What should I be wearing while kayaking this summer so that I can avoid tan lines?
March 10, 2011 6:23 AM   Subscribe

What should I be wearing while kayaking this summer so that I can avoid tan lines?

I end up with a sunburn and eventually tan lines every time I go kayaking no matter what type of sunscreen I wear or how often I reapply. I am in a wedding late this summer where I will be wearing a strapless dress and I would really like to avoid having my usual random tan lines. I would also like to protect my skin, since obviously sunburns are not a good thing!

Is there some sort of long sleeve shirt available that will keep me cool and tan line free? Or any other advice on what to do?

Some more information about me that may be relevant- I am not opposed to wearing a gigantic hat to shade my shoulders. I am white, like piece of paper white. I was originally thinking of just wearing a tube top, but I have yet to be able to avoid an actual sunburn while kayaking. Help!
posted by ridiculous to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (22 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I was a raft guide for many years. Those that wanted to keep the sun off tended to favor either a silk-weight capilene long sleeve shirt, or a blousy button-up shirt in light poplin (cotton) or actual silk. Since you're kayaking you can liberally apply water as needed to keep cool.
posted by OmieWise at 6:33 AM on March 10, 2011

Oh man, I am uber-white, too. I can get a sunburn just by knowing that it's sunny outside.

You wear sunscreen right? The worst sunburn of my life happened while I was wearing 60+ spf Bullfrog brand sport block (and applying it frequently and correctly). You need something with zinc and/or titanium in it. That oxybenzone stuff listed as an ingredient in everything else is total crap and does very little to keep my pasty skin safe.

However, it's hard to find grown-up sunscreen with zinc or titanium. If you can't find any, look at the ingredients in sun block for kids and babies.

As far as what to wear, they do make clothing with UV blockers, but with a good sunscreen, I'd be tempted to wear a comfy, loose-fitting button down like all the coolest nerds wear.
posted by phunniemee at 6:34 AM on March 10, 2011

You want a rashguard made for surfers with SPF in the fabric. They're way more effective than sunscreen in my experience.
posted by slow graffiti at 6:38 AM on March 10, 2011 [3 favorites]

Another former raft guide and kayak instructor here. You want a light- colored silkweight long-sleeved capilene shirt. Make sure the sleeves aren't too long or they'll be annoying with your paddle. Cotton will do in a pinch but will stay damp and annoying.
posted by bluedaisy at 7:08 AM on March 10, 2011

I live in a very hot climate so rashguards are generally out for me. Usually I kayak in a lightweight white cotton button down shirt with long sleeves and capri length pants in a chino type fabric (sunburned thighs suck). AND A HAT.
posted by elsietheeel at 7:12 AM on March 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

Oh, and you still need to slather on sunscreen under your shirt, especially on your neck! Also, capilene is Payagonia's product. I'm sure REI makes something similar.
posted by bluedaisy at 7:12 AM on March 10, 2011

OP are you whitewater or flatwater paddling? If you're a flatwater paddler like me you don't really have to worry about the pricey silk shirt and the dampness of cotton cos you're probably not going to get wet.
posted by elsietheeel at 7:15 AM on March 10, 2011

Australian kayaker here. Kind of intense sun/uv in summer these days. Rash vest, gloves, peaked cap with flaps covering neck and sides of face, sunscreen on face, sunglasses.
posted by Ahab at 7:17 AM on March 10, 2011

Rashies (Rashguards) are the way to go. You can wear them like a shirt or you can get them wet, even swim in them and they block out the UV. All the Surf LifeSavers (lifeguards) where I used to live used to wear these on the beach every day under the Australian sun to protect themselves along with a wide brimmed hat and good quality sunnies. Also lots of zinc based sunblock, if you hunt around you can find clear zinc products.
posted by wwax at 7:29 AM on March 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

I wear rashguards often, but because they're so close-fitting, they can get really hot. I have a loose-fitting sunblock shirt I got at Sierra Trading Post (here's one in the brand I bought) that allows some airflow along with coverage. I wear it all the time while gardening and it's pretty trashed looking but it's still in good physical shape.
posted by chowflap at 7:59 AM on March 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

Looking into all the ideas posted so far, leaning towards the long sleeve capilene shirt and a wide brimmed cap.

