Swimsuits are made of many different fabrics, and it’s important to find the right swim fabric for your body type. The first question you should ask yourself is: “What does this fabric do?” Some swimsuit fabrics help reduce friction (rash-free), some dry faster; some make you look like a million bucks, some are sun safe. Knowing what you want your suit to do will help narrow down the field of swim fabrics.
Most swimsuits are made out of nylon, polyester, or spandex/lycra blends. Polyester is great for water-resistant swim fabric, and nylon dries fastest but is very allergenic. Spandex/lycra is a stretchy fabric that allows you to move without restriction and fits a wide variety of body types.
Spandex is usually more expensive but will last far longer than the less expensive polyester or nylon swimwear fabrics. These are great for beginners looking to pick up their first suit.
Following are some categories of swim fabric and their varying characteristics:
RASH-FREE SPORT FABRIC — This type is fast-drying, lets you move freely in the water, stretches with your body but has a little bit of surface drag. It will not pill, shrink or fade. For maximum sun protection, choose a fabric with a 50+ UPF.
TYPES: nylon/spandex and nylon/lycra blends
Commonly found in: most technical, high-performance suits for triathletes, water polo or surfing; racing swimsuits; long-distance open water swimwear; snorkel suits. If you’re looking for a suit with sun protection, look for one of these swim fabrics.
RASH-FREE RACER FABRIC — This is the same as above but has an added layer of polyester inside to help reduce skin to fabric friction. If you have sensitive skin or are prone to rashes, then this will be your best choice.
TYPES: nylon/spandex and nylon/lycra blends with polyester inside lining.
Commonly found in racing swimsuits, long-distance swimwear, triathlon suits. For a suit with sun protection, look for one of these swim fabrics.
DURABLE FABRIC — This fabric is hardwearing, will not pill nor fade, and dries super fast. It has a bit more surface drag than the above rash-free fabrics, but it has an even stronger inner polyester lining to reduce skin to fabric friction.
TYPES: Nylon/polyester or nylon/spandex blends with polyester inside lining.
Commonly found in training and fitness swimwear, water polo, and competitive swimming suits. For a suit with sun protection, look for one of these swim fabrics.
SOFT FABRIC — This fabric feels like silk to the touch and is usually used for luxury loungewear or elegant cover-ups. It is usually very expensive and best for sun protection.
TYPES: Nylon/spandex or nylon/lycra blends with polyester inside lining.
In conclusion, if you are looking for sun protection, look for one of the above three fabrics. If you are looking for a high-performance suit (or if you suffer from skin allergies), try nylon/spandex or nylon/lycra blends with 50+ UPF and an inner sand proof lining. And for luxury and elegance, choose a soft fabric like nylon/spandex or nylon/lycra with polyester inside lining.