Neoprene Allergies | Wetsuit Caution Explained (2022)

The American Contact Dermatitis Society awards a dubious distinction designed to draw attention to prevalent allergens every year. These under-recognized allergens merit more attention as they cause significant allergic contact dermatitis and should be well understood.

In 2009, a chemical most of us never heard of but have been commonly in contact with was mixed dialkyl thioureas. These chemicals are widely present in ordinary neoprene synthetic rubber products, such as computer mouse pads, athletic braces, and yes – wetsuits.

Dialkyl thioureas are the most common cause of neoprene allergies, according to ten years of research by the North American Contact Dermatitis Group. Understand more about its causes, symptoms, and treatments in this write-up.

What Is Neoprene Allergies and What Causes It?

Neoprene is a popular material widely used in various products, particularly wetsuits. However, the thiourea chemicals found in neoprene can cause allergic contact dermatitis (ACD) – this is what we know as neoprene allergies.

The thiourea chemicals are added to neoprene rubber products such as wet suits to speed up its vulcanization, making it more stable, more rigid, and more pliable to be shaped and formed into different products.

Thiourea is the primary cause of neoprene allergies or diethyl thiourea allergy, according to a research titled “Neoprene Orthopaedic Supports: An Under Recognized Cause of Allergic Contact Dermatitis.”

Since the usage of neoprene has increased in recent years, especially in creating wetsuits and swimsuits, there has been a little more research on this problem. More recently, innovations in the rubber manufacturing process have aimed to eliminate Thiuram.

Neoprene-Induced Allergic Reactions

Allergic Contact Dermatitis (ACD) and Miliaria Rubra, also known as Prickly Heat, are two primary dangers associated with any contact with neoprene-based products. The heat isn’t so much an issue for surfers because they are usually not overheated while surfing in cold water.

The ACD neoprene allergic reactions, on the other hand, may not work out so well for the surfers. The numerous ACD responses related to neoprene are listed below.

Skin Eruption

This allergic reaction falls within the ACD category and is triggered by skin contact with neoprene material. A transparent fluid may create scars on the skin due to the reaction. Its scars may be painful or bothersome for some people.

Skin Color Deformation

Another allergic reaction produced by neoprene is skin color deformation. It mainly comprises a reddening of the skin. If you are required to put on a full-body wetsuit, this means that such a condition could affect your whole body.

Itchiness

Itchiness is one of the ACD symptoms most bothersome for individuals who wear neoprene. Itching on the skin might linger for several hours after coming into contact with neoprene.

Swollen Skin

In certain circumstances, swelling of the skin occurs without any additional symptoms. When the skin swells, it may feel warm to the touch.

Solutions Available for People With Neoprene Allergies

For one thing, neoprene allergies are highly uncommon. Those who find themselves in such a situation are a minority, but it does happen. There is currently no medical treatment for neoprene allergies.

If you develop a neoprene allergy, you have no choice but to stop using neoprene-containing products. The only hope for the future is that neoprene manufacturing continues to advance.

It has been discovered that “natural” neoprene does not contain Thiuram and is, therefore, safe to use even for persons with a neoprene allergy, assuming that Thiuram is the source of the allergy. But, what exactly is this so-called “natural” neoprene?

Neoprene Wetsuit Alternatives

Patagonia, a neoprene wetsuit manufacturer, released the first wetsuit made entirely of natural rubber in 2016. According to Patagonia’s Hub Hubbard, a new wetsuit has been released that may be worn without causing allergic reactions.

According to Patagonia, they have shared their technology with other wetsuit makers because it not only benefits allergy sufferers but is also more environmentally friendly. Patagonia’s Yulex wetsuit was introduced in 2011 and is currently available worldwide.

If you’ve been unable to surf for a long time due to allergic reactions, you may finally be able to do so.

Treatment For Neoprene Allergies

The removal of the causal agent and subsequent care, as with most acute dermatitis/eczema, is required to manage diethyl thiourea or neoprene allergies. This may include medication with topical corticosteroids and emollients.

