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Neoprene Allergies Explained

   September 7th, 2017   Posted In: Articles, FAQs  

Neoprene Allergies Explained

We rarely get questions about a neoprene allergy, but they are a fact of life for some customers. Keep in mind that we’re not doctors, and always consult a physician if you experience a rash or reaction when dealing with wetsuits or neoprene. What’s the deal with neoprene allergies? Here’s what we know, and how we can possibly help.

 

The fact is, it’s simply contact dermatitis. It’s not unique to neoprene. There are literally thousands of different environmental, domestic and industrial elements that can give you contact dermatitis.

 

Your pets are far more likely to give you contact dermatitis than neoprene. But, allergies to neoprene can happen.

What is Neoprene Contact Dermatitis?

Neoprene — the technical name of which is polychloroprene — can sometimes cause contact dermatitis. “Contact dermatitis is a condition in which the skin becomes red, sore or inflamed after direct contact with a substance,” explains the New York Times Health Guide.

 

However, in the same article, the scientists were quick to point out that, “neoprene hypersensitivity is rare.”

What in Neoprene Causes Contact Dermatitis?

According to an S. Hawkey and S. Ghaffar report titled, “Neoprene Orthopedic Supports: An Under recognized Cause of Allergic Contact Dermatitis” which was published in Case Reports in Orthopedics, the culprit is Thiuram.

 

Comprised of chemical compounds used to improve the waterproof qualities of neoprene, Thiuram is found in almost all neoprene.

What Solutions are There for People With Neoprene Sensitivities?

Once a person develops a neoprene allergy, the only solution is to discontinue use. Again, neoprene allergies are uncommon, but they do occur. Fortunately, there have been advances in rubber technologies with neoprene-like rubbers that do not contain Thiuram.

 

neoprene allergiesAs advancements in rubber begin to influence the water recreation industries, we hope that neoprene allergies will become something of the past. For example, Patagonia’s Hub Hubbard developed a product line called Yulex. Yulex is a neoprene-free line of wetsuits that does not contain Thiuram.

Wetsuit Wearhouse and Patagonia Might be Able to Help!

For anyone interested in trying a neoprene-free wetsuit, Wetsuit Wearhouse will send customers a sample of Patagonia Yulex to wear around their wrist or ankle to test for reaction.

 

This is a great way to try before you buy. The expense of a Patagonia Yulex wetsuit is easily justified when you consider that it will get you back in the water! Added bonus: All Patagonia wetsuits feature a lifetime warranty, which is unprecedented in the wetsuit world.

 

It’s rare, but neoprene (wetsuits) and/or the materials used in its construction can cause allergic skin reactions. If allergic, discontinue use and consult a physician.

 

*Update: Patagonia recently updated and added more information concerning the ingredients their neoprene-free line of Yulex wetsuits do and do not contain. Check out our latest in-depth post explaining why Yulex wetsuits are a hypoallergenic wetsuit option and how these suits could help those with neoprene sensitivities!*

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Chris Moleskie

Chris "Mole" Moleskie is the Founder, President, and CEO of Wetsuit Wearhouse. Mole grew up in the water on the East Coast. After graduating from Salisbury University, on Maryland's Eastern Shore, he headed to San Diego to find the eternal Ocean City. Wetsuit Wearhouse was formed a few years later in 2001. He swims, surfs when he can, SCUBA dives, wakeboards, SUPs, snowboards 15-20 days a season, and recently fell in lust with wakesurfing. Mole spends his summers at the not so secret Wetsuit Wearehouse Testing Facility on the Potomac River.
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35 Comments

  • Avatar Mandi says:

    Neoprene allergies seem to be due to the off gas of the chemicals used in the manufacturing of neoprene. In my experience, I had no allergies to it until suddenly, I did.

    Using a skin suit will not protect you from it. With more and more exposure, the allergic reaction becomes worse. I ended up in the ER and went into anaphylactic shock after wearing a new wetsuit over a skin suit years ago.

    I avoid all products that have been made with neoprene.

    Yesterday, I decided to try a new triathlon wetsuit manufactured without thiruam. Sadly- red hives and itching all over my body even after 4 Benadryl and prescription strength strength steroid cream.

    Rental wetsuits don’t cause a reaction, based on experimentation of my own body. I am not sure how long it takes for neoprene to off gas or if so many uses by others “washes” the chemicals away, but I have yet to have a reaction from a rental wetsuit. Maybe someone will sell me their used wetsuits?!

