How Long Does Wetsuit Rash Last?

Experiencing redness, itching, or irritation on your skin after wearing a wetsuit can be quite uncomfortable and might deter you from enjoying your favorite water activities. Wetsuit rash, or surf rash, is a common issue faced by surfers and other water sports enthusiasts. Many wonder: how long does a wetsuit rash last?

How Long Does Wetsuit Rash Last

Several factors contribute to the onset of wetsuit rash, including the quality of your wetsuit, your skin’s sensitivity, and the constant friction between the neoprene material and your skin. In most cases, wetsuit rash tends to last for a couple of days, but it can vary depending on the severity of your condition and individual response to treatment.

Understanding how to properly care for your wetsuit and taking preventive measures to minimize skin irritation can help reduce your chances of experiencing wetsuit rash. In this article, we will discuss how long wetsuit rash typically lasts and some ways to prevent and treat the problem.

What Is Wetsuit Rash?

Wetsuit rash, as the name suggests, is a skin irritation that occurs from wearing a wetsuit. If you’ve ever gone surfing or participated in other water sports, you might have experienced this uncomfortable feeling. Wetsuit rash is often caused by a combination of factors, including friction, rubbing, and allergic reactions to the materials used in a wetsuit, like neoprene.

When you’re active in the water, your wetsuit can create friction and rubbing on your skin due to the repetitive, dynamic movements like paddling or swimming. This constant rubbing can lead to chafing, causing wetsuit rash, which is characterized by redness, itching, and sometimes even small bumps or welts.

Another cause of wetsuit rash, although less common, is an allergic reaction to the neoprene used in wetsuits. Neoprene is a synthetic rubber material that can sometimes trigger an allergic response in individuals. In these cases, the rash might appear more intense, and it could be accompanied by other symptoms such as swelling or hives.

Proper fit and care for your wetsuit are essential factors in preventing wetsuit rash. A well-fitting wetsuit should be snug but not overly tight, allowing for a full range of motion while minimizing friction on the skin. Additionally, rinsing your wetsuit thoroughly after use and allowing it to dry completely can help reduce the risk of irritation.

How Long Does Wetsuit Rash Last?

The duration of a typical wetsuit rash can vary depending on a few factors, such as the severity of the rash, individual skin sensitivity, and initial treatment and care.

In most cases, a mild wetsuit rash may heal within a few days if you follow proper care and treatment procedures. However, if the rash is more severe or you have a neoprene allergy, the healing process may take longer. It’s essential to monitor your symptoms and consult a dermatologist if the rash persists or worsens.

To speed up the healing process, apply a healing ointment or moisturizer to the affected area, as this can help soothe and reduce the irritation. It’s also crucial to avoid using the wetsuit until the rash has fully healed to prevent further irritation or even contact dermatitis.

Maintaining skin hygiene is another vital step in promoting the healing process. Make sure to clean the affected skin gently using mild soap and water, and pat it dry. This will help prevent infection and reduce the risk of further complications.

In some cases, surf rash may be a sign of a more severe dermatological reaction, such as a neoprene allergy. Symptoms of neoprene allergies may include intense itching, inflammation, and even blisters. If you suspect a neoprene allergy, see a dermatologist to receive appropriate treatment and guidance.

Research on wetsuit rashes is limited, but by following proper care and treatment procedures, you can significantly reduce the duration and discomfort caused by such rashes. Remember to always listen to your body and seek medical advice if you’re unsure about the best course of action for your specific symptoms.

Preventing Wetsuit Rash

Choosing the Right Wetsuit

To prevent wetsuit rash, you should start by selecting a suitable wetsuit. Choose a surfing-specific wetsuit that fits you well by using a size chart provided by the wetsuit brand, or going to a local surf shop and trying a wetsuit on.

A well-fitting wetsuit should have interior seams and soft neoprene material that’s comfortable against your skin and reduces chafing. When trying on different wetsuits, consider factors like zipper placement, wetsuit technology, and the type of wetsuit designed for specific activities such as kayaking, fishing, water skiing, scuba diving, or triathlon.

