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What to Wear Under a Wetsuit

Updated on March 25, 2016

What to Wear Under a Wetsuit for Comfort, Sun Protection and Warmth

People who are wearing a wetsuit for the first time often wonder what to wear under a wetsuit. The answer really depends on what type of wetsuit you're wearing, the temperature of the water, and the sports activities you're involved in. This page provides several options to help you figure out what to put under your wetsuit for comfort, sun protection, and warmth in colder water.

Whether you're a man or a woman, and whether you're snorkeling, surfing, scuba diving, water skiing or participating in some other activity, here are tips on what to wear under a wetsuit.

(Photo credit: Johntex on Wikimedia Commons)

What to Wear Under a Wetsuit: The Basics

Selecting swimwear, dive skins and skin lubricant

There are several things to consider when deciding what to wear under a wetsuit. The first is what type of swimsuit to wear. For women, almost any suit will do, as women's suits typically fit tightly. For men, board shorts and swim trunks are often uncomfortable, as they can bunch up, but there are tight-fitting swim shorts that can fit comfortably under a wetsuit. (See below for examples.)

The second consideration is whether you want something that will help you get into your suit easier. Wetsuits, particularly if they're full suits or thicker suits, can be a real pain to put on. Dive skins or body lubricant can make this process easier, and can provide sun protection. Below is a closer look at each option.

(Image from Wikimedia Commons)

What to Wear Under a Wetsuit for Men or Boys - A tight-fitting swimsuit won't bunch up like board shorts or swimming trunks

Many men are accustomed to wearing loose-fitting board shorts or swimming trunks at the beach, but these aren't the best options under a wetsuit, as they can bunch up and be uncomfortable. Instead, men may prefer to wear a dive skin (discussed below) or a tight-fitting swimsuit. Many men don't like the high-cut Speedo suits you often see competitive swimmers wearing, but there are also other snug-fitting men's swimshorts that will work well under a wetsuit. You can get these in either a short cut or a longer biking-shorts-style cut, like the ones shown below.

Speedo Jammers for Men and Boys - Tight-fitting longer swim shorts

These Speedo Jammers are perfect to wear under a wetsuit because they won't bunch up.

Speedo Big Boys' Youth Vortex Splice Xtra Life Lycra Jammer, Blue, 26
Speedo Big Boys' Youth Vortex Splice Xtra Life Lycra Jammer, Blue, 26

Boys Jammers are available with some colorful designs.


Dive Skins Work Great Under a Wetsuit - Dive skins or rash guards provide sun protection and help you don your wetsuit

Swimsuits are one option for clothing under your wetsuit, but they leave your skin exposed to the sun when your wetsuit is off and don't do anything to help you get into your suit. If you want an undergarment that addresses both of these issues, you might want to consider a dive skin or a rash guard.

Dive skins are generally made out of Lycra or another smooth material that will make it easier for you to slide into your wetsuit, and they offer sun protection when your suit is off. They're basically one-piece rash guards. If you're going to be participating in a water sport all day and will be taking periodic breaks when you need to take your wetsuit off completely or part of the way, your dive skin will protect you from the sun even if you're not wearing sunscreen and make it easier to get your suit back on.

I absolutely LOVE my dive skin! For me, it's the best answer to what to wear under a wetsuit.

What to Wear Under a Wetsuit for Help Donning Your Suit - Bodyglide Original Anti-Chafe Balm

If you decide to wear a swimsuit rather than a dive skin under your wetsuit, you might want to get a skin lubricant to make it easier to get into your wetsuit. Bodyglide is one brand name that is recommended by wetsuit manufacturers to help you get your suit on and off easily and prevent chafing. It's a glide-on stick that goes on dry, is invisible and fragrance-free and washes off with a little soap and water. They also offer options that include sunscreen protection.

Body Glide Original Anti-Chafe Balm, (USA Sale Only)
Body Glide Original Anti-Chafe Balm, (USA Sale Only)

BodyGlide is a skin lubricant that's great for daily use, sports and fitness, and at work. You can use this anti-friction product from head to toe. The official skin lubricant of USA Triathlon, Bodyglide is made with plant-derived ingredients. No petroleum, lanolin or other oils. It creates an invisible, non-greasy barrier that protects against rubbing that can cause irritation, blisters and chafing. It’s safe on skin and neoprene (it's recommended by wetsuit makers), and it helps make it easier and more comfortable to use compression garments.


What to Wear Under a Wetsuit in Cold Water - Lavacore dive skins are multifunctional

If you're diving in cold water, you'll be wearing a thicker wetsuit, but you might still want some extra insulation. Lavacore makes a line of dive skins just for this purpose. They're thin so they can be worn under a wetsuit, and their smooth surface will help you slide into your wetsuit. But unlike a regular dive skin that acts mostly as an undergarment that helps you get into your wetsuit and provides some sun protection when your wetsuit is off, Lavacore products offer thermal benefits and can add an extra layer of warmth when you're in cold waters. They also make thermal socks and hoods to wear under wetsuit boots and regular hood.

