According to the National Cancer Institute, though many common cancer rates continue to fall, melanoma rates are on the rise. When seeking both comfort and the best protection possible from the sun, are swim shirts or sunscreen the best solution?
From the simple freedom of movement standpoint, sunscreen comes closest to acting as a second skin. There are no clothing-drag issues while in the water, and no layers to trap heat or restrain movement while on land. It is possible to forget there is any substance on the skin.
From a coverage standpoint, sunscreen also wins out over the shirts. Given a thorough application, lotion can cover hands, fingers, and extend beneath clothes with a seamless barrier. Shirts leave hands permanently exposed and can inadvertently allow exposure around the waste.
The health and safety of the actual product is an important consideration. Commercial sunscreens contain toxins that can irritate skin and affect hormone production, placing children at particular risk. While most swim shirts are treated for UV protection, they do not expose the skin to potentially dangerous chemicals.
Though somewhat obvious, swim shirts do not wash off. Many sunscreens claim to be water resistant, but the durability of shirts is guaranteed. With children, lack of a shirt is easily identified while the presence of lotion can be undetectable.
While hot days and athletic activity can make a shirt uncomfortable to wear, cool days and cool water make the extra layer a welcome insulator. The material dries very quickly, so the chilling affect of evaporation is brief. These shirts can actually be worn throughout the day.
Moisturizers and vitamins can be added to sunscreen and provide a benefit to skin in addition to the barrier to the sun’s rays. These include ingredients to help heal skin that has already been sun-damaged. Skin lotions can certainly be applied under a shirt, but this involves an extra step and expense.
Given that sunscreen is designed to be applied “liberally” to skin surfaces, individuals and families can go through bottles rapidly. Swim shirts do not require a re-fill and can last months or even years with proper care. The need for a last minute trip to the store is thus eliminated.
UV-treated swim shirts are a safer and more reliable bet for sun protection. In turn, sunscreen can cover hard to reach areas like a true second skin and provide skin care at the same time. A combination of the two with slight overlap can provide a fast and effective solution with the smallest chance for gaps in coverage.