Chafing And Skin Care For Open Water Swimmers

Chafing And Skin Care For Open Water Swimmers

Chafing is a common ailment and complaint among open water swimmers and triathletes. There are three fundamental types of chafing:

1. Skin-on-skin chafing: improper stroke mechanics can cause chafing as can a cross-over kick or breathing.

2. Fabric-on-skin chafing: a swimsuit, goggles, swim cap, protective suit or wetsuit can cause some mean chafing.

3. Hair-on-skin chafing: facial and body hair can cause chafing.

Some methods to reduce chafing may be obvious and others less obvious.

1. Improve your stroke mechanics. If you do a cross-over kick, chafing can occur on your inner thighs. If you cross over your mid-line with either arm, chafing can occur around your arms. Work on refining your technique so it is as streamlined and balanced as possible.

2. Fabric-on-skin chafing can be eliminated or reduced by skin lubricants or even tape where the most friction occurs. Female suits, wetsuits and technical swimsuits that cover the shoulders are especially problematic and usually require specific applications of skin lubricants.

The skin lubricants can be petroleum jelly, lanolin, or any number of commercial products from TriSlide to Body Glide.

Waterproof medical tape or kinesiology tape – works very well to eliminate chaffing, especially under wetsuits, protective skin suits and technical swimsuits.


3. If during your breathing cycle, your (unshaven) chin rubs against your shoulder, you can either shave closely or learn to position your head just slightly different. While lanolin works very well as an anti-chafing application, it is often difficult to remove. It is best applied by rubbing smoothly and deeply in the skin so it penetrates the pores.

For most people who swim in the open water for less than an hour, petroleum jelly, TriSlide and Body Glide work well. But for those who swim longer distances, often lanolin or a mixture of lanolin, zinc, petroleum jelly and/or diaper (nappy) ointment also work well.

Of course, skin care for open water swimmers does not start and finish at the shoreline. Sunscreens with zinc oxide are best applied before every swim as the harmful rays of the sun take a toll on the human skin year after year. Read other articles on sunscreen usage by open water swimmers here: coral-safe sunscreen, biodegradable sunblock, Vitamin D and sunscreens.

Showering and moisturizing immediately after every open water swim is also as important as what you do before your swim. Although many open water venues do not have readily available showers, experienced swimmers (and triathletes and surfers) often take a large jug/bottle of fresh water with them in order to rinse off afterwards, especially when there are no showers available.

While everyone has their own favorite moisturizing formulations and creams, coconut oil has been effectively used for thousands of years by South Pacific islanders on the skin and hair. While the pharmaceutical companies make wonderful synthetic products with many benefits, something can be said for a natural product that has been effectively used by humans for thousands of years.

Copyright © 2011 by Open Water Swimming