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wetsuit/lube allergy

Thread Status: Hello , There was no answer in this thread for more than 60 days.
It can take a long time to get an up-to-date response or contact with relevant users.


Mermaid, Musician and Marketer
Nov 12, 2002
Although I have been wearing neoprene for years, in the last six months I have started to really suffer from an itchy rash any time I have been wearing a wetsuit. I have several different suits and it is the same with all of them, and have tried loads of different types of lube putting them on in case its that. I have even tried not peeing in my suit and I still get the problem!

its not so bad if I am only wearing the suit once every few days as my skin gets a chance to recover in between, but when I train several days in a row and I have to put it back on over the rash it is horrible! heat makes it worse still and i have a week in the red sea at christmas - help!

I have always had mild eczema and sensitive skin so have tried treating it with the stuff I use for that but its not working very well.

Any ideas? anyone got the same problem?

Hi Sam
Think I may have a similar problem. Have you started using a new suit ? I got a new Elios opencell on the inside in the summer and became more susceptible to the heat - ie when I went cycling and started to sweat I got an itchy-ness - not a rash but sort of like prickly heat. Thought it was the wetsuit as it was worse after recently wearing one.
I guess there are bad things in neoprene that may leach into the skin ?
Not so bad now - but wear it less and I guess some of the chems may have washed out ? And it is colder so less heat aggrevated.
Hope that helps - Ed
I've been reading some stuff on the net and apparently the neoprene is highly unlikely to be the problem as it is quite inert. If a new suit is the prob, it may be the glue holding it together

for me it started with a new suit but now happens with all my suits, new and old, and is much worse in the pool than open water so seems to be aggravated by heat. Basically lots of tiny red spots that are very itchy!

I think I need to find some kind of barrier cream I can smother myself in before I put a suit on.. or get one of the new polartec suits from Fourth Element at least for the pool...

anyone else?
Hey Sam,

How about a rash-guard type or lycra skin suit? I wear it under my wetsuit not for allergy reasons but to make a barrier for water coming in. It makes it harder to put the neoprene suit on as you have to lube it up much more, but this may work for you.

Peter S.
Maybe not the neoprene, but how about coating? I've wondered a couple of times what actually goes into those (black, gold, copper etc). To me "painting" a bunch of slippery but durable chemicals to neoprene sounds like it might cause problems for the more sensitive...
I've had this for years and it's really irritating (boom boom! :) )....

I get it whenever I dive or go in a swimming pool. It's 99.9% likely to be due to lube and just water (believe it or not....). The wetsuit is very unlikely to be the cause.

My 'lube' odessey: I started using KY jelly, and whilst I could withstand the ridicule, it was actually really expensive. I then switched to trying different hair conditioners (not shampoo). I also tried putting on the suit in the water to avoid all lube, but the water itself can be irritating to skin. I even get this rash after a shower sometimes.... Seawater isn't good as you get microscopic stinging jellyfish in that make it even worse.

The best thing I have found (so far) is Tesco-value conditioner. This seems to have the least aggrivating effect. Perhaps ironically, it is also cheap.

Finally - moisturise, moisturise, moisturise - which isn't usually a problem for the ladies, but gets a few smirks in the men's changing room.

I still get it, but the above helps to keep it to a managebale level. Although I still wish I was back in the good old days of not having to worry about it.....
thanks - Jome my suit doesnt have a coating but I was thinking of getting one next time to see if it helped! Peter - there is no way I could get my suit on over a lycra outfit, it is tricky enough as it is! I have however tried wearing the Fourth Element thermocline vest underneath and that helps, I can actually see the rash starting around the edge of where the vest was afterwards.

will keep trying!


My wife, Julie had the same problem when she started diving this past year. At first she was using a borrowed suit and then got her own, but experienced rashes on both occasions.

One thing we did was to soak the suit in water and bleach. We did that a couple of times and it seems to have worked for her. Plus, it got rid of some of those funky smells that were coming from the suit.

If you try it, don't use much bleach. You want it to kill all of those nasty microbes on the suit but not eat away at your neoprene or seems.

When doing pool training I have also let my suit soak inside out in the water at the end of a session. I think the chlorine does the same thing. I just give it a good rinse in the shower afterward.

It could be the water. I was recently chatting with Kirk Krack about one of the record attempt Martin and Mandy had in Cayman. Apparently they were there at a time of the year in which there was lots of itch causing microbes on the surface layer of the water. It drove them nuts and they won't do any attempts during that time of the year again. All that to say it could be a seasonal thing you're experiencing.

Hope you find a solution one way or another.

