Wetsuit Rashes – Causes, Prevention, and Treatments

Jörg Matzdorff
Jörg Matzdorff

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Wetsuits become your ultimate ally in the water, functioning as a second skin that safeguards you from scratches, biting winds, and the cool embrace of the water. Conforming closely to your body, they offer not just protection, but also the ability to enhance your performance in any aquatic activity, whether it is surfing, diving or kitesurfing.

But what to do when your loyal companion suddenly turns against you? Red skin, soreness, blisters and if left untreated, further irritations and infection. If you were blessed with sensitive skin, you may experience one of these symptoms after a long session in your wetsuit. 

Even though it is not a big injury, it can take away the fun as easily as a thunderstorm over the ocean. But – no need to panic! Because we have all the knowledge about causes, wetsuit rash treatment, and prevention summed up for you right here.  

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

  • What does wetsuit rash look like?
  • How long does wetsuit rash last?
  • Is it normal to get a wetsuit neck rash?
  • What is an effective wetsuit rash treatment?
  • How to prevent rash from wetsuit?

Understanding Wetsuit Rashes

Whether you experienced a rash from a wetsuit yourself and are now looking for an explanation and a wetsuit rash cure, or you heard about it and want to make sure it will not happen to you – We have got you covered!

What Does Wetsuit Rash Look Like?

A wetsuit rash typically appears as red, irritated patches on the skin, often accompanied by itching, discomfort, and sometimes even small bumps or blisters.

The affected areas may feel warm to the touch and can vary in size depending on the severity of the irritation. In some cases, the rash may resemble a sunburn, while in others, it may present as raised, inflamed patches

The rash is commonly found in areas where the wetsuit rubs against the skin, such as:

  • neck
  • underarms 
  • groin
  • behind the knees

The constant movement and pressure from the wetsuit collar can cause chafing and abrasions, leading to the development of the wetsuit neck rash.

If left untreated, the rash may worsen and lead to further irritation or infection. Further infection and irritation from a wetsuit rash can exacerbate the initial symptoms and lead to additional discomfort and complications. 

Signs of infection may include:

  • Increased redness and swelling: The affected area may become more inflamed and swollen than before.
  • Pus or drainage: Pus-filled bumps or open sores may develop, indicating a bacterial infection.
  • Warmth to the touch: The skin around the rash may feel warmer than usual, indicating an inflammatory response.
  • Fever: In severe cases of infection, a fever may develop as the body’s immune system fights off the infection.
  • Worsening pain or discomfort: The rash may become increasingly painful or uncomfortable, making it difficult to tolerate wearing a wetsuit or engaging in water activities.


If you notice any signs of infection or worsening symptoms, it’s essential to seek medical attention promptly. A healthcare professional can assess the rash, prescribe appropriate treatment, and help prevent further complications.

What Causes Wetsuit Rash?

Now that you’re familiar with how a wetsuit rash typically appears, let’s delve into its origins. Where does this unwelcome counterpart of the protective and nurturing wetsuit companion come from?


It’s probable that the irritation stemming from wearing a wetsuit is primarily due to chafing. However, other potential causes of irritation encompass.

  • Allergic reaction to neoprene
  • Swimmer’s itch
  • Skin rash caused by cyanobacteria

Wetsuit rashes can occur easily, and although they may not be immediately noticeable while you’re in the water, even of the most beautiful surf spots, their full impact becomes apparent as soon as you remove the wetsuit.

Wetsuit rashes can be caused by a combination of factors, including:


The repetitive movement and rubbing of the wetsuit material against the skin can lead to irritation and chafing, particularly in areas where the wetsuit fits snugly or where there are seams or edges.

Trapped sand or debris: 

Particles of sand, dirt, or debris that become trapped between the wetsuit and the skin can further exacerbate friction and irritation, leading to wetsuit rashes.

Allergic reactions: 

Some individuals may experience allergic reactions to the neoprene material or other components of the wetsuit, such as adhesives or dyes, resulting in skin irritation or rash.

Prolonged moisture: 

Wearing a wet wetsuit for an extended period, particularly in warm or humid conditions, can create a damp environment conducive to bacterial or fungal growth, which can contribute to developing a rash from a wetsuit.

Improper fit: 

Wetsuits that are too tight or too loose can cause rubbing, pressure points, and friction against the skin, increasing the risk of developing wetsuit rashes.

Poor hygiene: 

Failure to properly clean and dry the wetsuit after use can also lead to the accumulation of bacteria, fungi, and other microorganisms that can irritate the skin and contribute to rash formation.


Don’t overcompensate and risk a bad sunburn instead of dealing with the potential of a wetsuit rash!

How Long Does Wetsuit Rash Last?

The duration of a wetsuit rash can vary depending on factors such as the severity of the rash, how promptly it is treated, and individual healing capabilities

In mild cases, a wetsuit rash may resolve on its own within a few days to a week with proper care and avoidance of further irritation. However, more severe or persistent rashes may take longer to heal and may require medical treatment.