Some wetsuit brands even use plant-derived materials and prioritize eco-friendliness, which can be ideal for those with sensitive or dry skin.

Using Rash Guards and Other Protective Gear

Wearing a rash guard or rash vest underneath your wetsuit can help protect your skin from chafing and irritation. Rash guards are made from lightweight, quick-drying fabric that provides a barrier between your skin and the wetsuit. They also offer additional sun protection when you’re out in the water.

Additionally, you can wear compression shorts or leggings for added protection, especially during cold water or cold weather activities.

Involvement in other water sports, such as stand-up paddleboarding, may require alternative protective gear like boardshorts. Always ensure you wear proper protection tailored to the specific activity to minimize the risk of surf rash.

Lubricants and Anti-Chafe Products

Before putting on your wetsuit, apply a lubricant or anti-chafe product like Body Glide or anti-chafing balm to areas prone to chafing, such as neck, armpits, or inner thighs. These products create a protective barrier that reduces friction between your skin and the wetsuit.

Ensure you select a product safe for neoprene and your skin type, especially if you have sensitive skin. Avoid using petroleum-based products like Vaseline, as they can damage your wetsuit and are not environmentally friendly.

Treating Wetsuit Rash

Wetsuit rash can be an annoying and painful side effect of surfing. Here are some ways to treat it and help you get back to enjoying your time in the water.

Over-the-Counter Remedies

For minor wetsuit rash, over-the-counter creams and ointments can help alleviate itching and discomfort.

Hydrocortisone cream, available at most drugstores, can reduce inflammation and itchiness. If your skin is dry and irritated, applying a soothing aloe vera gel can help relieve your symptoms. 

For added protection and to reduce friction, consider using a thin layer of petroleum jelly, such as Vaseline, on affected areas before putting on your wetsuit.

Home Remedies

If you prefer a more natural approach, there are some home remedies you can try.

Applying cold compresses to the affected area can help reduce itching and inflammation. You can also take a cool bath with baking soda or oatmeal to soothe your skin. 

Make sure to keep the rash clean and dry, and avoid scratching, which can make the rash worse and potentially lead to infection.

When to See a Doctor

Constantly monitor your surf rash for signs of infection, such as increased redness, swelling, or pus. If you notice any of these symptoms, or if your rash does not improve within a few days, it’s time to consult a dermatologist. They can help determine the best course of treatment for your specific case and may prescribe antibiotics or steroids if necessary.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is my skin itchy after wearing a wetsuit?

Your skin might feel itchy after wearing a wetsuit because of the friction between the wetsuit’s material and your skin. This friction can cause irritation and sometimes rashes, commonly known as wetsuit rash.

What are the signs of a neoprene allergy?

A neoprene allergy can cause symptoms similar to wetsuit rash. These signs may include redness, itching, hives, and swelling on the skin that comes into contact with the wetsuit material. If you consistently develop these symptoms after wearing your wetsuit, it’s worth considering the possibility of an allergy to neoprene.

How can I treat a wetsuit rash?

To treat a wetsuit rash, you can apply over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream to the affected area. In addition, using a soothing lotion or moisturizer with aloe vera can help calm the skin. Also, consider applying petroleum jelly on your skin before wearing your wetsuit as a preventative measure to minimize friction.

Where does wetsuit rash commonly occur?

Wetsuit rash usually occurs in areas where the wetsuit rubs against your skin the most, such as underarms, neck, and thighs. Making sure your wetsuit fits properly can help to prevent these rashes by reducing friction in these areas.

What’s the best way to care for a neoprene rash?

The optimal way to care for a neoprene rash is to keep the affected area clean and dry. Gently wash the rash with mild soap and water, then pat it dry with a clean towel. After that, apply a soothing lotion, moisturizer, or hydrocortisone cream to help alleviate the itch and redness. It’s essential to avoid scratching the rash as that might worsen the condition and lead to infection. Keep an eye on the rash, and if it doesn’t improve or worsens after a few days, consider seeing a doctor.