If it helps at all- I do all of my kayaking in small lakes and rivers in the Adirondacks and surrounding areas. I think I typically end up sunburned because it's very common to start the day off in a chilly shaded area and eventually find myself in broiling sun. As the day progresses the layers come off and then the sunburn happens.

Will I be warm enough and cool enough in a capilene shirt?

How thick is a rashguard? Looking at them online I can't get past the feeling that I would be uncomfortably warm in one.
posted by ridiculous at 8:27 AM on March 10, 2011

As a surfer, a rashguard was my obvious choice. They aren't thick, they're about the same thickness as any other athletic base layer. They whole purpose of them is to keep you out of the sun (and to keep surf wax from rubbing your chest raw when paddling a surfboard), not to keep you warm.

If you aren't planning on actually getting wet, you could wear the thinnest capilene or something and that would work, but rashguards are designed for being in the water and still offering sun protection even when wet.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 9:16 AM on March 10, 2011

Nthing the rashguard suggestion. If you get it wet it's not too hot. This one at Title Nine looks cute.
posted by bobafet at 9:24 AM on March 10, 2011

yeah, silk weight capilene all the way. Be careful though- silkweight capilene is known to be habit forming due to its highly comfortable and temperature flexible nature. The Mountain Hardwear wicked ts are nice too.

If you prefer a button-up there are dozens of shirts, many with explicit UPF ratings, which is basically SPF for fabric.

Sierra trading post often has silk-weight capilene for sale. If you see a deal on them, get some underpants as well.
posted by rockindata at 9:58 AM on March 10, 2011

Don't forget to wear gloves or use pogies or else you will have classic kayaker tan lines at the wrist.

Pogies snap over the paddle shaft and you insert your hands into them like mittens. This allows you a good grip on the paddle while protecting your hands from the elements. They are much more comfortable than gloves.
posted by JackFlash at 10:32 AM on March 10, 2011

I go with the long-sleeved lightweight cotton button-down. I like it because you can get it on and off easily and roll up the sleeves easily if need be. You can also flip the collar up for extra sun protection. However, you can still burn through light colored cotton, so you'll want to put some sunscreen on underneath and/or treat the shirt with a UV protectant or buy one ready made. Here's more info than you ever wanted to know about UV protective clothing from REI.
posted by yarly at 10:48 AM on March 10, 2011

The first time I went ocean kayaking I got possibly the worst sunburn of my adult life. Now I wear a lightweight long-sleeve REI-brand 50-UPF polyester top in a light color when (used to wear black, which looks cooler but warms up in bright sun). It does occasionally feel a little warm but when that happens I just get the shirt wet and then I'm comfy.
posted by mskyle at 12:07 PM on March 10, 2011

Rash guards come in different thickness. I have a bunch, some are silkweight and some are 1mm and provide a bit of warmth (in theory, I'm not convinced). You want a light one.
posted by fshgrl at 12:13 PM on March 10, 2011

silk weight capilene all the way

If you're as white as you say/as white as me and as prone to burn then be sure to put on sunblock as well. The SWC hits I get in a search have a protection factor of about 15 which wouldn't be sufficient for me for a half-day outing.

As far as always burning, are you putting your block onto clean, dry skin before you leave the house? The sweat-proof stuff work best when it has time to dry fully before you start sweating/rubbing it. I loathe wearing the stuff and often postpone application... and pay for it.

The best results I've had have been from what feels like an insane procedure - getting out of the shower, drying, giving myself some time under the ceiling fan to dry completely, then applying the stuff and some more fan time. Damned pale skin.
posted by phearlez at 1:25 PM on March 10, 2011

Patagonia also makes something called a polarized shirt, which they shill as being equivalent to SPF-25.
posted by box at 2:49 PM on March 10, 2011

If you search Sierra Trading post for upf women shirt and upf hat or some such, you'll see lots of good options.
posted by tangerine at 3:49 PM on March 10, 2011

Just for clarification on the thickness: rashguard =/= neoprene, the stuff a wetsuit is made of. They are the same thickness as most normal synthetic fabrics, like a swimsuit.
posted by slow graffiti at 2:10 PM on March 11, 2011

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