UV Swim Clothing Instead of Sunscreen for Snorkeling

Snorkeler wearing UV swim clothing.
Male snorkeler wearing UV swim clothing.

by Karen G – (Temecula, CA)
As a very fair red head and not always able to sunscreen every part of everywhere needed to fully protect myself, I have turned to UV swim clothing as the option.

I purchase my items from Coolibar.com but there are many resources to choose from.

These swim clothes are UPF50 sun protection and I have never had an issue even after three years of use in ocean, pool and many times through a washing machine.

Two people standing in the water wearing life jackets and uv swim clothing.

I use a swim jacket that has a zipper in the front and the newest one I bought has two small zippered pockets in the front.

My swim tights (pants) are like leggings and have a drawstring waist.

This way I never have to worry about adding sunscreen to a reef environment. I use the reef friendly sunscreen on my face and back of my heels.

My husband also got a set for himself – as you can see from the pictures!

It also provides a little bit of insulation (the tiniest amount), and 100% peace of mind from the harmful rays of the sun!

There is no “drag” and no part of it gets in the way while swimming, nor is it hot and it dries super fast.

I also have UPF gloves and booties for use in our backyard pool during the summer.

Comments Moved From Previous System

Nicole & Galen – May 25, 2016 – Thanks

Karen, thank you for sharing. We have always worn long sleeve rash guard tops, but on our recent Maldives trip we found a reason to consider wearing pants too: when you are snorkeling from a boat and moving from one location to the next, getting in and out of the water repeatedly, there is no time to reapply sunscreen and wait long enough for it to dry in between spots.

Steve N – May 25, 2016 – Protecting Myself While Snorkeling

When I go snorkeling, I use a long sleeve shirt with UPF35, an orange bathing cap, and a neck protector that has a UPF of 50. And for my legs, I use biodegradable sunscreen. Seems to work fine for me.

Luann from Nebraska – May 27, 2016 – Long-Sleeve Top vs. Jacket

I bought a long-sleeve rash guard top a few years ago, and I really like it, except that it tends to roll up in the water. I’m wondering whether others are having this problem, and whether the jackets are a better option.

Karen G – Jun 1, 2016 – In Response to Luann

We find that the jacket floats up a little. We can tuck it into our swim pants if the current plays with it too much. The nice part of the jacket is the zipper is so easy, one and off. There is no rolling though.

For me the pants are a key factor because I am essentially “basting” myself when snorkeling and this way I am sure the backs of my legs don’t get scorched no matter how long I am out in the water.

Cindy – Nov 23, 2016 – Swim Tights

Just back from a Sea of Cortez snorkel trip. I’m also very fair and freckled so need a gallon of sunblock. I found UPF50 swim tights from Coolibar which worked perfectly! I used them with a long sleeve rash guard shirt and a pair of board shorts. The tights were also helpful for tucking in the back of the shirt when it poofed too much when we were swimming with whale sharks (P.S. – GREAT trip).

Highly recommend tights – getting a second pair for upcoming trip to Maui.

Nicole & Galen – Jun 29, 2019 – We Are on Board!

Hi all, we recently started wearing full body sun protection clothing too. It has a hood attached so we don’t have to sunscreen ears or necks and it covers the back of our hands with a thumb hole cuff. Along with leggings we don’t have to use any sunscreen anymore and it’s a great time saver and better for the creatures in the water too. The clothing we like also has a solution for the floating up of the shirt. Check out what we are wearing on our snorkeling rash guards page.

For the floating or rolling up of the top issue, you could also use a snorkeling belt for your gear, and have the added benefit of holding down your top.

Judith Kaufman – Aug 8, 2019 – Snorkel Clothes in the Cayman Islands

For the last several years I have used my stretched out lightweight polyester (LLBean) thermal underwear bottoms as leggings and Uniqlo Airism hoodies on top. I wear Swiftwick socks on my feet.

I snorkel for up to two hours with no appreciable tanning or burning. I don’t use any sunscreen.

For me, the advantage of these is they can double as streetwear (or even sleepwear if the A/C is crazy cold). And they are probably a bit cheaper than clothing that comes with a UPF rating.

Happy snorkeling!

cardinalgirl2 – Feb 9, 2020 – Hooded Sunshirts

I buy hooded sunshirts and wear them over my suit to keep from having to apply sunscreen and to keep my scalp from being burned.

3 Comments

  1. Always enjoy reading comments and ideas from fellow snorkelers. I bought the Tuga hooded sunshirts and pants recommended here. Alas, my trip with Ben to Alor and Komodo was waylaid by COVID but hopefully going in 2023. Just curious if the Thermocline shirts they talk about in pretrip literature are really super? I might incorporate it into my different combos of trying to stay warm.

    Reply
  2. Hi Robin, we are in Bonaire right now and have the Thermocline zip up jackets to test. We will be trying them out soon and then writing an article in the newsletter and on the site about them.

    Fourth Element is a very eco-conscious company that we are happy to recommend. The Thermocline clothing is made of recycled fabrics, comes in packaging that contains no plastics, and one thing we like about them is that they are non-buoyant, which is great if you freedive down.

    Stay tuned!

    Reply

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