Tips to Avoid Neoprene Allergies

Here are a few things to keep in mind if you think your neoprene wetsuit is producing a flare or if you’re looking for a new one:

Check Out The Fabric and Fit

If you’ve had an allergic reaction to neoprene in the past, look at the fabric composition to see if there are any potential allergens, such as thiourea compounds, and look for new suits made of hypoallergenic materials.

With the growing popularity of sustainable fabrics, a new generation of designers is creating hypoallergenic swimsuits made of organic materials such as cotton, hemp, or bamboo, often blended together.

Note that ecologically friendly does not automatically imply hypoallergenic. It would be best if you still did your research. However, sustainably sourced materials are far less likely to contain the chemicals and synthetic allergens that are commonly linked to contact dermatitis.

Also, make sure the suit is comfortable and doesn’t dig into any region of your body. In some designs, a double fabric layer protects the skin from an elastic seam.

Try Out at Home First

Make sure you know what you’re doing before you go. Before going to the beach, try on your wetsuit at home. If you get an eczema flare at home, it’s more than likely due to a faulty wetsuit or a laundry mishap, rather than a trigger at the beach.

If this is the case, you should completely rewash and rinse your wetsuit. If that doesn’t work, the neoprene is most likely to blame.

Wash Your Wetsuit Before Wearing

Use a gentle and fragrance-free, hypoallergenic detergent. It’s especially vital to wash new wetsuits before wearing them to remove any chemicals used in the fabric’s manufacture. Consider doing a second rinse cycle to be safe.

Also, between trips to the waters, wash your wetsuit to remove any chlorine, salt, sunscreen residue, or sand.

Keep A Healthy Skincare Regimen

It’s easy to neglect your skincare routine when on a surf trip. Surfers with sensitive skin, particularly Eczema sufferers, must stick to their regular skincare routine, including keeping the skin moisturized and hydrated.

“Establishing a good regimen and sticking to it is one of the great secrets of keeping eczema in check. A daily shower or bath with a gentle cleanser, a good moisturizer twice a day, avoiding known triggers, and getting good sleep can all go a long way to maintaining clear skin.”

says Peter A. Lio, MD, a clinical assistant professor of dermatology and pediatrics at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine.

Get Out of Your Wetsuit

Get out of your wetsuit and into some dry clothes once you’ve exited the ocean. Rinse off with fresh water right after swimming to reduce the chance of flare-ups from swimming-related triggers. Even though it feels OK in the water, walking about all day in a wet, tight-fitting fabric is a sure-fire formula for friction and flaring.

Do You Have Neoprene Allergies?

A visit to a local allergy center for a particular patch test is usually required to determine if you are allergic to neoprene. Since this isn’t a scratch test, you’ll need to tell the doctor about your neoprene encounter.

As natural rubber is cured and hardened using at least six different compounds, the allergist may need to analyze the exact object that prompted the reaction. Because a neoprene allergies patch test isn’t always available, your allergist may need to arrange for a more comprehensive battery of tests.

The number of diethylthiourea contact allergy cases recorded in the literature is minimal. Patients with a history of wetsuit allergies react positively and strongly to diethylthiourea is one percent, according to targeted patch testing and retrospective analysis.

Chemical Policy Reform

Neoprene allergies are one of the reasons for a reform in our chemicals policy. This is to put into place manufacturers who would need to prove their products are safe before putting them on the market, instead of testing them on customers.

The most recent research on wetsuit allergies serves as a timely warning that many items on the market contain components whose safety has not been thoroughly evaluated and demonstrated. As consumers, we have the right to demand and expect that hazardous substances are not utilized in daily items.

Conclusion

If you have neoprene allergies, you should take antihistamine medications like Benadryl® and let the rash cure on its own. Some doctors advise against using over-the-counter anti-itch creams until the underlying cause of the dermatitis is identified. A neoprene allergy might be made worse by taking the wrong treatment.

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

Q: How long do neoprene allergies last?

A: These symptoms can last from two to four weeks after exposure.

Q: Is neoprene a rubber?

A: Neoprene, also known as polychloroprene, is a synthetic rubber created by combining chloroprene molecules into polymers through a process of free radical polymerization and other chemical processes. The polymers are chemically treated to increase polymer branching to make a more flexible material.

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