Unraveling the Common Myth: Do Wetsuits Stretch Out?

Jörg Matzdorff
Jörg Matzdorff

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Wetsuits are essential gear for many kinds of water sports. Whether you want to learn how to dive, are looking for more comfort in cold waters or need protection from jellyfish stings. Wetsuits provide warmth and protection in chilly waters. But only, when they fit you well! Finding the right wetsuit for you is an essential step to enjoy wearing it. However, one common concern among users is: Do wetsuits stretch over time? Let’s delve into this dooming question and uncover the truth behind the possibility of wetsuit stretching.

In this article, you will get answers to the following questions:

  • Do wetsuits stretch when wet?
  • Why do wetsuits stretch out?
  • Can I prevent my wetsuit from stretching out?
  • Will a wetsuit stretch out more if it’s too tight initially?
  • Do neoprene wetsuits stretch over time?

Do Neoprene Wetsuits Stretch Over Time?

To grasp the dynamics of wetsuit stretching, and be able to answer this question properly, it’s crucial to understand the materials they’re made of. Neoprene, the primary fabric used in wetsuits, is known for its elasticity. 

Neoprene’s ability to stretch allows for a snug fit and flexibility during movement. However, prolonged use and exposure to various conditions can impact its elasticity.

Do Wetsuits Stretch When Wet?

Yes, wetsuits can stretch when wet. When neoprene, the material most commonly used in wetsuits, becomes wet, it can become slightly more pliable and stretchy due to the moisture absorbed by the fabric. This can result in a temporary increase in the flexibility of the wetsuit.

However, it’s important to note that the extent of stretching when wet is usually minimal and temporary. Once the wetsuit dries, it typically returns to its original shape and size. 

Additionally, high-quality neoprene wetsuits are designed to minimize stretching and maintain their shape and integrity even when wet.

Are all Wetsuits Made from Neoprene?

While neoprene is the most common material used in wetsuits due to its excellent insulation properties and flexibility, not all wetsuits are made exclusively from neoprene. Some specialty wetsuits may incorporate alternative materials or hybrid constructions to achieve specific performance goals or address particular needs. 

Different materials react differently to stretching. The wetsuit thickness and the main material used for the wetsuit can affect the capability of the material to go back to its original size immensely. 

While neoprene remains the predominant material used in wetsuit construction, innovations in materials science and garment technology continue to drive the development of alternative wetsuit materials and constructions.

Neoprene Wetsuits

In the early 20th century, divers and water sports enthusiasts began using rubber garments to provide some level of insulation and protection against cold water temperatures. These early wetsuits were often crude and uncomfortable compared to modern wetsuits, but they laid the foundation for the development of more advanced materials like neoprene.

Nowadays, neoprene is by far not the newest or most high-tech material and yet, the most commonly used. That is, because its unique properties make it well-suited for providing thermal insulation and flexibility in aquatic environments, while other materials may be stretchier, but lack warmth.


Anybody who practices cold water activities and is looking for a wetsuit for cold water swimming should definitely prioritize thermal insulation over the possibility of a wetsuit stretching out!

Lycra Wetsuits

Lycra, also known as Spandex or elastane, is often used in lightweight wetsuits, commonly known as rash guards or swim skins. These wetsuits offer minimal insulation but provide protection against sun exposure, abrasions, and jellyfish stings.

The stretchiness of Lycra wetsuits primarily depends on the quality of the fabric and construction. High-quality Lycra blends are designed to maintain their elasticity and shape even with repeated use. 

Compared to neoprene wetsuits, Lycra wetsuits are generally less prone to permanent stretching, but they may experience some degree of elongation with extended wear and tear.

Yamamoto Neoprene Wetsuits

For example, triathlon wetsuits are designed for swim performance and typically feature thinner neoprene panels for flexibility and buoyancy. 

These wetsuits may also incorporate materials like Yamamoto neoprene, which is known for its lightweight and high stretch properties, to optimize swim efficiency.


Due to the premium quality of Yamamoto neoprene and the advanced manufacturing techniques involved, wetsuits made with this material typically command a higher price point compared to wetsuits made with standard neoprene.

However, like any wetsuit, Yamamoto neoprene wetsuits may experience some degree of stretching with prolonged use, especially in areas that undergo frequent movement or tension

Compared to the alternatives in wetsuit materials, the unique properties of Yamamoto neoprene, including its high-density structure and low water absorption, contribute to its resistance to permanent stretching. 

This means that Yamamoto neoprene wetsuits can maintain their shape and elasticity over time, providing a consistent fit and optimal performance throughout their lifespan.

What Else Influences the Stretch-Factor of a Wetsuit?

Besides the chosen material of your wetsuit, a couple more factors can have an influence on the stretch-resistance of the wetsuit. 

Ever wondered: Do wetsuits stretch out more if the material is thinner? Do neoprene wetsuits stretch over time when properly cared for? Couldn’t the wetsuit brands incorporate stabilizing features?

