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UV protective clothing that doesn’t cost a fortune

Sunscreen application always feels like a huge gamble. Is it time to reapply? Is this one really waterproof? Not to mention the whining as eager kids just “want to get in the pool already, Mom, geez.”

UV protective clothing won’t allow for sunblock-free living, but it definitely minimizes how much skin you need to cover. We found all the essential pieces for less than $20 each — a fraction of what they used to cost.

Long sleeve rash guards

Don’t freak out — the long sleeves won’t smother your family in the summer heat. The breathable fabrics help keep skin cool, even if you don’t wear them in water. Choose long sleeve rash guards instead of traditional tops if you plan to spend the day at an amusement park. You won’t have to remember to reapply sunblock to arms, leaving more time to focus on fun. When shopping rash guards, always check the tag for the UV protection rating. Some cheaper options don’t offer any at all.

Unisex infant breath easy sun protection shirt from i play

iPlay unisex rashguard

The breathable fabric will keep your baby or toddler cool all summer long. Sizes infant to 4T. (Amazon, $16)

Girls’ long sleeve striped rash guard with matching bikini bottoms

Girls' long sleeve striped rashguard with bikini

Wear the whole suit to the beach or just the top for an afternoon at the park. Sizes infant to 6X. (Target, $11)

Speedo girls’ long sleeve rash guard

Speedo girls' long sleeve rashguard

Tweens and little girls alike will love this rash guard, also available in blue. Fits girls 4-16. (Target, $16)

Cherokee boys’ long sleeve swim rash guard

Boys' Long Sleeve Swim Rashguard

Your guy will never be hard to spot in this bright rash guard, also available in orange and aqua. Fits boys 4-16. (Target, $12)

Protective Hats

Wispy baby hair leaves scalps susceptible to sunburn, making sun hats a necessity. Find hats with wide brims to shade the eyes and flaps to cover the back of the neck, especially for younger babies. Be cautious with chin straps, as drawstrings and ties can present an entanglement or strangulation hazard.

Flap Happy Baby UPF 50+ swim flap hat

Flap Happy Baby Hat

The elastic in back ensures this sun hat will stay put on your baby’s head. Also available in pink and blue. Infant and toddler sizes. (Amazon, $12)

Sunday Afternoons UPF 50 play hat

Sunday Afternoons Play Hats

Finding big kid sun hats is next to impossible, never mind trying to find one for $20 or less. These hats from Sunday Afternoons are the gold standard — they have a breathable liner, adjustable crown sizing and come in tons of colors. Ages 2-10. (The Portable Baby, $20)

Protective eyewear

Even if you choose to eschew UV protective clothing in favor of sunblock, eye protection is essential. Make sure each of your kids has a well-fitting pair of sunglasses or goggles for those long days at the pool. Go cheap on the sunglasses and buy a bunch — they get lost and broken like crazy when little kids are involved.

Baby Banz UV swim goggles

Baby Banz UV Swim Goggles

Swim goggles that fit little faces and don’t have commercial characters all over the place? Sign me up. Ages 3 and up. (Amazon, $12)

Aguaphile Junior swimming goggles

Aguaphile Junior Swimming Goggles

These goggles offer comfort, style and protection from the sun. Fits kids and teens. (Amazon, $20)

Toddler sunglasses with strap

Toddler Sunglasses with Strap

You won’t have to worry about your baby taking them off, busting the arms or tossing them right out the car window… again. Fits infants and toddlers. (Target, $6)

Croakies unisex kids eyewear retainer

Croakies Glasses Retainer

This strap promises to keep any type of glasses right where they belong — snug on your child’s head. Choose from several colors and patterns. One size. (Amazon, $7)

The Children’s Place sunglasses

Children's Place Sunglasses

Honestly, any cheap sunglasses you can grab in the checkout line will do, as long as you make sure they offer both UVA and UVB protection. If you take advantage of their nonstop sales, you can stock up on these TCP sunglasses for less than $2 a pair. Various colors and styles, sizes infant to teen. (The Children’s Place, $5)

More on sun safety

How to find sunscreen that won’t hurt your kids
Why I won’t remind my teens to wear sunscreen
FDA investigating potential spray-on sunscreen risks

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