Instead of bleach, maybe detol or something of that sorts that doesn't tend to kill suits...
Changing lubes, wearing it in the water with no lube, coatings, going to a doc and ask for some temporary symptome treatment (ointments, antihistamins) atleast for the red sea...
There used to be something on the Elios web site about allergies to suit lubes. I wasn't paying much attention to the details, but maybe they know something useful.

Good luck

I used to be very prone to "suit spots", small itchy red pimples, particularly if I was diving for several days straight. What works for me is;
1)wash the suit after every use, preferably with mild disinfectant
2)leaving the suit to air, preferably in the sun for a while, as UV light kills bacteria
3) Using a small amount of "Hibiscrub" (surgical hand wash) in my suit lube, along with the hair conditioner

I do not have particularly sensitive skin, so it would be worth testing the Hibiscrub for a reaction on a small area of skin first first.
thanks guys = some really great ideas there. I think I am going to try using Milton fluid on my suit - its what they use to sterilise baby stuff and maybe less harsh than bleach. That idea just terrified me!

will get armed with stuff from the doc for my egypt trip as well just in case!


Sam - I've been trying diluted Carex as a lube alternative. It's an antibacterial hand-wash. My lumpy armpits in Cyprus prompted me to try this. So far no lumps.
Some professional spearos add tiny amounts of iodine to their hair conditioner lube.
Works apparently really well.

Worth a try if everything else fails.

I have never had a problem with my open cell suit.
I use Emulave mixed with water as lube, it is a kind of cleaner that isn't soap that people with dermatitis use. I mix it 50:1 with water that is 50 parts of water to 1 part of Emulave.
it is kind of expensive but the 1 litre pump packs are a lot more cost effective.
I've just started to experience this as well. Little red painful/itchy rash around my armpits and shoulders. I'm convinced it's the lube as others have indicated. A friend of mine in Ottawa (rcerdena on DB) who's a spearo has had to stop using any form of lube due to this. He uses only water to get into his suit. I don't know if I could use only water, but he seems to make it work.

From what I understand about allergies, they seem to be cumulative. That is if you're allergic to something now, prolonged exposure only worsens the reaction. You can be mildly allergic to something (ie. poison ivy) and not even have a reaction with the first couple encounters, however with each contact the reaction worsens. I've had exactly this happen with poison ivy. I used to only have very mild reactions, however last summer I had a very bad outbreak after a hike. The same could be happening with the suit lube, and if so it'll get harder and harder to deal with as the reaction gets progressively worse.

All that to say I don't have an answer! But I will be watching this thread closely to see if anyone comes up with something.

I tried something this weekend which seemed to work - before putting my suit on (with water and carex, my usual lube) I covered all the bits of my body that normally get sore with baby nappy rash cream

and I had NO rash afterwards whatsoever....it also helped get the suit on

the cream I used is called Drapolene - its an antiseptic barrier/moisturiser and you can buy huge tubs of it
I always make sure I wash my wetsuit in a bath of fresh water after diving (as I always dive in seawater). A couple of times when it has been really dirty and had seaweed ground into it I have put it into the washing machine on a mild wash. I cant remember what kind of soap powder I used but it came out really clean.

For lube I use diluted Johnsons Baby Shampoo which most supermarkets and pharmacies in the UK stock (dont know about elsewhere though).

As for rashes a really good product to get a hold of is called Sudocrem. All the parents reading this will know what it is as you find it in the baby product sections of stores. It is an antiseptic healing cream for nappy rash and bedsores etc. It is a very thick cream which will provide a long lasting barrier and should not rub off your skin throughout a dive session.

If the rash is caused by an allergy try using hydrocortisone which can be bought cheaply from pharmacies.

Cheers, Brian
One thing to be aware of is the fact that a lot of these creams are based on petroleum jelly and will eventually degrade your suit.
like vaseline behind the knee of the suit will eventually eat your suit away.
use Silicone grease it's far less destructive.
any other ideas on this? I am still using the baby cream and getting through bucket loads - it seems to take the edge off but last night after a two hour pool session in my suit I just couldn't sleep for itchy-ness and skin is all red and lumpy (nice!) this morning...

I have been trying - Zirtec Antihistamine, Hydrocortisone cream, various types of calming/cooling talcum powder, sea salt in the bath, washing the suit over and over, no lube, lots of lube, only the baby cream instead of lube.... (by the way I am allergic to the lavender perfume in Sudocrem but know lots of other people who rave about it!)

most of the rash is around bits that get friction - shoulders/armpits, knees, elbows.. all the places I used to get eczema as a kid....

off to Dahab in two weeks and just know the heat won't help - had a horrid time with it in Cyprus...

and no, please don't say dive without a suit... although its getting to the point where I'm thinking about it!

gonna try the doc but generally they seem to be damn useless about this sort of thing - useful comments like "well just stay out of the water" usually come up...

Sam (sad and sleep deprived!)
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