Best Clothing to Protect Children from the Sun
Instead of dunking your baby (or toddler) in a vat of expensive sunscreen every time you go into the sun, a much easier option is to cover them up. This type of sun protective clothing (rompers, rashguards, board shorts) wasn’t really available when we were tots, but now they’re the norm for protecting kids from UV rays.
Sun protective clothing uses the UPF (ultraviolet protection factor) scale for sun protection, and you want to choose clothing that is UPF 30 or higher (meaning one-thirtieth of more of the UV radiation can go through the fabric and reach the skin).
There are a variety of good brands at various price points. Serious swimmers and beach goers should look into higher quality gear, like Coolibar, NoZone, Roxy, and Snapper Rock, while casual swimmers can get away with budget offerings from Target, Walmart, etc. — iPlay is somewhere in the middle.
Rompers (One-Piece UPF Suits)
The best coverage against UV rays, sunburn and skin cancers is provided by a full-length romper, like the one to the left made by Snapper Rock. On sunny days, I would put this romper on Alice, smear some sunscreen on the back of her hands and face, stick a sun bonnet on her head, and she’s good to go all day long. I don’t worry about her getting burned (and she is as fair as they come).
iPlay one piece sunsuit ~ $13-$30
This popular romper from iPlay zips in the front and snaps at the bottom for easy diaper changes.
NoZone Sun Protective Baby Swimsuit ~ $39
This highly rated, heavy-use romper fits extremely well, has a front zipper closure, a fully-opening diaper zipper, and is highly chlorine and salt resistant. Hardcore beach goers swear by this one and the long sleeves mean less sunscreen is required.
SwimZip UPF50+ Long Sleeve Sunsuit ~ $45
These adorable UPF50+ sunsuits come in all sorts of cute styles, and have a zipper down the front to make for super easy diaper changes (an awesome feature that all baby sunsuits and rompers should have, IMO). The fabric is chlorine-resistant, soft and fast-drying.
Rash Guards and UV Resistant Shirts
It’s a maaaajor pain in the arse to apply sunscreen to baby’s neck, shoulders, and back, especially if they’re already dressed (so many straps in the way for baby girls – geh!). When it comes to choosing swimsuits and swim tops, you want them to cover as much skin as possible (baby BIKINIS, please be kidding?). These days, many swimsuits come WITH a rashguard as the top, which is smart and practical.
Rashguards come in long-sleeved and short-sleeved versions. The long-sleeved ones offer better coverage (obviously), but the short-sleeved ones are easier to get on and off when wet (less friction). RuffleButts also offers a rashguard that snaps at the bottom like a onesie (below).
Target Rashguards: Girls & Boys ~ $8+
Target makes super cute rash guards in all styles; onsie, long sleeve, short sleeve – and of course matching prints and everything color coordinates. Oh Target, we can’t quit you!
iPlay Rashguards ~ $19
iPlay has a large selection of both short-sleeved, long-sleeved, and swimsuit/rashguard combos in a variety of colors. I have a drawer-full of iPlay rashguards to get us through the summer, especially for our Florida trips.
Roxy Rashguards~ $25+
I will tell you my favorite kids rashguard (for kids 2+) is from Roxy. We’ve used them all, and these are the only ones that last after heavy use year after year (iPlay rashguards do not last more than one season, I am sorry to say).
Boden Rash Guards ~ $36+
We love Boden swimwear for little ones, and their rash guards are no exception. The prints are playful and colorful and the fabric is substantial. Plus, it has a UPF 40+ protection. Their rash guards run from size 2-3y to 12-14y. Check out their girls and boys options.
Bucket Hats for Children
Let us not forget about the most essential item, ye old sun hat — especially if babe doesn’t yet have a full head of hair to protect his/her precious little scalp from nasty UV rays. The challenge with hats is keeping them ON your baby’s head.
Personally, I have the best luck with hats that tie under the chin, but if your baby doesn’t have a gold medal in hat-swatting, you’ll have luck with any hat.
iPlay Solid Brim Sun Hat ~ $14
This favorite sun hat has a wide brim and ties under the chin. Comes in tons of colors. Perfect!
Baby Banz Reversible Bucket Hat ~ $6-$22
This highly-rated reversible hat is super cute and functional (very cute patterns for boys too!).
