A Guide to Swimwear Fabrics That Offer the Best Sun Protection

A Guide to Swimwear Fabrics That Offer the Best Sun Protection

Shopping for the perfect swimsuit can definitely be something of a major undertaking. It’s not enough to just glance at a cute suit and snag it because, well, it looks good on the hanger. There are so many other factors that go into the fine art of buying the ideal suit, such as the cut and the colors. But one area that’s often overlooked in all that searching is the quality of the fabric itself—and its ability to protect your skin from sunburns.

The greatest advantage of modern swimwear is that it’s far more innovative than it’s ever been before. Today, it’s not just about wearing fabric that stretches and sits right on your body, although those two factors are incredibly important. It’s also about finding swimwear that’s infused with some form of sun protection. While you still need to wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen to protect yourself from potent UVA and UVB rays responsible for everything from aging to burns to skin cancer, it’s doubly helpful to choose a suit that offers an additional layer of protection, along with some peace of mind. Here’s everything you need to know to make the right choice.

Shopping the Right Selection

It all begins with variety. The Lands’ End UV swimwear lineup includes swimsuits, swim dresses, rash guards, cover-up dresses, swim skirts, cover-up pants, shorts, swim leggings, and cardigan-style cover-ups. Each piece in the range is constructed from a lightweight fabric that’s both forgiving and comfortable.

Beyond its obvious comfort factor is the more critical concern of sun protection. Materials like nylon and LYCRA® spandex are thoughtfully combined to create materials that feature an Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF) of 50. This is the highest rating possible for any type of sun-protective fabric. Breaking down its value is simple: It simply means that only 1/50th of those powerful ultraviolet rays can pass through the material. In turn, that prevents up to 98% of damaging rays from making contact with your skin. To make up for that additional 2%, it’s crucial to wear sunscreen.

Look for the Approval Seal

You can take comfort in the fact that each piece in the collection features the Skin Cancer Foundation Seal of Recommendation. That alone is huge, as this approval is awarded only to products that meet very strict criteria. At a bare minimum, this means the fabric offers adequate sun protection. Along with wearing your sun protection swimwear, of course, you should be mindful of other steps you can take to safeguard your skin.

Wear sunscreen on all exposed areas of your skin, for example, and also underneath your bathing suit as an added layer of protection. You should also wear sunglasses and a hat with a wide brim to shield your face from the sun. Make sure that it’s large enough to create a barrier for your neck and chest, too.

Amplifying Your Protection

Your UV swimsuits require some extra attention to prevent them from losing their integrity. First, be mindful of the changes that might develop over time. Usually, fabrics tend to lose their built-in UV protection the more they’re worn or wrung out. The same can happen if they’re repeatedly tossed in the washing machine. Moreover, wet garments offer a little less sun protection than dry pieces, especially if they’re light colors.

What can you do to make up for the difference while you’re soaking and sunning? Bring along a beach umbrella to create substantial shade that protects your skin just a little bit more. You can also wear a UPF-enhanced swimsuit cover-up as soon as you emerge from the water to ensure your skin remains safe. Wearing a damp swim dress? Pull on a pair of swim leggings or shorts to double your protection.

Caring for Your Swimwear

Hard-working swim fabrics infused with sun protection can put up with a lot, from routine submersions in chlorine and saltwater to hours of exposure to ultraviolet rays. They deserve only the best care in return. So what’s the best way to care for those rash guards and other UV-protective garments?

You have options. Give it a quick rinse in cold water after every use to remove all traces of sunscreen, salt, and chlorine. If possible, wash your swimwear by hand instead of putting it in the washing machine, where powerful cycles could harm the integrity of the suit. Instead, use a mild detergent and cold water to gently remove contaminants. Avoid wringing it dry or hanging it up, as these could cause significant damage. Instead, squeeze it gently and place the suit flat on your towel. Then roll it to soak up any additional moisture. Unroll and allow the suit to air dry. Dryers are just a little too harsh to protect the integrity of the suit.

Taking the right steps can make all the difference when you’re out there in the sun. Finding a great bathing suit is only part of the story. Once you choose a suit that’s infused with UPF, you can spend more time doing the things that you love, secure in the knowledge that you’re wearing a suit that’s both comfortable and protective.


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