Rash guard vs swim shirt – which one should you wear?

Do you know what's good? Swimming. Do you know what's not so good? Sunburn.

If you've ever had a sunburn, then you know that it only takes a few minutes of hanging out at the beach or pool before you're in some severe pain. It's like your skin is being lit on fire. But on the inside.

And if you've ever gotten a sunburn while swimming, then you know the worst part is that after you get out of the water and try to put on your clothes, it feels like your entire body has been set on fire with rubbing alcohol.

Well, this pain might have driven you to buy rash guards and swim shirts, but there's one problem: between rash guard vs. swim shirt, which one should you purchase?

In this write-up, we will help you know the difference between the two outfits. We will also outline when to choose one over the other and the advantages and disadvantages of each outfit to help you find the right swim top for your following summer activities.


What does a rash guard do?

You can't spell "rash guard" without "rash," and that's exactly what a rash guard is supposed to prevent.

Rash guards (also known as rash vests) are swimwear made of polyester or spandex, used for surfing, sun protection, and modesty. They are designed to be worn over a swimsuit and can be the same size as the swimsuit or larger (for sun protection).

They typically feature a zippered front for easy on-and-off access—because who wants to struggle out of their wet bathing suit after a long day in the sun?

Advantages of rash guard

Here are the benefits you will accrue when you choose a rash guard for your next summer event:


Rash guards are designed to protect you from rashes, of course. It seems pretty self-explanatory, right? But how do they protect you? Well, it's all about the material and the fit. The material is meant to stay close to your body and provide a protective layer between your skin and chafing surfaces. For instance, rash guards protect surfer’s chests from surfboard, avoiding chafing between the board and skin.

Stay dry: 

Rash guards wick away moisture from your body to avoid getting too sweaty and uncomfortable as you move around in the water or on land. They're also quick-drying, so if you have to get out of the water for a minute, run some errands, or just change locations, it won't take long for your rash guard to dry off and be ready to go again!

Reduce muscle soreness:

The snug fit of rash guards helps keep your muscles warm and supported, which can prevent muscle soreness after an intense workout on land or in the water.

A rash guard for men or women will also be breathable as it is made to allow air circulation in your body to keep you cool while surfing or swimming. 

What does a swim shirt do?

Alright, so a swim shirt is basically a t-shirt for swimming. Isn't it?

This statement is accurate, but not entirely. A swim shirt is actually more than just your average t-shirt. It's a high-performance product that helps wearers achieve their best in the water.

Swim shirts are made of lightweight materials that are breathable and quick to dry, helping wearers maintain the optimal temperature while working out in the water. They also protect wearers from the sun's rays and reduce drag in the water, making them perfect for swimming laps or playing beach volleyball in the sand.

Swim shirts can be worn on their own or as an extra layer under or over another swimsuit, depending on what you're going for. They're a great accessory for those who want to hit the beach or the pool feeling confident.

Advantages of swim shirt

Here are the benefits you accrue by wearing a shirt for swimming/surfing:

No severe sunburns anymore:

Not only can swimming and lying out in the sun make you uncomfortable, but it also increases your risk of melanoma. A swimming shirt is made of nylon, spandex, or polyester. These materials protect your skin while out of water.

Reduced skin cancer risks:

Prolonged exposure to the sun's UV rays can cause skin cancer. Since swim shirts will cover your hands and almost your upper body, you have minimal risk of getting cancer.

No premature aging:

UV rays cause changes in skin DNA which could lead to premature aging. By wearing a swim shirt, you have protected most of your body from the sun, and hence the risk is low.

Looking to get a swim shirt ? See our top picks:




Kanu Surf Men's Short Sleeve UPF 50+ Swim Shirt

Kanu Surf Men's Short Sleeve UPF 50+ Swim Shirt

Speedo Men's UV Swim Shirt Short Sleeve Loose Fit Easy Tee

Speedo Men's UV Swim Shirt Short Sleeve Loose Fit Easy Tee

VAYAGER Men's Swim Shirts UPF 50+

VAYAGER Men's Swim Shirts UPF 50+

Satankud Men's UPF 50+ Rashguard Swim Tee Short Sleeve Running Shirt Swimwear Swim Hiking Workout Shirts

Satankud Men's UPF 50+  Swim Shirt

Amazon Essentials Men's Short-Sleeve Quick-Dry UPF 50 Swim Tee

Amazon Essentials Men's Short-Sleeve Quick-Dry UPF 50 Swim Tee

Rash guard Vs Swim Shirt: What are the differences?