We rounded up our Lucie’s List editor favorite baby, toddler and kids sunglasses. They are not only cute and fashionable but they meet our stringent safety, quality and highest sun protection qualifications. Check out what our kiddos are wearing!
Next! Part 4: Best Insect Repellents for Kids
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Can you recommend a pop-up sun shelter/tent to bring to the park/beach?
I’m hunting for something that is lightweight and packable, easy open/close, and keeps the sun off my babe without roasting him like a turkey.
Yes! The Coleman Road trip Beach Shade http://www.amazon.com/Coleman-Road-Trip-Beach-Shade/dp/B0009PUTIE/?tag=smsrs-20
Lightspeed Tent! Amazing. One pull and it’s open and closed. We LOVE ours!! https://lightspeedoutdoors.com/collections/shelters
Best sun hat, in my opinion, is the Kid’s Play Hat from Sun Day Afternoons (no affiliation but I am in Derm). http://www.sundayafternoons.com/kids-play-hat.html
Thanks for the tip! Will check it out.
YES!!!! I was surprised not to see it on the list. This is THE BEST sun hat – adjustable so it lasts several years, and the “veil” protects their neck when they are playing in the sand/dirt/water/whatever. Picked ours up at a local outdoors store.
Have you evened tried swim zip? The rash guards come with matching bottoms and unzip so you don’t have to pull a wet shirt over their big head. Also 50+ uv protection. I haven’t tried them yet but they are so cute so I wondered how they hold up.
Any recommendations for baby water shoes?
Hi Cara! We have a few recos – we like Crocs and Keen shoes. Check them out here.
Do you have any recommendations for spf/sun protectant clothing for infants? I have a smallish 2 month old and I can’t seem to locate any clothes online that will fit him. I’m (obviously!) not plopping my babe in the sand and lathering him up with baby oil for a great tan (instead, he’ll likely be wearing a full-coverage onesie and hat, under an umbrella) to the sun, but some sun exposure at the beach is inevitable. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!
Most of the items mentioned here are available in infant sizes: http://www.amazon.com/play-Unisex-Baby-Infant-Sleeve-Medium/dp/B00D402Q7S/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1434994541&sr=8-1&keywords=iplay+rash+guard+infants — etc
You didn’t mention RoShamBo Baby Sunglasses! They have Baby, Kid and Adult sizes. We LOVE them because they are unbreakable and made of safe materials. My son has loved his baby ones and is now big enough to use the kid size. http://www.roshambobaby.com
Hi Emily! Thanks for the reco. We’ll check them out 🙂
I bought this hat for my (now 15 month) daughter last year and love it. It almost fits my head at the biggest setting!
Another great company for UPF swimwear that we love is Coolibar. Great one-piece suits for infants and 2-piece outfits for older toddlers/kids. http://www.coolibar.com/section/Baby/2379.uts
And hands-down the best infant/toddler sun hat we’ve found is by Sunday Afternoons. The Kids Play Hat is ideal for infants.
Both brands have held up well to year-round abuse (boaters/sailors in Florida so we are in the sun ALL the time!) and are worth the $$.
Hi Ann! Thanks for the recos, we’ll be sure to consider them for next summer 🙂
I agree with the sun hat. Just a couple things to think about (for our readers), it looks very similar to i play or Baby BanZ and it’s about $10 more. BUT… what I like is that it offers a tightening strap for around the head, a mesh side for extra cooling and a longer back for added sun protection. Go off your personal preference. Thanks again Ann!
We love Cabana Life for sun protective clothing! I find it’s much better quality and a lot cuter than most!
Melissa, do you know if companies’ UPF ratings are rated or tested? I read that some companies slap high UPF ratings on clothes that don’t offer protection…do you know if there is any way for consumers to know for sure? I’m particularly dubious about a company called Shedo Lane (which is part of Swim Zip) since they won’t reply to emails or on social media. Thanks for the help!
Hi Abigail! You’re on the right track. In the US, while the FDA regulates sunscreens, there is presently no Federal program for sun protective garments. However, there are AATCC and ASTM standards that manufacturers (of garments) may follow on a voluntary basis (source, Coolibar). It’s probably best to do what you’re doing and ask the company for verification on the fabrics they use if they don’t state it on their website.
Check out UV Skinz! They are a small brand that makes quality sun portective clothing. My daughter’s dermatologist recommended their clothes and we have been very pleased with everything.
Hi Annie! Thanks for this reco, we’ll be sure to check them out 🙂