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Sun Protective Clothing for Kids

Summer Series Part 3: Updated July 2018

A follow-up to Part 2: Best Swim Diapers

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 him up. This type of sun protective clothing (rompers, rashguards, board shorts) wasn’t really available when we were tots, but now they’re becoming the norm for protecting kids from the sun.

Baby Lucie hiding from the sun

Baby Lucie hiding from the sun

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.

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.

Take note, these are all supposed to fit pretty snugly. If they’re too big, they’ll sag, won’t dry as quickly, and will make your babe cold while out of the water.

Alice in a full length romper

Alice in a full-length romper

Rompers (One-Piece Sun Suits)

The best coverage 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).

 

We Recommend…

  • Target: Infant/Toddler Romper ~ $17

    The UPF 50 rompers available at Target do the trick. The short-sleeeved ones are easy to get on and off, but do require sunscreen on the forearms. *Also available in a boys print.

    Target Swim Romper

  • iPlay one piece sunsuit ~ $30

    This popular romper from iPlay zips in the front and snaps at the bottom for easy diaper changes.

  • NoZone Sun Protective Baby Suit ~ $38

    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.

Sun Shirts (aka “Rashguards”)

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). One Step Ahead also offers a rashguard that snaps at the bottom like a onesie (below).

Did you know? Rashguards are called so because they protect surfers from chafing from their surfboards.

Onesie style rashguard from One Step Ahead

Onesie style rashguard from One Step Ahead

We Recommend…

  • Target Rashguards ~ $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).

IMG_0296

Lucie in Roxy rashguard, Alice in Circo

Hats

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. 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.

We Recommend…

  • iPlay Solid Brim Sun Hat ~ $12

    This favorite sun hat has a wide brim and ties under the chin. Comes in tons of colors. Perfect!

  • Baby Banz Reversible Bucket Hat ~ $14+

    This highly-rated reversible hat is super cute and functional (very cute patterns for boys too!).

    Baby Banz Reversible Bucket Hat

  • For girls, the Millymook Vintage Reversible Sun Hat ~ $25

    This one has a removable chin strap for secure fit and crushes down for travel. This one is really adorable and actually stays on.

    Millymook Vintage Reversible Sun Hat

Baby Sunglasses

Sunglasses for a baby? Exsqueeze me?

Eye doctors and dermatologists say yes. The practical answer is, “If your child tolerates it.”

Families who spend a lot of time in the sun or live clos[er] to the equator should definitely look into it. Sunglasses also help keep direct sun out of baby’s eyes in the car, especially when you lose the sunshade upon graduating to a convertible car seat (and it seems like NO MATTER WHICH DIRECTION you’re driving, the sun is ALWAYS in your kid’s eyes!).

Experts recommend smaller versions of real, protective adult sunglasses, NOT toy sunglasses. Look for glasses that block 99-100 percent of both UVA and UVB rays. Find impact-resistant, scratch-proof lenses that don’t pop out of the frames, blah blah blah.

We Recommend…

  • Baby Banz Ultimate Polarized Sunglasses ~ $19

    For babies 6+ months, Baby BanZ has a strap that goes around the head to ensure they stay in place and seem to be tolerated well by most babes. These are polarized and have a UV 400 rating for 100% UVA/UVB protection. *Also, available in pink.

    *Check out their over-sized sunglasses for a babies who need more glamour.

    babaybanz

  • Babiators ~ $20

    These cute and highly rated kiddie sunglasses offer 100% UVA/UVB protection, are impact/shatter-resistant, and will be replaced if lost or damaged within the first year – sweet! Fit-wise, they come in various sizes for toddlers, older kids, etc. My kids love them (below).

    babiators baby sunglasses - Lucie and Alice

    More from Babiators includes their stylish Polarized and Aces lines. Aces are hip sunglasses for kids, ages 6 and up. These offerings are pricier than the original Babiators sunglasses, but they sure look cool.

  •  Julbo Sunglasses ~ $35

    Julbo, a 125-year-old company known for their adult eyewear for ultra-sports, has an award-winning children’s line as well. The lenses are shatterproof and block 100% of UVA/UVB rays.

    Julbo Sunglasses Looping

I (Melissa) received a pair upon my request so I could put them to the test. Out of all the sunglasses my kid owns, this is his all-time favorite pair; he actually begs to wear them. Not only are they super easy for a 2-year-old to put on by himself, but they are omnidirectional, meaning there is no upside-down.

Jackson_Julbo

My son has a very large head and these glasses do not pinch his temples. They are hinge-less, which is great for preventing pinching of fingers and whatnot; but because of this, the glasses do not fold up (read: take up room in your bag).

Looping Sizes: Looping 1 (0-12 months), Looping 2 (12-24 months) and Looping 3 (2-4 year old).

Next! Part 4: Best Insect Repellents for Kids


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This article has 22 comments

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. […] is just part of the equation that also includes protective clothing, hat and eye protection, and staying out of the sun when the rays are strongest, between 10 am and […]

  5. Any recommendations for baby water shoes?

  6. 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!

  7. 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

  8. I bought this hat for my (now 15 month) daughter last year and love it. It almost fits my head at the biggest setting!
    https://twinklebelle.com/product-category/hats/sun-hats/

  9. 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.
    https://www.sundayafternoons.com/kids/g/l/

    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!

  10. We love Cabana Life for sun protective clothing! I find it’s much better quality and a lot cuter than most!

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

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