Rash guards and swim shirts are fantastic, chic, and essential for keeping you safe from the sun. But when it comes to shopping for a new beach or pool look, how do you choose between the two? Below are the things that set the two outfits apart:

Rash Guards

Swim Shirts

Fit closely to your body

Loose fitting

They come with long sleeves

Come in both long and short sleeves

Feature one style and cannot be worn of the beach

Versatile and can be worn off the beach

1. Fitting

Rash guards and swim shirts come in long-sleeved, and short-sleeved options, but the main difference between them is that rash guards are designed to fit closely to your body, while swim shirts are loose and not meant to be worn a base layer. Whether it's a rash guard for women or men, it will always fit tightly to your body. This feature prevents chafing and makes them much more effective as a UV blocker.

Meanwhile, swim shirts are looser fitting and meant to be worn over a bathing suit top or sports bra. They also offer UV protection but usually aren't quite as effective as rash guards because they are loose and allow some light to pass through their fabric.

2. Sleeves

Rash guards are available in long sleeves, which offer the most protection from the sun, chaffing, and other elements. On the other hand, Swim shirts can come in either short or long sleeves. Short sleeves do not protect your arms from sub burns. However, they are great for you if you do not fancy long sleeves.

3. Versatility 

A women's or men's swim shirt can come in any color and style imaginable (so long as they cover your torso). They also come in multiple sleeve styles—from tank top to long-sleeved—and can be worn with anything from jeans to sweatpants to beachwear. Whether you're going for a jog next to the beach or taking part in some paddle-boarding action with friends, these outfits can fit any summer event.

On the other hand, a rash guard swim shirt comes in one style but many colors. It is long-sleeved and zippered. You can only wear it when surfing or swimming, and it cannot be worn off the beach.

See Also :  Wetsuit Vs Rash Guard


Can you wear a rash guard as a shirt?

Can you wear a rash guard as a regular shirt? Well, it depends on whether you are batman. Nevertheless, we do not recommend using a rash guard as a shirt. Rash guards are meant for water sports.

They're made of light and breathable materials, and they help wick moisture away from your skin so you don't get wet. This feature is great while you're in the water, but not so great if you just have to go to work or school. You'll be uncomfortable all day long.

Do you wear anything under rash guard?

You've probably already guessed that most people don't wear anything under their rash guards. That's because this is essentially a tight-fitting swim top. It's designed to fit closely to the skin, so wearing an additional layer of clothing underneath would be uncomfortable.

Plus, rash guards work by preventing chafing between the fabric and your skin—if you wear something else under it, that defeats the purpose entirely.

Do rash guards keep you warm in cold water?

While rash guards certainly keep you warmer in cold water than, say, a bikini or board shorts would, they are not designed for that purpose. Rash guards are designed to protect you from the sun and from chafing. But cold water? Not so much.

Do you wear a bra under a rash guard?

Rash guards are tight-fitting; however, they do not offer much support than a sports bra. So, you should wear one. Otherwise, you'll have the most uncomfortable surfing or swimming experience.


When choosing between a rash guard and swim shirt, it comes down to what you're planning on doing in the water. If you're about to hit up that barre class at the pool or go for a run on the beach, then you might want to choose a swim shirt over a rash guard.

Also, if all you're planning on doing is sitting by the pool this summer while getting as many pages of your book read as possible, you would be better with a swim shirt.

A rash guard will be the best choice for sporting activities such as surfing, skating, swimming, and other activities that involve chaffing and necessitate you to stay in the sun for an extended period. 

You can also use both outfits in place of each other. It all depends on the level of protection you want, whether you feel comfortable in a tight-fitting outfit or you are interested in loose shirts for your summer activities. The choice is yours!

Norma A Robertson

Hey, my name is Norma A Robertson. My hobbies include paddle boarding, kite surfing, snorkeling, scuba diving, etc. I started this website to share my experience and ideas as well as review products that interest me to help everyone who reads it. I hope you find what you are looking for in my articles.

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