I absolutely refuse to wear a swimsuit to the beach.
The chafing. Ugh! The awkward tan lines. Ew! Constantly worrying about it shifting or being pulled down by a wayward child? It’s a hard pass from me!
My family has finally stopped giving me a hard time and accepted that it is what it is. It’s highly unlikely that I’ll ever wear a swimsuit on the beach ever again.
So while I don’t wear a bathing suit to the beach, I promise I’m not naked. Instead, I wear UPF 50+ leggings/pants and a pullover or button down fishing shirt. It’s sometimes funny to see other people’s reactions as I play in the sand with my daughter or nieces or lounge in the shade reading a book. But let me tell you – as someone who has seriously fair skin and who burns when she even thinks about going out into the sun, I’m more than willing to cover it all up for the comfort of not burning. My 11-year-old also frequently chooses to wear leggings and long sleeves in lieu of several applications of SPF 70 sunscreen throughout the day.
What’s the difference between SPF and UPF?
From The Skin Cancer Foundation website:
UPF measures the amount of UV radiation that can penetrate fabric and reach your skin. Sun Protection Factor, or SPF, is based on the time it takes for UV-exposed skin to redden; if you burn after 20 minutes, if used correctly, an SPF 15 sunscreen may protect your skin 15 times longer.
Another important distinction: UPF measures both UVB and UVA rays, while SPF measures only UVB.
What to look for in UPF Clothing:
Clothing with UPF ratings (Ultraviolet Protection Factor) have been gaining in popularity in the last few years, and are a great alternative to sunscreen for skin protection. The Skin Cancer Foundation requires a rating of UPF 30 to qualify as protective, and anything rated UPF 50+ is considered excellent.
Clothing that isn’t labeled as rated can also be protective, but for the amount of sun exposure we get at the beach, I only purchased clothing with a UPF rating on the label.
Where to buy UPF clothing for the beach:
You’ve certainly seen those cute long sleeve swimsuits for kids, but I would bet that you’re imagining some lightweight cargo pants and a bulky green-brown hiking shirt when you think about sun protective clothes for adults. Though it would be super easy to look like an overdressed outdoorsman magazine model, I’ve managed to keep it less brown and green and more in the bright, beachy colors I love.
Here are some of my favorites for leggings:
A bit spendy but certainly not much more than a good swimsuit might cost! I’ve had some of my Lilly P Luxletic leggings for going on 5 years now, and they still look great and work well. Most styles offer at least UPF 50+ and they have other athletic and leisure wear in UPF fabrics. Hands down, my favorite for the beach!
Coolibar offers lots of fits and styles to choose from, both in leggings and pull over/long sleeve tops. The color selection is a little limited, but there are some good basics available in most styles that you can mix and match with standout pieces. Coolibar also offers men’s and children’s UPF swimwear styles, as well as extended sizing.
Another full-family source, UVSkinz offers a large selection of all-the-things UPF clothing. Though I haven’t purchased anything personally from this store, the reviews look good and I would definitely consider doing so in the future.
There are so many sources for UPF shirts, whether they have long or short sleeves. I prefer a Columbia or Magellan Outdoors shirt (both the button down and pull over styles) because they dry really quickly and come in a huge range of colors. Walmart, Amazon and Academy generally carry these shirts – just be sure to check the label for the UPF rating!
Even if you opt for UPF clothing, please don’t forget about all of your exposed skin – use sunscreen often and thoroughly! A hat that covers my ears is a necessary beach accessory for me to protect my face and neck as well.
I really hope you enjoy ditching your swimsuit at the beach as much as I do. The freedom from straps, tan lines, chafing and sunburn or peeling skin is worth the weird looks you might get – I promise.