recommended by experts

The Very Best Sun-Protective Clothing for Kids and Babies

Photo-Illustration: The Strategist

Youngsters have thinner, more sensitive skin, making it essential for parents — and their little ones — to develop good sun-protection habits from the get-go. “Getting kids used to sun protection early is key,” says Dr. Heidi A. Waldorf, associate clinical professor of dermatology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. Finding the right sunscreen to slather on is of course important, but the dermatologists we spoke with say finding quality sun-protective clothing is just as crucial — especially for new parents — because babies under 6 months cannot wear any sunscreen.

Even when a child is old enough for sunscreen, experts still recommend using sun-protective clothing because it can reduce the need to reapply and because some kids just don’t like the feel of a pasty white film on their skin. Dr. Stacy Chimento of Riverchase Dermatology adds that such clothing can be as, if not more, effective as sunscreen on certain areas of the body “because it is a physical blocker of the rays and, unlike sunscreen, you never have to reapply.”

While the right clothes can provide excellent sun protection, Chimento reminds us that there are body parts like the face, hands, and neck that will probably still be exposed to UV rays. That’s why she recommends using sun-protective clothing in tandem with — not in place of — sunscreen for kids who are old enough. McLean Dermatology founder Dr. Lily Talakoub, who also founded the product-recommendation website Derm to Door, agrees that wearing sun-protective clothing on top of skin covered in sunscreen is the most effective approach. Below, our 12 experts — who include Nussbaum, Levine, Talakoub, Chimento, Tan, and seven other dermatologists — recommend their favorite sun-blocking shirts, onesies, and swimsuits for kids and babies.

Best overall | Best less expensive overall | Best for babies and toddlers | Best for older kids | Best accessories

What we’re looking for

UPF Rating: Finding garments with a high ultraviolet-protection factor — or UPF rating — is key to getting the best coverage, according to Dr. Marnie Nussbaum. “The average white cotton T-shirt provides a 5 UPF rating, (meaning one-fifth of the sun’s rays will pass through that garment), while some sun-protective garments have a UPF rating of 50, which means one-fiftieth of the UV radiation can penetrate the fabric,” she explains. All of our picks have a UPF rating of at least 50.

Sizing: We’ve noted the available sizes for all these sun-protective garments, which range from newborn to kids as old as 16.

Best overall sun-protective clothing for kids and babies

UPF 50+ | 0-3M to 3T

Full-coverage clothing is a must for babies under 6 months since they can’t wear a drop of sunscreen. But Dr. Morgan Rabach explains why the appeal of sun-protective onesies extends beyond a child’s infancy: “I find it easier to put very little kids in a onesie than try to get them all greased up.” Dr. Elizabeth Tanzi says she “only applies sunscreen to my kids in areas that are not covered by sun-protective clothing,” telling us Coolibar is her favorite brand for such clothing. Eight of the 11 other dermatologists we talked to also recommended it. “I love Coolibar,” says Dr. Carlos A. Charles, the founder of NYC-based Derma di Colore. “It is one of the original brands for sun-protective clothing and their innovative fabric blocks 98 percent of the sun’s ultraviolet light.” With long sleeves and pants that cover a lot of otherwise exposed skin, this swimsuit sized for babies and toddlers provides pretty excellent coverage for a single garment.

UPF 50+ | 4T to 12 Years

And here’s the larger version of Coolibar’s neck-to-ankle swimsuit for kids between the ages of 4 and 12.

Best less-expensive sun-protective clothing for kids and babies

UPF 50+ | 12M to 7 Years

Three of our experts — Tan, Charles, and Waldorf — recommend the sun-protective clothing from UV Skinz, which also offers UPF 50 protection. With a pair of swim trunks, a swim shirt, and a matching hat, these three-piece sets for girls and boys offer the most bang for your buck (and look adorable to boot). The sets come in a variety of sizes, from age 1 all the way up to 7 years old. Each also comes in many other patterns, so you can likely find a style that you — and if they have a say, your kid — look forward to putting on.

Best sun-protective clothing for babies and toddlers

Best sun-protective onesie with hood

UPF 50+ | 3-6M to 3T

This one-piece is a variation of our pick for best overall sun-protective clothing, and it’s sized for babies and toddlers — though it’s not available for the tiniest kids. It offers even more protection, thanks to its handy hood for covering tiny scalps (and with no risk of losing the hat).

Best sun-protective long-sleeved swimsuit

UPF 50 | 0M to 2 Years

Both Nussbaum and Dr. Keira Barr recommend Mott50 for stylish kids. “They have lightweight, fashionable options for kids that provide a UPF 50 rating, so you’re not choosing between sun safety and style,” Nussbaum explains. Sized for babies up to 24 months old, this suit in a jaunty island print has thumb holes, so its sleeves can cover and protect a child’s hands.

Best less-expensive sun-protective long-sleeved swimsuit

UPF 50+ | 3M to 6 Years

Here’s a legless, long-sleeved swimsuit from our dermatologist-approved Coolibar that’s about $10 less than the Mott50 one and available in a wider range of sizes.

Best sun-protective long-sleeved shirt

UPF 50+ | 2T to 3T

If you’re not sure whether your little one will enjoy being covered from head to toe, consider separates — especially a long-sleeved shirt that can be thrown over any swimsuit you already own. This one is also from Coolibar and comes recommended by Dr. Samer Jaber of New York City–based Washington Square Dermatology who, as a rule, suggests looking for sun-protective clothing that is both “comfortable and stylish,” like this long-sleeved shirt for toddlers with some fun graphic designs. While it can technically be worn for swimming, it feels more like a regular shirt, making it a versatile option for kids who spend a lot of time outdoors doing any number of things.

Best sun-protective swimsuit with rash guard

UPF 50+ | 0M to 6 Years

Swimzip, which Charles and Barr both like, is another brand that makes UPF 50 sun-protective clothing that also happens to be pretty fashionable. “Swimzip makes some very stylish and playful suits for your baby that are easy to put on and take off — a huge help for kids that can be difficult to wrangle,” Charles says. The girls’ set, sized for infants to 6-year-olds, includes a zip-front short-sleeved rash guard and a frilly bottom, while the boys’ set comes with swim trunks.

Best sun-protective swim trunks

UPF 50+ | 3M to 3T

For those who prefer shorts, this pair is sized similarly to the stuff above (that is, for babies and toddlers). The print shown has the most sizes, but there are other just-as-fun patterns available in limited quantities.

Best sun-protective clothing for older kids

Best sun-protective long-sleeved shirt

UPF 50+ | 2 Years to 12 Years

This Mott50 rash guard with a snazzy ocean print provides full torso and arm coverage for kids ages 2 to 12.

Best sun-protective short-sleeved shirt

UPF 50+ | 4 Years to 16 Years

For older kids, this short-sleeved “surf shirt” made for swimming comes in a bunch of different colors and patterns, so there is surely an option that’ll please even the most persnickety.

Best sun-protective swim trunks

UPF 50+ | 4 Years to 16 Years

This smart-looking pair of swim trunks is also sized for older kids (ages 4 to 16).

Best sun-protective accessories for kids and babies