  • Avatar Oliver_M says:

    Having massive problems with this too…red, angry, raised itchy patches all over my back, about the size of the palm of your hand, after trying a new ‘need essentials’ wetsuit. Happened after about 5-7 hours and was only in the water for 2.
    Only tried the ‘need’ because it happened with my old ripcurl pretty bad but this was next level.

    Havent tried any neoprene free wetsuits and wondering if a patch test of Yulex would help. Although it would need to include other patches of neoprene wetsuits or wetsuits containing limestone for comparison. Also glue and tape makes a difference so would it be possible to get a patch with glue and tape on it too.
    Its killing me…anything would help though.

  • Avatar Simone says:

    Thanks for all the above insight. I have been surfing and windsurfing for years and have used several wetsuit brands (RipCurl, Animal, O’Neill, TriBord) and have never experienced any skin problems, until my recent purchase of a new O’Neill Reactor wetsuit. I have had it for about 6 months now, but only worn it approx. 10 times and after the last three uses I have experienced a nasty itchy rash around my neck. It must definitely be the rubber portion of the neck that has me break out. I will try soaking it more and hopefully it will go away, I would hate having to get rid of this suit as it fits really well otherwise.

  • Avatar Nicci says:

    What about latex.
    Natural rubber latex can be an acquired allergy so with exposure you can develop the allergy over time.
    Does neoprene contain NRL and is it used in the glues?
    Can you get latex free suits?

  • Avatar Bridget says:

    Aloha- I have been using my Billabong bikini wetsuit w longsleeves on and off (during colder months) for about a year for open ocean swimming and the last few months noticed itching and redness at my front hips (where the seams are) and back armpits (I guess from friction from shoulder movement). Will check in w a dermatologist soon but interesting that Billabong (which I believe is Rip Curl) is listed as one of the brands that uses hypoallergenic type adhesive. I am interested in a patch trial of the Patagonia one. I am thin build and rarely get rash burn even during long swims but now I pinpointing the culprit must be my wetsuit- which I love- except the itchies! Mahalo

  • Avatar Tom says:

    I have had a neoprene allergy for years started in 2015. I bought a new wetsuit and bam broke out ALL OVER my body itchy hives. Tried Matuse, still broke out, tried other brands, no help. I went back to my old suit and no rash or allergic reaction and actually the salt water helped the rash. So I bought a new Matuse suit and had my friend wear it for about 3 months. After he broke it in surfing about 4 times a week for 3 months he gave it back and I gave it a try and had had no allergy. I think it is the glue and chemicals which run out during the use of the wetsuit. I recommend buying a suit and literally soaking it for hours in a tub full of ocean water or have your friend break it in. It’s a pain but hey when you want to surf, you will do anything. This has been my successful action. I have only recently broke out from a new Quicksilver suit because I did not soak it enough. Needs to be worn out a bit from the salt. I guess I will never have that “Brand New” wetsuit feel but I will be able to continue to surf.

    • Avatar Lauren Belt says:

      Hey Tom,

      That’s very interesting and glad it worked for you. Thanks for sharing

      • Avatar Mike Mathe says:

        I had a similar situation with a life vest this summer. I’ve have had a terrible Neoprene allergy my whole life. Even the Yulex sample I got from these guys was bad the stuff literally pulled ink out of my tattoos the reaction got so bad. Wife bought me a comp vest for wake surfing and within minutes it was unwearable even with a rash guard. So, cant return it and decided to run it through the washing machine on high / hot 10ish times with a little detergent and these rubber drier ball things to agitate it. What do I have to lose right? Took it out after that and had no problem so far. I actually work in the technical / sports apparel industry and now thinking that it may not be the actual material itself. It may actually be the mold release or lamination agent used in the manufacturing process. So ya, might be onto something here. Most of these products are not washed before or after manufacturing plus they are exposed to a rainbow of nasty stuff in the factories store rooms.

    • Avatar Guilherme says:

      Hey Tom,
      I have the exact same allergy and still haven’t found a solution. I’ve tried all brands, including Patagonia (they call natural rubber) and isurus (limestone based) with no success. Unfortunately I always have to do the same – ask someone to use my new wetsuits for a while before I do. It is a pain but the only thing that works.
      From my research, it seems like some chemical that all (or at least all that I’ve tried) use to make the wetsuit more elastic – and apparently is released overtime and, after a while we can use it!
      I’m sorry for you but I’m somehow glad to know that I’m not the only one.
      Good luck with your search and let me know if you find a brand that works for you.