You can wear dive skins, swimsuits and skin lubricants under a wetsuit

How to Put On a Wetsuit - A triathlete demonstrates his techniques

Ironman World Champion Chris McCormack demonstrates how he puts on his wetsuit and shows a little trick to make it easier to get the suit over your legs.

Do You Hate Putting on a Wetsuit? - Or is it no big deal?

Take the poll!

Do you hate putting on a wetsuit?

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Comments About What to Wear Under a Wetsuit - Please share your thoughts

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    • Magicality LM profile image

      Magicality LM 8 months ago

      As a kayaker I wear neoprene shorts & lycra/thermal shirt ... If it gets colder, I throw in a 'dry-vest' ...

    • profile image

      Nate 2 years ago

      Probably my Speedo, it wouldn't bunch up at all.

    • profile image

      NoNameVoyager 3 years ago

      I don't dive but i do use wetsuits during the immediate post-winter (Hong Kong region) season for sea kayaking & sailing programs. Always found that a rash guard skin tight suit works very well as an inner shell. Never thought about using Speedos or board shorts though. Glad the article helped shed light on the general practice regarding use of inner shells. Thanks for sharing!

    • profile image

      Abalone_Guy 3 years ago

      I will be purchasing some of these real soon! good stuff!

    • profile image

      oceanguy85 3 years ago

      I'd recommend wearing Helo shorts, they're a quick drying compression short - and if you're kiting or surfing, throw your board shorts on over your wet suit.

    • Diana Wenzel profile image

      Renaissance Woman 4 years ago from Colorado

      I had no idea all of these products existed. Excellent information, as I hope to do a dive trip soon. Thanks! (Those panty hose comments cracked me up. As much as I hate panty hose, I would be happy to donate every pair that I might still find around the house.)

    • profile image

      darrenlast 4 years ago

      Perfect, I was wondering! Speedos it is :)

    • profile image

      joanride 4 years ago

      I've never tried anything other than my swimsuit. That has always worked for me, but I don't have much experience with cold water.

    • profile image

      SamanthaHaupt 4 years ago

      This is something I've actually wondered all my life. Thanks for the answer (finally)!

    • Raymond Eagar profile image

      Raymond Eagar 4 years ago

      I all ways thought you just pulled it over your costume .

    • profile image

      SteveKaye 4 years ago

      Thank you for posting this. I always wondered what people wore under these suits.

    • SBPI Inc profile image

      SBPI Inc 4 years ago

      Having snorkeled and scuba dived for many years, I have used both wet suits and tight fitting dry suits, They both have their benefits depending upon the kind of water your diving in, the depth, number of tanks you carrying and what your purpose for the dive is. Simply, the wet suit takes in and holds water which will warm to or closely to your body temperature and keep you warmer for cold water dives for a longer period of time which you may need if going deep which requires accent stops at various levels in order to stabilize internal with external water pressures. The dry suit is great and keeps you dry but you can become colder in shorter period because of the minimal insulation between you and the water. Either or both are fun what's important is that you never dive alone, know the buddy system and watch your decompression times. Have fun and remain save.

    • socialcx1 profile image

      socialcx1 4 years ago

      When growing up we never had wetsuits and wore a rugby jersey to keep warm. Once they arrived on the surfing scene I could not do without one. I enjoyed your lens, thanks.

    • yikwei-ang profile image

      yikwei-ang 4 years ago

      Excellent, I feel like I'm prepared for the summer time now!

    • kislanyk profile image

      Marika 4 years ago from Cyprus

      I've never done any scuba diving, but now that you're saying, it got my curiosity peeked for sure! :)

    • profile image

      nickps 4 years ago

      I always wondered what people wore under those.

    • profile image

      electrolion 4 years ago

      I always assumed people would wear a bathing suit under but never considered skin lubricant. Good to know this.

    • rainykua profile image

      rainykua 4 years ago

      Now I know what to wear under a wetsuit.:)

    • LisaDH profile image

      LisaDH 4 years ago

      @SciTechEditorDave: I've heard some people still use nylons. It may not be as manly, but it's cheaper than a diveskin.

    • SciTechEditorDave profile image

      David Gardner 4 years ago from San Francisco Bay Area, California

      Heh. I was an undergraduate and graduate worker at a university marine laboratory on Guam ... and I also wondered about the concept of this lens. Unfortunately, I'm sort of "hairy" ... and the idea of cramming myself into a wetsuit and then after diving peeling one off seemed quite painful ... until one of the marine lab scientists came up with an idea (this was in 1972 through 1981). He went out and bought "nylons" (yep, women's panty hose). After that, the bottom part of the wetsuit slid right on and slid right off without the pain. :-) ... Now, they have the Lycra stuff you mention here -- and that's probably less embarrassing. (I later found out that cowboys suggest that newbie horse riders at dude ranches also wear panty hose -- it keeps the jeans from chafing on long trail rides. Of course, don't let this get out too much ... it would spoil that macho image that the scuba divers and rodeo riders have... ) Congrats on a Squidoo masterpiece!

