you layer it underneath a wetsuit.

Although, if a rash guard is so tight that it restricts your movement, you should probably opt for the next size up.

However, if you really don’t like to wear tight clothing, especially at the beach, then a looser rash guard will still provide a decent level of protection.

Level Of Sun Protection

someone out on the sunny beach in a rash gaurd, or at the surface of the water in their rash gaurd

All rash guards will provide you with sun protection. But depending on the thickness and construction of the material, the level of sun protection will vary significantly.

If you are fair skinned or just worried about sun protection and that is a priority then look for a rash guard with a high UPF (Ultraviolet Protection Factor). The UPF rating will let you know how much UV radiation, both UVB and UVA, the rash guard will allow to reach your skin through whatever material it is made of.

Does A Rash Guard Keep You Warm?

The majority of rash guards don’t keep you warm. As we mentioned above, rash guards were originally created to prevent friction rashes and abrasion, not to provide thermal protection.

If you want a rash guard that keeps you warm, choose one that’s made from neoprene and/or a fleece-like material.

The thicker the rash guard is, the warmer it’ll be. Typically rash guards will range from 0.5mm thick all the way up to 4mm (verging on wetsuits).

If you’re snorkeling or diving, you might prefer the ease of wearing a rash guard over a full wetsuit to keep you warm.

Or it can be wonderful to have that little extra layer of warmth underneath your wetsuit. Especially if you’re making multiple dives per day like on a liveaboard.

Don’t forget if you’re scuba diving, a neoprene rash guard will affect your buoyancy. So you might need to take a little extra weight.

No idea how much weight you need for diving? Check out our weight calculator.

Long Sleeve Or Short Sleeve Rash Guard?

long sleeve vs short sleeve rash guard

This one is really up to you. Obviously, a long sleeve rash guard will give you more sun protection. However many people hate wearing long sleeves when it’s hot. I like to wear long sleeves on days when it is really sunny just to protect myself from UVA and UVB rays. 

If it’s a particularly thick rash guard, one that offers great thermal protection, then long sleeves can feel a little restrictive on the arms and shoulders. Most of the restrictiveness relates to comfort out of the water as when you get in it will loosen up and is more comfortable.

Additional Rash Guard Features

Rash guards often feature some very handy extras that are worth considering. For example, thumb hooks (my favorite feature) are incredibly useful for keeping your rash guard in place as you slide into your wetsuit. 

Perhaps you find rash guards often roll up your torso? Board short connectors are what you need! These are basically little loops at the hips that help keep the rash guard in place. Other options include a full bodysuit.

Looking for some extra sun protection? A rash guard with a hood is ideal for covering your head and neck. As well as helping keep your hair out of your face when swimming.

You can even find pockets in some rash guards!

Still not sure which one to choose?

Ultimately, rash guards are a great sunscreen alternative. The best rash guard for you is the one you feel most comfortable in.

Whether that’s one that’ll keep you warm and cozy, one with the highest sun protection or, simply the rash guard that has the most flattering fit.

All of these top rash guards are versatile, comfortable, and long-lasting. So it just comes down to your budget and what features you prioritize.

Which rash guard did you pick? Or do you already have a favorite?

Share your experience with us in the comments below.

Looking for other products to keep you warm?

Frequently Asked Questions

Rash guards are made to protect your skin against rashes and harmful UV Rays from sunlight.

To make them lightweight and perfect for surfing and scuba diving, rash guards are made with spandex and nylon or polyester.

These materials work together to provide full coverage while also allowing the skin to breathe underneath

The main purpose of a rash guard is to protect your skin from the sun, stinging sea creatures, and other water hazards.

Providing minimal warmth and insulation, rash guards are also great for layering under a wetsuit.

When worn alone, they’re perfect for snorkelling, surfing, and shallow dives in warm water.

For more information check out our article on the best scuba diving wetsuits.

Rash guards are made of a blend of synthetic fibers. This includes spandex, which is stretchy, and polyester, which allows for breathability.

Look for a rash guard made from a combination of polyester or nylon with elastane, as it has all of the above qualities, and it’s also quick drying!

  • Welcome

    My name’s Austin Tuwiner, a PADI Divemaster based in South Florida. With nearly 10 years of diving under my belt, I’ve accumulated the knowledge to help readers become better divers, buy their next piece of gear, and plan their dream dive vacation!

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