      • Avatar Nick says:

        I use to wear gloves and shin guards that had neoprene in them when I rode BMX bikes. I randomly became allergic to neoprene after years of wearing it. I’ve tried dozens and dozens of different garments with neoprene and some my skin doesn’t react to. When I say same some I mean like two or three of 60 plus. Maybe like for me there is neoprene out there that I’m your allergic if you keep trying to find one.

        I’ve called a hand full of place and asked for samples of their suits, they were always obliged. I’ve been allergic to all I’ve tried. I have a hunch If I got sample from a hundred companies a few I would be allergic to, I wonder if your in the same boat. Cheers.

    • Avatar Rob Walker says:

      Hi Tom, this is very interesting, and wish I’d read this a few weeks ago!
      I have an allergy to Neoprene, which years ago was put down to Ethyl Butyl Thiourea, which is a compound used in Neoprene. I had a test patch of the substance and sure enough came out in a rash. I contacted Orca who said their wetsuits didn’t have any of that in the Neoprene, and some old test patches of worn Wetsuits, gave me no reaction. I ordered a Swimrun Orca wetsuit, and came up in a huge rash after wearing for half an hour.
      I have now sold the wetsuit, but I’m wondering whether I should have soaked it for a few days…

    • Avatar Stuart says:

      Hey Tom , I have noticed the same effects. If a wetsuit is old and the chemicals have been “leached out” over time my rash is less. I now just getsecond hand wetsuits knowing that the older the better for my condition.

      Keen to try the Yulex…

  • Avatar Kevin Knott says:

    I have been sailings since I was five years old some 62yrs ago. I look after my wetsuits and they last 10 to 15yrs. Last year my children bought me some neoprene hiking shorts and I bought some new boots. What has changed. I ended up in hospital very unwell.
    I remain passionate about sailing and wonder if your products may help me.

    • Avatar Lauren Belt says:

      Hey Kevin,

      Thanks for reaching out. Please feel free to reach out to our customer service team for a Patagonia Yulex neoprene sample that you can test on your skin. You can contact them either via live chat, email (service@wetsuitwearhouse.com) or call 866-906-7848. Thanks!

  • Avatar Felipe Augusto Mutschler says:

    I’ve just bought the Vissla Wetsuit and it worked.
    No skin reaction. Lucky me.
    I did not know those other brands were also using the water-base adhesive. Should have looked out more.

  • Avatar Felipe Augusto Mutschler says:

    I all the comments but none said the allergy was to the adhesive used inside the wetsuit. I bought a RIP curl dawnpatrol wetsuit and it gives me allergy wherever there is a patch to seal the encounter of seams.
    Around those patches one can see the adhesive exposed which will be in direct contact with the skin. That adhesive gives me allergy or dermatitis. Has anyone else the same problem? Is the adhesive also made with neoprene quimicals? I am trying to discover the quimical composition of the adhesive used. I saw that the Vissla wetsuits use a water based adhesive. I did no test it yet but I am willing to.

    • Avatar Lauren Belt says:

      Hey Felipe,

      That definitely stinks! However, we are seeing that more brands (like Patagonia, Billabong and O’Neill) are starting to use a water-based adhesive. This would be something that you should maybe look more into or try out!

    • Avatar Chris says:

      Hey Felipe, I’ve had exactly the same reaction with a needessentials suit that I’ve just bought. I’m allergic to plasters (and anything else sticky that I put on my skin) and the reaction has been just the same on all the areas of the suit where I can see the glue used on the seams is exposed. It’s really itchy and painful, with raised red skin following the seam lines perfectly. I’m going to try and rinse it out as much as possible before trying again (based on Tom’s comment above). Hopefully this will work. I’ll also wear boxers and a rash vest under the suit to reduce skin-glue contact. Let me know if you manage to find any more useful info.

  • Avatar Anthony says:

    I am not interested in a neoprene free wetsuit. But I’ve been beating my head against the wall trying to find a back brace that doesn’t make me break out in hives. Do you make such back braces or know of someone who makes neoprene free backbraces?

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