Apparently, this summer is going to be a scorcher. And while there are plenty of ways to shield our face from intense UV rays — from SPF makeup, to hats, to sunglasses — what about the rest of our bodies? Is a layer of sunscreen really enough for a cloudless day at the beach? Board-certified dermatologist Dr. Dendy Engelman, for one, says no. She notes that many people tend to neglect everything from the neck down and believes that SPF could use some sartorial assistance, particularly when it comes to water-focused activities. Enter: sun protective swimwear.
“It is a fantastic way to give yourself extra protection from the sun and the elements, especially for those who perspire heavily or are participating in activities that cause sunscreen to sweat or wash off quickly,” she says. Although more and more brands are stepping into the sun-safe bathing suit arena, Dr. Engelman advises that not all the options on the market are created equal: some fabrics and colors offer more protection than others.
“Denser weaves, like denim and canvas, and darker colors provide more protection than thin fabrics and light colors,” she says. “If you can see through the fabric when you hold it up to the light, that’s a good indicator that UV rays can also get through.” Her advice? “Look for options with UPF [Ultraviolet Protection Factor] 30 or higher.”
She cites Mott50 among her go-to sun-protective brands, praising the label both for its fun mix-and-matchable patterns and UPF 50+ fabrics. Mott50’s director of brand operations Laura Heuer explains that the materials undergo rigorous certification processes to ensure they’re up to standard, including independent third-party testing. But UV-safe fabric isn’t the only crucial factor in making Mott50 as sun-protective as possible; coverage is also taken into account in the brand’s designs.
“Sun protection is a growing concern among swimwear consumers, and we see this in our sales trends,” says Heuer. “Our best-selling style is our Women’s Mila one piece suit featuring long sleeves with thumbholes, a crew neck and a full zip. Additionally, the number one searched item on our website is rash guards. So our customers are looking for coverage.”
The benefits of opting for sun-safe swimwear can be twofold according to Derya Kocak, the founder and creative director of swim and beachwear brand Sandshaped. She says the brand was moved to start offering sun-protective options to address the health of the consumer as well as the garments — the UV protective fabric allows the suits to retain color and shine for a longer period of time.
“What inspired us are the long term effects of sunlight that can cause damage to skin as well as swimsuits,” she says. “We wanted to provide longevity and durability to our suits, which in turn can be worn for years without any deterioration.”
For swimwear brand Lokiki, the decision to manufacture its pieces in sun-safe fabrics was a no-brainer: founders Jen Delory and Jen Dwin’s different skin types made them consider their suits in relation to a diverse range of consumers’ experiences with the sun. Now, all of the brand’s styles are offered in UPF 50+ protective fabrics.
Oftentimes an emphasis on function rather than form can result in super sun-safe but less chic suits, so Dwin and Delory set out to stand out from the crowd with fashion-forward swimwear that doesn’t sacrifice style for sun protection.
“We are working on applying UPF to new textures and ribs fabrics that we are excited about,” says Dwin. “Lokiki isn’t unique in its UPF offering. We are set apart by the styling and the fit we offer it in. I think the technology is fast becoming a part of everyone’s assortment, thankfully, but we stand out for our styles!”
Whether you’re swimming, surfing, snorkeling, or just watching others do all of the above from a spot on the sand, see below for an edit of sun-safe swimwear that’ll have you covered this summer.
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Wetsuits And Spring Suits
If you’re big on water sports, or just simply sunburn prone, these suits are ideal for extended periods in sunlight. The full coverage of a springsuit has an added bonus of basically being an entire outfit on its own — just add shorts to go from ocean to beachside cabana drinks.
Rashguards are a surfer girl staple, but even those of us who spend beach day lounging full-time would be wise to stash one of these cute long-sleeve options in our beach bags to cover the super delicate skin on our shoulders and chests.
Consumers are all about these stylish one pieces lately, according to both Mott50 and Lokiki. The Mila suit continues to be Mott50’s top style with customers and Lokiki’s Georgia Plunge One Piece is a favorite among Lokiki’s buyers. “The client votes hard for the Georgia Plunge One Piece,” says Dwin. “It’s this year’s stand out style for its flattering fit on all bodies. It also has a shape-wear effect!”
UPF-Friendly Two Pieces
Any coverage is better than no coverage at all! These two pieces don’t go as far as a rashguard or a wetsuit, but for any mindful beachgoer who is also a bikini enthusiast, it helps to reach for a two piece that promises some UV protection. That said, sun protective swimwear doesn’t mean skip the sunscreen. The recommended SPF depends on the UPF level of the suit, according to Dr. Engelman, but to play it safe she tells clients to aim for SPF 50 or higher for full coverage underneath any protective clothing.
UV protective swimwear + UV protective coverup (plus, yes, still sunscreen) equals basically a superhero suit in the fight against the sun’s harmful rays. Your dermatologist would be so proud.