Here are the answers: 

→ Neoprene Thickness 

Thicker neoprene generally provides better insulation against cold water, but may also be less prone to stretching compared to thinner neoprene. Thicker neoprene can better maintain its shape and structural integrity over time, especially in areas that experience frequent movement or stress.

Reinforcements and Features

Some wetsuits incorporate reinforcements or features to enhance durability and maintain shape. For instance, wetsuits may have reinforced seams, abrasion-resistant panels, or integrated support structures to prevent excessive stretching and distortion.

→ Proper Care and Maintenance 

Regardless of thickness or material, proper care and maintenance are crucial for preserving the shape and performance of wetsuits. Learning how to wash a wetsuit correctly and avoiding exposing wetsuits to direct sunlight or heat, as prolonged exposure can cause neoprene to deteriorate and lose elasticity.

In summary, while wetsuit thickness and material composition can impact their ability to revert to their original size, proper care and maintenance practices can help prolong their lifespan and maintain their shape and performance for longer durations.

The Impact of your Wetsuit’s Fit

The fit of a wetsuit plays a crucial role in how quickly it stretches out over time. And it does not matter which sport you practice! Finding the right fit for your wetsuit is the most important key point of buying your wetsuit.

Whether you are planning on learning how to wind surf, kite surf, boogie board, dive or swim. Comfort is the base layer to a successful session. 

Proper Fit Distributes Stress 

A wetsuit that fits snugly from the beginning distributes stress evenly across the neoprene fabric. When a wetsuit is too tight or too loose, certain areas may experience more tension during movement, leading to accelerated stretching in those areas.

An even distribution of stress helps to prevent localized stretching and reduces the risk of premature wear and tear. With a proper fit, the wetsuit moves with the wearer’s body, allowing for natural range of motion without placing undue strain on the fabric. 

This reduces the likelihood of the neoprene material stretching out quickly in specific areas that experience frequent movement, such as the shoulders, elbows, and knees.

Reading Tip

Especially your neck, underarms, groin and behind your knees may feel burnt or scratched after a long session in a wetsuit. Don’t worry, this is quite normal. It is called Wetsuit Rash

Properly fitting wetsuits provide optimal support to muscle groups, enhancing comfort and performance during water activities. The wetsuit’s compression helps to stabilize muscles and reduce fatigue, further minimizing stress on the neoprene fabric and promoting longevity.

A wetsuit that fits properly also reduces the formation of wrinkles or folds in the neoprene fabric. Wrinkles can create points of weakness where the material is more prone to stretching out over time.

Excessive Tightness

The constant stress and strain on the neoprene material from being overly tight can lead to material fatigue over time. Neoprene is a stretchy material, but it also has its limits. 

If it’s continually stretched beyond its capacity due to excessive tightness, the fabric may lose some of its elasticity and resilience, making it more prone to stretching out further.

Buying your wetsuit smaller than needed will only put more tension on the material and will cause it to rip, stretch out and lose its benefits, like buoyancy, warmth and protection.

Loose Fit

Conversely, a wetsuit that is too loose may also stretch out faster because there is excess material that can be pulled and stretched during movement. Additionally, a loose fit can lead to wrinkles or folds in the neoprene fabric, which can weaken the material over time and contribute to stretching.

Besides that, a wetsuit that is too loose may not provide optimal support to muscle groups during water activities. Without proper compression and stabilization, muscles may experience increased strain and fatigue.


Overall, choosing a wetsuit with the right fit is essential for minimizing the speed at which it stretches out over time. A properly fitting wetsuit distributes stress evenly, reduces tension on the neoprene material, and provides optimal compression, all of which contribute to maintaining the wetsuit’s shape and performance for longer duration. 

Can I Prevent my Wetsuit from Stretching Out Over Time?

While some stretching of a wetsuit is inevitable with regular use, there are steps you can take to minimize stretching and prolong the lifespan of your wetsuit. 

As with any water sports material, quality has its price. The costs of scuba gear, surfboards and safety material are not to be underestimated. The more important, to take good care of the material you have.

Choose the Right Size

This point can not be mentioned often enough. Choosing the right wetsuit size pays already half the rent for maintaining a wetsuit in shape as long as possible. 

If you have doubts about the size you might need, consult our Wetsuit Size Guide to get an idea, which wetsuit measurements suit you and your water activity of choice best.

Proper Care and Maintenance

Step No. 2, that should be a constant part of your water sports routine, is cleaning your material with care

After each use, rinse your wetsuit thoroughly with fresh water to remove salt, sand, and other debris. Pay special attention to zippers, seams, and any areas with accumulated grime. Hot water is not recommended, as it can damage the neoprene material.

Try to avoid exposing your wetsuit to harsh chemicals, petroleum-based products, or chlorine, as they can degrade the neoprene material and reduce its elasticity. Rinse your wetsuit thoroughly after each use in chlorinated water, and avoid using bleach or detergents when cleaning.  


Especially, when wearing your wetsuit in a pool, you want to be extra thorough. Constant contact with chlorine will harm the wetsuit material significantly.

