When deciding on a shirt to wear on a hot day, you might automatically reach for a cotton T-shirt over anything made from rayon. However, both are actually breathable fabrics.

What Is Rayon?

Rayon is considered a man-made fiber, but it is not synthetic because it is made from naturally occurring materials, according to Fiber Source. It is referred to as a regenerated cellulose fiber.

Rayon’s Characteristics

According to the fiber experts at Ohio State University, rayon is frequently misunderstood. It is breathable and can actually be more moisture-absorbent than cotton.

Cool Cotton

According to Cotton Incorporated fiber expert Don Bailey, cotton has natural wicking properties that pull moisture away from the skin, distributing it evenly throughout the fabric. “By moving the moisture away from the skin and to the surface of the garment where it can evaporate, cotton helps you keep cool,” Bailey explains in an article on Cotton Inc.’s website.

Be Cautious About Blends

Read labels. A synthetic blend does not have the same properties as pure cotton or rayon. Cotton is sometimes blended with different types of synthetic fibers to give a shirt a better fit and the ability to stretch. Rayon is frequently blended with polyester, nylon and acrylic.

The Bottom Line

Cut and construction are important. Clothing that hugs the body won’t be as breathable as loosely fitting garments, no matter what type of fabric it is.