Whether you’re wearing a bikini or a one-piece swimsuit, those swimsuits usually come with padding, built-in cups, underwire, or an extra seam to support your breasts. When it comes to swim shirts/rash guards, they usually don’t come with much support so it can feel very bare without a bra. There is also the fear of your nipples being visible which you would presumably want to hide.
All of these concerns give rise to the following question: are you supposed to wear a bra with a swim shirt? You should not wear your regular bra or even a sports bra unless you’re okay with them getting ruined by chlorine and saltwater. You should just wear a rash guard over a bikini top or a one-piece swimsuit underneath if you want extra support for your breasts.
On the other hand, if your concern is not a lack of support, but rather you are worried about your nipples being visible, there are other alternatives to a bra. You can wear a waterproof nipple cover, and these come in various types. For instance, you can wear a molded cup, apply a resilient paste, or even stick on a band-aid type cover. Use whichever feels most comfortable for you.
If you keep reading on, we will explain in more detail why wearing a bra under your swim shirt is not a good idea, as well as what you should be doing instead so that you can still get the support you need without ruining your bras.
Why you shouldn’t wear a regular bra or sports bra in the water
Look, you can go swimming in a bra if you want. It’s not illegal or against any rules, it’s fine. The issue is that you are effectively sacrificing that bra because it’s not going to last very long when exposed to chlorine or saltwater. If you must have some kind of chest support, stick with swimwear tops.
Salt and chemicals will damage it
In every swimming pool you swim in, whether it’s a residential pool or a public pool, the water will be treated with chlorine and other harsh chemicals. These chemicals are necessary to sanitize the pool, otherwise bacteria and viruses will spread, resulting in infections and disease.
Thus, even though chlorine can damage your clothing, your skin, and even your hair, they are a necessary evil because the alternatives are much worse. Even saltwater pools require some chlorine to keep them clean, so don’t think those are the exception.
Salt has similar negative effects because it can also cause bras to lose their shape, fade/discolor, and deteriorate quickly. In a pool, the deteriorated fibers can end up clogging a filter, so bras are not allowed. So whether you’re swimming in the pool or ocean, you’re really putting your bra through a lot.
Funnily enough, even proper swimwear are not immune from the harsh effects of chlorine and salt, though they are much more resistant than non-swimming specific clothing.
That’s why it’s recommended that you rinse your swimsuit immediately after swimming to get rid of any lingering salt or chlorine, which greatly increases your swimsuit’s lifespan.
Bras take longer to dry
Both regular bras and sports bras are not designed to be worn underwater. While they are meant to absorb sweat, that is the opposite of what you want your swimwear to do.
Presumably, you might want to spend some time on the beach even after taking a dip. When you’re back on land, you want your swimwear to dry quickly, and that can be achieved if not much water has been absorbed in the first place.
Well, guess what your bra, which is designed to absorb sweat, is going to do? Yup, it’s going to absorb all of that chlorinated/salt water and it’s not going to release it easily. You’re going to feel like you’re carrying around extra weight around your chest and it’s going to feel really cold and miserable.
You have to replace your bra
Exposing your bra to chlorine and salt will deteriorate the material quickly. Wearing it when it’s wet will cause it to get stretched out and lose its shape. The end result, as we mentioned, is that you will probably need to replace your bra each time, because that bra is ruined.
Bras are not so easily replaceable. If you find one that fits you, I think the last thing you want to do is expose it to these conditions. It’d be a shame to ruin a perfectly good bra when you could have worn a proper swimwear top instead. It’d also get quite costly, too.
They aren’t allowed in recreational pools
Even if you wanted to wear a bra under a swim shirt, it’s technically not allowed. Regular bras would absorb too much water, making it difficult to move around and stay afloat. This is a legitimate safety concern. Furthermore, chlorine can cause the bra to fray and deteriorate, and the strands that break off can clog up the pool filter. For these reasons, regular clothes are banned from swimming pools.
What to wear under a swim shirt
How you are supposed to wear a swim shirt or rash guard is to wear it over your current swimwear, which basically means over a bikini top if you’re wearing a bikini, or over the top part of a one piece swimsuit, or just over your bare chest.
These are exactly the kinds of swimwear tops you should be wearing because they are actually designed to be worn in the water.
Unlike a bra, swimwear is usually made with Lycra/spandex fabric which is much stretchier and will retain its shape even after being soaked in water. These materials, being made from synthetic (man-made) fibers, will last much longer than natural fibers so you can wear them for multiple months before they need replacing.
Most importantly, swimwear will not absorb very much water so that you won’t get waterlogged. You will be able to swim freely without feeling much underwater drag. When you get out of the water, since not much water was absorbed in the first place, your swimwear will dry quickly so you won’t be cold and still dripping wet hours later.
As you can see, you neither want nor need to wear a bra with a swim shirt because you can just wear it over your regular swimwear to provide the necessary support for your bosom.
On top of that, a bikini top or one piece swimsuit will handle being soaked in chlorinated water and salt water much better than a bra would so you don’t have to ruin a bra each time you swim. Not even a sports bra will do much better than a regular bra, so just stick with a bikini top or one piece swimsuit.