Other points may seem natural, like drying and storing your wetsuit in a well-ventilated, dry place out of the sun, but are not to be forgotten.  

Also, not to be underestimated, is the contact with sharp objects or rough surfaces that can cause tears, punctures, or abrasions. When putting on or taking off your wetsuit, be gentle and avoid pulling or tugging on the fabric excessively.

Repair Tears and Holes Promptly

Tears and holes in your wetsuit can worsen over time if left unrepaired. Repairing damage promptly helps prevent the spread of tears and holes, minimizing the risk of stretching out your wetsuit.

Tears and holes compromise the structural integrity of your wetsuit, allowing water, salt and possibly chemical products to enter and reduce thermal insulation. 

By patching up damaged areas with wetsuit repair kits or seeking assistance from a professional wetsuit tailor, you can restore the wetsuit’s waterproof seal and prevent excessive stretching caused by waterlogged neoprene.

Avoid Excessive Pulling or Tugging

Pulling or tugging on the fabric of your wetsuit can, just like in the case of wearing a wrong wetsuit size, cause unnecessary stress on the neoprene material, leading to stretching over time. As stretchy as neoprene gets, it has its limits. Excessive force can exceed these limits and result in permanent stretching out of the fabric.

Excessive pulling or tugging can also put strain on the seams and stitching of your wetsuit, weakening them and making them more susceptible to damage. Damaged seams can compromise the integrity of the wetsuit, allowing water to enter and reducing thermal insulation.

To prevent stretching out your wetsuit:

  • Handle your wetsuit with care, especially when putting it on or taking it off.
  • Avoid pulling or tugging on the fabric excessively, particularly in areas that experience frequent movement.
  • Use gentle motions and take your time when adjusting your wetsuit to ensure a proper fit without causing unnecessary strain on the fabric.
  • If you encounter resistance while putting on or taking off your wetsuit, take a moment to adjust the fit rather than pulling or tugging forcefully.

Rotating Wetsuits Can Help Avoid Stretching out

Rotating between multiple wetsuits ensures that each wetsuit receives equal wear over time. This prevents one wetsuit from being used excessively, which can lead to accelerated stretching and wear in certain areas.

Giving each wetsuit adequate time to dry and recover between uses helps maintain the integrity of the neoprene material. Drying allows any moisture trapped within the wetsuit to evaporate fully, preventing mold and mildew growth and preserving the elasticity of the fabric.

Having multiple wetsuits also allows you to choose the most suitable one for the current water conditions and activity. For example, you may use a thicker wetsuit for colder water temperatures and a thinner one for warmer conditions. This adaptability ensures that you always have the right wetsuit for the job.


A wetsuit thickness table can only provide a reference point to initially guide your search. However, ultimately, it is your personal experience with temperature that determines the thermal insulation necessary for your comfort.

Overall, rotating wetsuits is a practical strategy to prevent excessive stretching out and prolong the lifespan of your wetsuit collection.

Is it Possible to Repair a Stretched out Wetsuit?

Yes, in general it is possible to reshape a stretched out wetsuit to some extent, although the effectiveness of reshaping will depend on the severity of the stretching and the condition of the neoprene material. 

  1. Wash and Rinse: Start by washing the wetsuit with mild soap and rinsing it thoroughly with freshwater. This helps remove any dirt or salt residue that may be contributing to the stretching and restores the neoprene’s flexibility.
  1. Dry Flat: Lay the wetsuit flat on a clean, dry surface to dry. Avoid hanging the wetsuit, as this can stretch it out further. Make sure the wetsuit is spread out evenly and not bunched up or folded, as this can create creases that may be difficult to remove.
  1. Use Heat: Applying gentle heat can help soften the neoprene and make it more pliable, allowing you to reshape it more easily. You can use a hairdryer on a low heat setting or place the wetsuit in direct sunlight for a short period, taking care not to overheat or damage the neoprene.
  1. Reshape: Once the wetsuit is warm and pliable, gently stretch and reshape it back to its original shape. Focus on areas that have stretched out the most, such as the shoulders, elbows, and knees. Take your time and be gentle to avoid causing further damage to the neoprene.
  1. Allow to Cool: After reshaping the wetsuit, allow it to cool and set in its new shape. You can lay it flat again or hang it on a wide, padded hanger to maintain its shape while it cools.

Conclusion: Stretching out Wetsuits is Normal – In Moderation

Stretching out wetsuits is a normal occurrence, albeit in moderation. While some degree of stretching is inevitable with regular use, proper care, maintenance, and handling can help minimize its extent. By choosing the right fit, rotating wetsuits, repairing damage promptly, and avoiding excessive pulling or tugging, you can ensure that your wetsuits maintain their shape, comfort, and performance over time. Embracing this natural process of stretching while taking proactive measures to manage it allows you to enjoy the wetsuits comfortably and confidently for many adventures to come.

FAQ – Most asked questions about do wetsuits stretch out

Jörg Matzdorff
Jörg Matzdorff

Outdoor and surfing enthusiast.