Several factors can help expedite the healing process of a wetsuit rash:

  • Keep the affected area clean: Wash the rash gently with mild soap and water to remove any dirt or debris that could irritate the skin further.
  • Keep the area dry: Moisture can exacerbate irritation and slow down healing. Ensure the affected area is kept dry, especially after washing or swimming.
  • Avoid further irritation: Refrain from wearing the wetsuit or engaging in activities that may rub or aggravate the rash until it has healed completely.
  • Use soothing creams or ointments: Apply over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream or aloe vera gel to the affected area to alleviate itching and inflammation.
  • Take oral antihistamines: If itching is severe, oral antihistamines such as diphenhydramine can help reduce itching and promote healing.
  • Stay hydrated: Drink plenty of water to keep the body hydrated, which can support the skin’s natural healing process.
  • Avoid scratching: Although it may be tempting, scratching the rash can further irritate the skin and delay healing. Try to resist the urge to scratch.
  • Seek medical attention if necessary: If the rash is severe, persists for more than a week, or shows signs of infection, such as increased redness, swelling, or pus, you should consult a healthcare professional for further evaluation and treatment.

By following these steps and taking appropriate measures to care for the affected area, you can help facilitate the healing of a wetsuit rash and alleviate discomfort more quickly.

Is There an Effective Wetsuit Rash Treatment?

As previously mentioned, one of the most crucial aspects of healing a wetsuit rash is giving your skin adequate time and support to recover. 

This includes maintaining a healthy diet and avoiding foods that can potentially increase inflammatory hormones in your body.


Try to avoid alcohol, coffee and processed sugar to help your body heal.

Foods that can potentially increase inflammatory hormones in the body include:

  • Processed foods with high levels of refined sugars and unhealthy fats, artificial additives
  • Sugary beverages
  • Alcohol and coffee
  • Trans fats as found in processed foods, fried foods, and some margarine
  • Refined carbohydrates, such as white bread, white rice, and pastries
  • Red and processed meats

It’s important to focus on a balanced diet rich in whole, nutrient-dense foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats, and lean proteins to help reduce inflammation and support overall health.

Besides that, staying hydrated, while keeping the areas of the wetsuit rashes clean and dry, avoiding scratching and avoiding further irritation should help with a light rash from a wetsuit.

For more severe cases of wetsuit rashes, you can help your body to heal with oral antihistamines such as diphenhydramine, also known as Benadryl. This will help you with the itching and may cause the swelling to go down.


In case of it lasting for more than a couple of days or an infection of the wetsuit rash, you should definitely consider contacting medical support. 

Professionals can assist you in assessing the severity of the injury and recommend additional medication or measures to support your body’s healing process.

Tips and Tricks for Avoiding Wetsuit Rashes

By following a handful of easy rules, you might be able to avoid wetsuit rashes from even appearing. 

Those rules only do apply to wetsuit rashes that were caused by charfing. So make sure you can rule out neoprene allergies, and reactions to parasites or bacteria in the water.

No. 1: The Importance of Finding the Proper Fit for Your Wetsuit

If you choose a wetsuit that is too large, you’ll likely find yourself leaving the water feeling significantly heavier, as the excess space allows water to become trapped between your skin and the wetsuit. 

Conversely, selecting a wetsuit that is too small may restrict your movement and potentially impede proper blood circulation and breathing.

Finding the right wetsuit size is not just a question of performance, but also impacts the risk of developing a wetsuit rash. If the seam rubs too harsh on your skin or if the loose material allows too much friction, your skin can get irritated easily.


Ensure your wetsuit fits snugly, but not too tightly. A properly fitting wetsuit reduces friction and minimizes rubbing against the skin.

No. 2: Taking care of your wetsuit

Washing your wetsuit correctly does not only reduce the danger of fungi, parasites and bacterias in your wetsuit, but will keep it free from sand and salt residues that cause uncomfortable friction whenever you move in the water.

Rinse your wetsuit with fresh water after each use to remove salt, sand, and debris that can cause irritation.

Hang your wetsuit to dry thoroughly after each use. Avoid leaving it in a damp environment, as moisture can promote bacterial or fungal growth. If you frequently engage in water activities, consider rotating between multiple wetsuits to allow each one to dry completely between uses.

No. 3: Layering can Protect From More Than Just Cold

Layering can help prevent wetsuit rashes by providing an additional barrier between the skin and the wetsuit material. This extra layer can reduce friction and rubbing, which are common causes of irritation and chafing. 

Compression shorts, leggings, and rash guards provide an additional level of defense against both wetsuit chafing and surfer’s rash. 


Ensure that your base layer does not come with zippers or overlock seams, as these can contribute to chafing. Instead, opt for a base layer featuring only flat-locked seams.

A flatlock seam is a type of seam used in garment construction, including wetsuits and base layers. Unlike traditional seams that overlap the fabric layers, flatlock seams are constructed by overlapping the edges of the fabric and stitching them together flatly. 