    • profile image

      ChristyZ 4 years ago

      In the movies the actresses always peel off their wet suit to reveal their sexy bikini...your suggestions make a heck of a lot more sense!

    • profile image

      ChroniclesofaWa 4 years ago

      I have only dived once but looking forward to do it again and again. This is very took me so much time just to get the wetsuit to my waist! :)

    • LisaDH profile image

      LisaDH 4 years ago

      @hoverlover: LOL! Loved your comment about matching your skin tone. I haven't seen anyone do that, but it makes sense. The guys on the beach might laugh at first, but once they saw the suit slide on without all the usual difficulties, I think they'd all be rushing to buy panty hose. :-)

    • CampingmanNW profile image

      CampingmanNW 4 years ago

      Good thoughts. I speak about the same in regards to dry suits. Great lens by the way.

    • profile image

      hoverlover 4 years ago

      One mornng as I was trying to squeegie into my wet suit, I watched a guy put on panty hose and then slide into his wet suit as easy as you please. Guys, if you are comfortable with your masculinity (and can find a tone that matches your skin color) this is an inexpensive solution.

    • LisaDH profile image

      LisaDH 4 years ago

      @AustinReloGuide: Thanks for bringing up the point about lubricants potentially harming the environment. Most sunscreens contain ingredients that have been shown to damage corals. I don't know about the ingredients in BodyGlide, but it's certainly something to consider.

    • profile image

      thebestwetsuit 5 years ago

      Good points.

      You can also wear shorty over the full suit.

    • profile image

      Natural_Skin_Care 5 years ago

      I don't dive but always wondered about this. The things my mind thinks of . . .

    • AustinReloGuide profile image

      AustinReloGuide 5 years ago

      Some good advice, but I am against using any lubricants given that they will end up in the water and potentially harm the environment. As a former dive master, I used to wear tight bike shorts under my suit OR a dive skin, depending on the water. A dive skin will give you an extra .5 mil of material. In California waters during the winter, this was nice. Another trick used, was wearing a pair of nylons, if the suit was a little tight. This trick helps.

      Of course, there is not substitute for a proper fitting suit. ;-) Enoy!

    • Hammocksaustralia profile image

      Hammocksaustralia 5 years ago

      Like Chris shows in the video, I've always used the plastic bag trick to get into my wetsuit. Now getting out is a lot harder though if you've had a cold surf. Especially with the 'no zip suits'.

    • jasminedessy profile image

      jasminedessy 5 years ago

      Nice Wetsuit & very interesting

      I like it

    • irminia profile image

      irminia 5 years ago

      If I knew before that skin lubricants exist, I would have much less trouble putting a wetsuit on. Thanks for information.

    • CoeGurl profile image

      CoeGurl 5 years ago from USA

      I wondered about this. Thanks for the great information!

    • profile image

      lillygordon 5 years ago

      Being comfortable is truly important, very helpful lense.

    • OrganicMom247 profile image

      OrganicMom247 5 years ago

      Great lens.

    • lilblackdress lm profile image

      lilblackdress lm 5 years ago

      I will remember this lens if I get a wetsuit :)

    • Scarlettohairy profile image

      Peggy Hazelwood 5 years ago from Desert Southwest, U.S.A.

      This is something I would never have thought about! Good advice.

    • SayGuddaycom profile image

      SayGuddaycom 5 years ago

      Good lens. I'm an avid snorkeler so this lens was very appealing to me.

    • bensen32 lm profile image

      bensen32 lm 5 years ago

      personally I just wear compression short well so far have not needed anything more.....nice lens for a beginner scuba diver, very helpful

    • belinda342 profile image

      belinda342 5 years ago

      I'd never really thought about this before, but it makes a lot of sense. It does kind of remind me of the age old question, though--what do men really wear under their kilts?

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Nice time to begin looking at items like this with the weather warming up.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I don't surf, but I have a friend who took up surfing a year or two ago. He goes to Jacksonville, FL to surf once a month. I'm emailing him this lens.

    • profile image

      Jack-in-the-Box 5 years ago

      I had no idea what to wear under a wetsuit. I learned a lot from your lens...thanks. I am in a landlocked area, so we don't see wetsuits much. LOL

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      The surfers out here on Lake Superior always wear wetsuits. They surf in the fall when the waves are at their biggest, but it's COLD! Always wondered what they wore underneath! Good lens.

    • CruiseReady profile image

      CruiseReady 5 years ago from East Central Florida

      Great information. I snorkel a lot, but always in warmer climes, so a swimsuit is sufficient. However, I keep wanting to try diving, and had never even thought about what goes under the wet suit.