Cover up your swimsuit with sun-safe clothing

Nikki ParkinsonFashion 36 Comments

The beach lifestyle is very much a part of the Australian culture – unfortunately with that love of the water and the outdoors comes with it some shocking statistics when it comes to skin cancer.

According to Cancer Council Australia, two in three Australians will be diagnosed with skin cancer by the time they’re 70.

Excluding non-melanoma skin cancer, melanoma is the third most common cancer in both Australian women and men, and the most common cancer in Australians aged 15-44 years. In 2011, 2087 people died from skin cancer in Australia.

We know the stats – or we should know them – but things are very much more real when it’s someone you know who has been diagnosed. The inspiration for this post came from Styling You reader Ruth.

I was just wondering if you’d consider doing a post on sun smart swimwear. During my recent second pregnancy at the age of 27 I was diagnosed with a skin cancer. Thankfully it was easily removed and now I just need yearly checks. I’m now a big advocate for sunscreen, hats and skin checks though. However it’s completely changed the way Ill be viewing our upcoming holidays. We don’t spend a lot of time at the beach but when we do I’d still like to be stylish. I’m struggling to find some “trendy” rash shirts. I’d love to find some reasonably priced ones I can pair with cute bikini bottoms and lots of sunscreen!

Ruth, I hope this post about sun-safe clothing helps.

Yesterday, we tackled the part about actually getting over ourselves and getting into a swimsuit. Today it’s about the cover-up – in and out of the water.

Sunscreen – SPF 30 or 50+ – should be a given before adding any of the below items. As is keeping out of the sun during the peak UV times of the day.

Rash shirts

Rash guards, vests or shirts have come a long way and are not just for kids. Most major swimwear companies are now offering flattering alternatives for those who want to spend a lot of time in the water but be protected at a greater level than sunscreen alone.

sun-safe clothes - rash shirts

1. Queensland Swimwear Company rash jacket $109.95 | 2. Capriosca rash vest $95 | 3. Aqua Cove swim wrap $149 | 4. Bombshell Bay rash guard $89 | 5. Babes in the Shade rashie $59 @ Shop Elsa 

Cool cover-ups

More of a quick-dip-then-back-under-the-umbrella-kind-of-girl? Yep, I get that. That’s my typical beach or pool behaviour. Lightweight kaftans, beach dresses or cover-ups in cotton, viscose or rayon are my friends. They keep my shoulders protected and offer me a bit of modesty if I’m heading off the beach to grab a coffee. Most don’t offer neck and chest coverage so I’m doubly conscious of sunscreen in this zone.

(STAY TUNED: On Monday, I’ll be talking about the more fancy kaftans … the kind of beach or resort wear that will take you out into the evening or be perfect for a beach wedding).

sun-safe clothing - cool cover-ups

1. Bigola poncho $77 @ Gidget’s Beach Shack | 2. Blue Bungalow dress $69 | 3. Bella Lido kaftan $99 | 4. Mist dress $185 @ Treasure Emporium | 5. Heartfelt Designs kurta $115 | 6. Full Moon kaftan $79.95 @ Sequins and Sand


Packing a lightweight scarf or sarong can double as a sun-safe wrap. There are also fabulous products on the market that serve this specific purchase in fabrics that have a UPF 50+ rating.

sun-safe clothing wraps

1. Black Seaweed towel cape $99.95 @ Blue Bungalow | 2. Bloxsun sun scarf $79


The original sun-safe pool and beach option is a wide-brimmed hat. Our kids have a “no hat; no play” policy and so should we. I struggle with hat purchases because of the size of my head – it’s big – but I don’t let that deter the hunt. And if anyone can tell me where my “lost” Helen Kaminski hat from last summer has disappeared to, I’ll love you forever. It was the first straw hat that actually fit and could be folded into my bag. It was so worth the money.

sun-safe clothing - hats

1. Blue Bungalow hat $39 | 2. Kooringal hat $24.95 @ Sequins & Sand | 3. Witchery hat $49.95 | 4. Helen Kaminski hat $275 | 5. Country Road hat $49.95

Over to you, how do you tackle being sun-safe at the beach and around the pool? Fave stores or labels to find sun-safe clothing or accessories?

Comments 36

  1. Stylish sun protection can be hard to find. We design a range of on-trend, great fitting, Australian made high UPF garments for women and kids.

    From wraps and dresses, to pants and t-shirts Sha-de provides a hassle-free sun protection solution to provide everyday shade; whether you are watching the kid’s sport, at the beach or having brunch with friends.

    View our full range at

  2. I have a big head too. It’s pretty rare for me find a hat that fits but I bought two Rigon hats from the Queensland Cancer Council Shop at the end of last summer. They are quite big enough for my large noggin. I think they are great quality and I love my wide brim one because it makes me feel like a 1940s hollywood starlet.

  3. Great post thanks Nikki. I lost a close friend to Melanoma (at age 31), so it’s very close to my heart. Have you come across any sun safe workout gear? It’s already quite warm here in Perth. I want to wear long sleeves for protection, but it’s just so darn hot!

    1. Hi Katie, I purchased some hi tech hiking clothing from Kathmandu but I use it for horse riding in summer. The tops have long sleeves but they are so cool, they allow air to flow through. They are unlike anything else I’ve ever worn. Quite expensive, about $90 each I think, but would be perfect for exercising in summer.

