What Do You Wear Under a Swim Wetsuit?

Supported by ZONE3.


Hi I’m Katie Maggs - Snorkel instructor and marine conservationist. I'm here for Wetsuit Outlet and ZONE3 to answer the question: What Do You Wear Under a Swim Wetsuit?


Do you wear anything under a wetsuit?

Some people do choose to wear nothing or “go commando” underneath their wetsuit - especially surfers. To some, the idea of a barrier between wetsuit and flesh is as distasteful and absurd as that of underwear to a kilt-wearing Highlands soldier.

Pleasure and pain, however, are never far apart. Skin that is particularly sensitive and/or unaccustomed to long periods encased in neoprene may suffer from rashes or chafing (ZONE3 natural glide is your friend). Vulnerable areas where friction is greatest include around the neck, under the arms, behind the knees, and the all-important inner-thigh interface - Avoid ‘rhino neck’ at all costs! 

Others may be uncomfortable about getting changed in public. Arriving at the beach (or riverside) wearing ZONE3 swimwear underneath your clothes is one way of anticipating logistical difficulties and preserving your modesty when you come to put your swim wetsuit on.


Tips for women

Women are in an advantageous position here, because bikinis and one-piece swimsuits are skin-tight and made of material that won’t bunch up or chafe. They shouldn’t intrude or irritate under your wetsuit, but will stay in place and protect your skin from the rougher texture of a wetsuit.

We do, however, advice against wearing a bikini with any ties or textures that may rub against the suit. This could start to chafe when swimming, or put pressure on weaker parts of the suit. A performance swimsuit or bikini is your best option - especially as this can then be your go-to in the warmer months. 

If your skin responds very badly to neoprene, you could even wear a “surfsuit” or full body jumpsuit – in effect an extended one-piece swimsuit offering additional upper-body coverage and rash protection. Alternatively, pair bikini bottoms with a rashguard, which will also provide coverage round the neck.


Tips for men

The most common faux pas among men is wearing boardshorts under a swim wetsuit. This is a classic rookie error.

Boardshorts will tend to bunch up under a wetsuit, giving the wearer a wedgie, generally feeling horrible, and if anything increasing the chances of a rash. The same goes for baggy boxer shorts, which will be especially uncomfortable under a swim wetsuit as they’re less forgiving than surf suits.

Even tight boxer shorts or pants are best avoided. They’re unlikely to be very comfy, they won’t offer much in the way of protection, and you may be left with no dry underwear to change into afterwards. 

If you do need some rash protection in that department, wear a pair of speedos or some lycra-style trunks to cover your upper thighs, which some call ‘jammers’. They differ from your usual swim shorts in length, providing improved coverage for better protection against chafing (similar to bicycle shorts).


Wetsuit layering: Can you layer wetsuits?

There is one other option we haven’t discussed, and that’s wetsuit layering. Yep, another thing people will sometimes try and wear under a wetsuit is… another wetsuit.

Wearing two 3mm wetsuits at the same time is not the same as wearing one 6mm wetsuit, even if the maths add up.

Generally, doubling up is done for reasons of warmth. It’s winter, say, and you’ve only got a shorty and a 3/2mm wetsuit, the water is calling your name. Now, this is definitely not an ideal solution when the water temperatures drop, especially for swimming. We suggest our What to Wear when Open Water Swimming guide to help out with info on boots, gloves, and hoods - All additional layering provided by our friends at ZONE3. 


Need some more info about open water swimming?

Check out our other posts in collaboration with ZONE3…

Wetsuit size guide: How should a swim wetsuit fit?
How to be a More Eco-Consious Wild Swimmer
11 Safety Tips for Open Water Swimming
ZONE3 wetsuit review 




Shop the full ZONE3 range - HERE

Shop the full ZONE3 wetsuit range - HERE

Updated on 4th March 2024

Originally published on 29th February 2024 in Swimming

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