UPF Swimwear: What Is It and How Does It Work?

UPF Swimwear: What Is It and How Does It Work?

Having cute, stylish swimwear for your beach vacations, lazy afternoons sunning yourself by the pool, and swims at the lake is a must. But having sun protective swimwear is just as important. If you are planning to spend plenty of time soaking up the sun this summer, you’ll need swimwear that helps keep you protected from the sun’s harmful, damaging UV rays. Cue UPF swimwear. Not sure what it is? We’ve got you covered. This post will tell you everything you need to know about UPF swimwear and why you need to add it to your summer swimwear wardrobe.

What Is UPF Swimwear?

UPF stands for ultraviolet protection factor, and it has to do with a certain fabric’s ability to block out both UVB and UVA ultraviolet sunlight. There are many types of UPF articles of clothing, ranging from hats to long-sleeve shirts to, yes, swimsuits too! So a UPF swimsuit will offer far more protection from the sun than just a regular swimsuit.

What Is UPF Swimwear Not?

Although many people tend to use UPF and SPF interchangeably, they are not the same thing. While UPF stands for ultraviolet protection factor, SPF stands for sun protection factor and only refers to sunscreen, not actual clothing. On top of that, unlike UPF swimwear and clothing, SPF only provides blockage against ultraviolet B. So what does this mean? Not only is it wise to wear plenty of sunscreen to the beach, but you’ll also want to invest in UPF swimwear for the greatest level of protection against both ultraviolet A and ultraviolet B. Most people don't realize they need protection from harmful UV rays under their clothes and swimwear, too, not just the exposed parts of the skin out in the sun. But if you don’t have a UPF swimsuit, harmful rays can get through the material and to the skin.

How to Shop for UPF Swimwear

Once you have a good understanding of what UPF swimwear is and how it protects you, it’s time to start adding a couple of cute new (and protective) swimwear pieces to your wardrobe! And when you are doing that, it helps to be equipped with tips to choose the right items. When shopping, keep in mind several factors: coverage, UPF levels, fit, weave tightness, and other helpful tips to maximize protection.


Obviously, a long-sleeve UPF shirt, like a rashguard, will offer more protection than a UPF tankini, but many people head off to the beach in just their swim trunks and bikinis. While it's true that what you can’t cover with your swimsuit, you can cover with sunscreen, it's also true that the more coverage your UPF swimsuit provides, the more protection you are guaranteed to get. So just like a rashguard offers more protection than a tankini, a UPF tankini or swim dress offers a bit more coverage than a regular bikini. Of course, it’s up to the buyer to determine what style of swimsuit they want, but bear in mind the more material coverage (so long as it’s UPF), the more sun protection is provided.

UPF Levels

The lowest level a UPF swimsuit can have to provide adequate protection against the sun is UPF 30. However, it’s much better to look for options that provide a level of 50 or even 50+. The higher the number, the greater the fabric’s ability to block out harmful UV rays.


Believe it or not, the looser the article of clothing, the more protection it provides against the sun. This is because a tighter material gets stretched out and becomes thinner, thus offering less sun protection. Women’s swimsuits are traditionally more form-fitting, so it’s best to look for options with a high UPF level. If you want to make sure you are getting plenty of sun protection, consider wearing a UPF swim dress or some other type of cover-up whenever you aren’t going for a dip in the water.

Weave Tightness

While you want to opt for looser swimwear and other articles of clothing, you also want to look for a tight fabric weave. When the weave is tight, it is better able to block out more harmful UV rays. To figure out how tight the weave of your swimwear is, try holding it up to the sun to see if any sunshine peeks through.

A Few More Helpful Buying Hacks

We’ve just gone over a few of the most important things to consider when shopping for UPF swimwear, and we’ll finish up with a couple more. For example, color is another important factor to think about. Brighter and darker swimsuit colors are better able to absorb UV rays, making sure it’s harder for them to get to your skin. Secondly, look for materials like polyester and unbleached cotton, which are good at absorbing UV rays.

Now that you know the basics of UPF swimwear, it’s time to invest in your first piece and enjoy your summer with greater protection!


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