This creates a smooth, flat seam that lies flush against the skin, reducing the potential for chafing and irritation. Flatlock seams are often used in activewear and athletic apparel to enhance comfort and reduce friction during movement.

Those additional layers are designed to wick moisture away from the skin, keeping it dry and reducing the likelihood of rashes caused by prolonged moisture exposure.

No. 4: The Dos and Don’ts of Lubricants

Lubrication can help prevent wetsuit rashes by reducing friction between the wetsuit material and the skin. Like a motor oil, it will prevent the surfing-machine – you, from getting stuck and damaged.

There are several types of lubricants that can be used for this purpose, but be aware! Some of the most common lubricants can actually harm your wetsuit.


Petroleum-based lubricants, such as Vaseline, can degrade the neoprene material commonly used in wetsuits over time. 

Neoprene is a type of synthetic rubber that is sensitive to petroleum-based products, which can cause the material to break down, become brittle, and lose its elasticity. 

Additionally, petroleum-based lubes can leave behind residue that is difficult to remove from the wetsuit, leading to potential damage and deterioration of the fabricant in the end, shorten the time how long a wetsuit lasts immensely. 

As a result, it’s generally recommended to avoid using petroleum-based lubricants with wetsuits to preserve their longevity and performance. Instead, opt for water-based or silicone-based lubricants that are compatible with neoprene and won’t cause damage to the wetsuit material.

Such as:

  • Anti-chafing balms: Specialized anti-chafing balms, often used by athletes, are designed to reduce friction and irritation on the skin. These balms typically contain ingredients such as beeswax, shea butter, or lanolin, which provide lubrication and moisture to the skin.
  • Silicone-based lubricants: Silicone-based lubricants, such as those used for personal lubrication or silicone sprays, can also be effective in reducing friction between the skin and the wetsuit material.

When applying lubrication to prevent wetsuit rashes, it’s essential to apply it generously to areas prone to chafing, such as the neck, underarms, groin, and behind the knees. You might also want to reapply as needed, especially during long periods of wear or high-intensity activity.

No. 5: Prepare Your Skin!

Healthy skin is far less likely to be damaged. For this final tip, three simple rules apply:

1. Stay Hydrated!

Your skin needs water! Long days in the sun, heat and insufficient hydration will come asking for their toll sooner rather than later. But not only wrinkles might be one of the following problems – wetsuit rashes can be too.

When the body is adequately hydrated, the skin remains supple and less prone to dryness and irritation, which can contribute to the development of wetsuit rashes. 

Additionally, staying hydrated helps regulate body temperature and promotes sweat production, which can help flush out toxins and prevent the buildup of bacteria or fungi on the skin—factors that can exacerbate wetsuit rashes. 

2. Listen to Your Body!

Listening to your body is important to avoid wetsuit rashes because it allows you to recognize early signs of discomfort or irritation and take appropriate action to prevent further problems. 

By paying attention to how your skin feels while wearing a wetsuit, you can identify areas of friction or rubbing that may lead to irritation and adjust your gear or technique accordingly. 

Additionally, listening to your body helps you recognize when you may need to take breaks, reapply lubrication, or adjust your wetsuit fit to prevent chafing and minimize the risk of developing wetsuit rashes. 


Ignoring discomfort or pushing through pain can worsen skin irritation and increase the likelihood of developing more severe rashes, so it’s essential to prioritize your body’s signals and address any issues promptly to ensure a comfortable and enjoyable water experience.

3. Regular Practice to Toughen Up Your Skin

Toughening up your skin by practicing more can help avoid wetsuit rashes by building up resilience and reducing susceptibility to friction and irritation. 

With regular practice, especially when you are for example just learning how to boogie board, the skin becomes accustomed to the repetitive movements and pressure exerted by wearing a wetsuit, leading to the development of calluses and thicker skin in areas prone to chafing. 

This tougher skin is less likely to become irritated or damaged during water activities, reducing the risk of developing wetsuit rashes. Additionally, regular practice allows you to refine your technique and adjust your gear to minimize friction and pressure on the skin, further reducing the likelihood of skin irritation and discomfort. 

However, it’s essential to strike a balance between toughening up the skin and preventing overexposure, as excessive friction or pressure can still lead to irritation and potential injury.

Conclusion: How to Deal with Wetsuit Rashes?

In conclusion, while wetsuit rashes can be an uncomfortable nuisance, they are a common occurrence among water sports enthusiasts. Understanding the causes and taking preventive measures such as ensuring proper wetsuit fit, maintaining good hygiene, and using lubricants or rash guards can help minimize the risk of developing rashes.

Additionally, promptly treating any signs of irritation and giving the skin time to heal are essential steps in managing wetsuit rashes effectively. By prioritizing skin health and implementing preventive strategies, you can continue to enjoy your aquatic adventures comfortably and confidently, free from the discomfort of wetsuit rashes.

FAQ – Most asked questions

Jörg Matzdorff
Jörg Matzdorff

Outdoor and surfing enthusiast.