  4. Thanks Nikki. My Aqua Cove wrap was fantastic while in Fiji last week – particularly while snorkelling with my little one. Highly recommend it! I felt for the mums wearing the ‘daggy’ rash tops like their kids 😉

  5. Great post! I’ve had several spots and a melanoma removed and been through some very painful treatments. Remember the sun block kiddies!
    I was lamenting just this week about the lack of sun save cover ups. I usually don a kaftan or a tunic but you’re right, they don’t cover your chest. Most are also made of fabric that is too thin to provide protection.
    Will be checking out the sun safe sarongs!

  6. Great post Nikki. Thanks for getting the discussion going on UPF sun safe clothing Ruth. I don’t like to chime in usually with a shameless plug but we’ve been hunting for stylish UPF clothing for the beach and day to day in summer. And I’m stoked to report that we have. We’ve started a new section in the shop for them called ‘sun smart’ . Kaftans, dresses, t-shirts and tunic style rashies all UPF50+
    I hope some of your girls find this suggestion useful. Thanks! Anita. Sequins and Sand. Ax

  7. Is it just me, or does anyone else think that these gorgeous kaftans should be worn EVERYWHERE not just the beach?! Thanks for sharing these designer’s beautiful cover-ups Nikki 🙂

  8. Love that Aqua Cove Black wrap! I have just purchased a sunhat as well, as I had a melanoma scare a couple of months ago and it has made me more aware of how much time I am spending in the sun. Lauren from SAHM I am.

  9. Thank you so much Nikki!! Now to search your links for something to keep me safe this summer!! I love that you added in hats, I also have a big head and it makes the hunt that much tricker. Never deterred though, I will find my perfect hat this summer!

  10. Great post Nikki,I wear the Netrogena wet skin sunscreen as it is eaily applied and a hat always and a kaftan or dress over the top,I’m a fan of the dip and sit approach most times!Beautiful kaftans I would wear these as dresses and the scarf or wrap is a good idea at the beach.Thank you x

  11. Timely post indeed. For years sun cover-ups were just body cover-ups for me (didn’t want to terrify young children), these days it’s all about the sun. Loose shirts, sarongs, sunscreen, hats, but I’ve never thought about the glamour factor. Luckily you’ve done that for me. Stunning looks abound here! x

      1. Nothing wrong with vain Nikki, damn sight better than frumpy. Though that ‘f’ word and you could never be put in the same sentence!

  12. thankyou nikki,
    it’s a difficult one trying … to stay cool and look cool!;0 when it’s hot!
    dark verses light clothing tested by moi with a striped cotton on long sleeve t shirt left me with striped patterning on my skin … where the white was I was pink and where the black was I was untouched … answered my question about the Bedouins in the desert in indigo!
    I cover up with a cotton or linen shirt and always have a hat on! when it’s hot I don’t like non breathable material on my body …
    I don’t like most sunscreens as there are too many chemicals … I use colourless zinc! if we go to the beach we have a shelta to hide under!
    katmandu have some tops!
    hope you are ok after your fright the other day … love m:)X

    1. Oh that is not the scientific experiment you want to do Merilyn! Wow. And re sunscreens, would you believe I react to Zinc? There’s only one Zinc product – Invisible Zinc – that hasn’t made my skin come out in itchy, red lumps. I’m doing ok – Mr SY did notice part of me “glistening” this morning and it turned it out it was a shard of glass that was emerging from the healing wound. EEK. Double checked all the rest!!

      1. double EEK! … better out than in!? … is that helpful ml;)XX
        btw didn’t mean to do the experiment just happened on a 26d
        day lol xx

  13. I LOVE my Aquacove Swim Wrap – it is gorgeous and on our recent trip north, several people around the pool commented oh how fab it looks while its busy protecting my skin. Got to love that!

  14. Nikki, I can’t believe you have a ‘big’ head. Snap!!! How hard is it to find a well fitting hat? It’s the bane of my existence ( slight overstatement but it is sooooo frustrating!) I love your Blue Illusion hat you got for your last trip, I might have to investigate that one myself. Another lovely post x

  15. Great post! Time to go shopping! Have you done a post on sunscreens? I’m on the hunt for a good zinc sunscreen that isn’t so thick.

    1. Sarah, Shiseido do an amazing sun protection stick have used on my son instead of thick zinc since he was little it is absolutely is my holy grail of sunscreens is factor 50 Plus! EXXxy but will last a whole summer and check out strawberry net often much cheaper.

    2. Not this year Sarah but will do for sure – lots of the new sunscreen releases happen over the next month or so so stay tuned. I can’t wear zinc on my face (except for Insvisble Zinc’s ESP Moisturiser – worth a try!) as I react badly to zinc.

  16. It amazes me to see people lying on the beach sunbaking! I used to do it years ago, but with all the information and education these days – really? I wear a lot of sunscreen, but need a new hat. I work with kids, so outside every day – hat and sunscreen always. I wonder about all the people who are covered in tattoos, how will they see any changes on their skin? I’m going shopping this weekend, for swimwear, kaftan (which I have never worn and scares the crap out of me because I am so short) and a hat for our holidays. Nikki, how do you think I would go with a spray tan, would the flight to Thailand just wreck it? Haven’t had one for a few years. I don’t want to arrive patchy because of the air in the cabin.

    1. Good luck with the shopping Kathryn … and there are longer options out there for you. Re the spray tan, that’s a very good question. I did do one just before going to Bali last year and it did last the flight (shorter than Thailand but we ended up being cancelled and diverted so didn’t arrive till much later). Do it the day before and take moisturiser with you on the plane and lather it on a couple of times on the flight – especially legs, arms and chest!

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