So you’re planning on doing a water sport; surfing, snorkeling or scuba diving! And you’re going to be wearing a wetsuit, maybe for the first time. But what do women wear under wetsuits? Is swimwear, sportswear or going naked appropriate? What will be comfortable and what do I need to consider? You might also want to think about a skinsuit (or rash guard) that can certainly help to put on a wetsuit easier!

So let’s have a look at the options and see what do women wear under wetsuits!

WHAT DO WOMEN WEAR UNDER WETSUITS?

Everyone has different preferences on what they prefer to wear under a wetsuit. The most important thing is that you are comfortable and that it allows you to freely move with the wetsuit. Here are some great options for scuba divers and all the water babes out there.

One-piece swimsuit

Women who prefer coverage for more freedom of movement can choose a one-piece swimsuit. Most one-pieces hug the body in all the right places and do not shift when it comes to the task of getting your wetsuit on or off (which we know can be an arduous task and create some nip-slips!). 

As wetsuits are meant to be worn close to the skin, the wetsuit will press any decorative swimsuit features; such as knots, metal rings, and beads, into your skin and leave you feeling very uncomfortable. Simple one-pieces and athletic style swimsuits are preferable than your beach insta-look (which are less practical). Strapless swimsuits aren’t the best idea either as they may be pulled down with your wetsuit…

The best thing about a one-piece is that you can go for a snorkel in your surface interval!

Bikini

Bikinis can be an option for you to wear underneath your wetsuit. As wetsuits can be a pain to get on and off, having a bikini can make it so much easier than having to hide under a towel or attempting to drape something over your shoulders with the worry of being exposed. 

2 piece bikinis are also great when on a long dive trip. It makes it easier to take off your bottoms to use the marine toilet or when ducking behind a bush after a shore dive. 

When choosing a bikini, try to avoid features such as knots, metal and bead decoration may dig into your skin and cause discomfort under the wetsuit. You may also find thicker straps more secure than thin straps. Especially when trying to peel off a tight wetsuit! I’ve definitely seen my share of ‘nip-slips’ on the dive boat!

Bikinis are a good option for women to wear under wetsuits
Avoid knots, and metal or wooden decorative beads. These can be uncomfortable under a wetsuit.

Sports bras

Sport bras and sports underwear is a great option when deciding what to wear under a wetsuit. They are generally very secure and give you great chest support and are generally thicker than normal underwear or bikinis. They are long-lasting and made for sweat and wet environments. Most will be quick-drying too which is a bonus when drying your stuff in-between or after your dives.

Full-body skinsuit

Skinsuits can be worn with or without a wetsuit. It is generally a stretchy, lycra-type material. Similar to leggings. These suits are a lightweight option to wear underneath your wetsuit. You can get full-body length, or just top or just bottoms. You can find many options to suit your style, available in various fabrics and thicknesses (mm).

Most people who purchase full-body suits tend to purchase a 1mm. This allows great freedom and flexibility, even when you layer it up with a wetsuit. Skinsuits also make it easier to slide the wetsuit on and off!

There are lots of great brands with amazing designs; a whale shark pattern, mermaid scales, tiger shark prints, and more! Popular brands include; Slipins Skins, Waterlust, and Aurora.

Diving or bicycle shorts

Diving shorts are designed for divers to layer underneath their wetsuit – they have a tight fit and don’t shift or move around during a dive. Like bicycle shorts, neoprene shorts allow your wetsuit to glide easily over your thighs and offer that extra warmth.

They also provide extra thermal protection, but remember that as a material, neoprene is buoyant, so you may need to use slightly more weights on a dive to compensate for the increased buoyancy.

Bicycle shorts are cheaper but may not be long-lasting. However, their fit and coverage is a great option when looking for more secure coverage around your bottom.

Rash guard

If you’re diving in temperate waters, you may only wear a rash guard instead of a wetsuit. However, they can also be used underneath a wetsuit for cooler dives and extra protection. Rash guards are available in a range of materials, including neoprene and spandex and you can choose from short or long-sleeved options. 

Thin neoprene rashguards give divers additional thermal protection when layered under a wetsuit. Some brands are bringing new, innovative styles to the market, such as fleece to provide you with extra warmth. Many rash guards offer UV protection, so you’ll also have solar protection during your surface interval.

You will want to make sure the rashguard fits quite tight on you before layering a wetsuit over it. If you wear a loose rash guard under a wetsuit, this will bunch up and can be uncomfortable or restrict your movements.

Stylish Rash Guard next to the swimming pool. Do rash guards keep you warm?
This stylish rash guard is perfect for warm water, or layered with a wetsuit.

Wearing nothing and going naked

Wearing nothing under a wetsuit is not super common but can be an option. This allows the wetsuit to fit tight against your skin and provide slightly better insulation. You might also find your movements are less restricted and you feel more ‘free’ without the constraints of underwear. Though bear in mind where the zips are on the wetsuit, and zip them up carefully!

WHAT IS A WETSUIT?

A wetsuit is a type of exposure suit. There are three basic exposure suits – the wetsuit, dry suit, and skinsuit (or rash guard). Use of these different styles depends on where you’ll be diving because of varying water temperatures worldwide; from tropical warm waters to ice diving in Norway!

Read more about wetsuits and how they work in our Ultimate Guide to Wetsuits.

A wetsuit is a garment made of neoprene, which is worn by scuba divers and others who engage in watersports, providing thermal insulation and exposure protection. It provides divers protection from cooler ocean temperatures, and potential exposure to things that can sting, cut or scrape. It also protects you from sun rays on the surface.

HOW DOES A WETSUIT WORK?

Wetsuits get their name (funnily enough!) because you still get wet while wearing one. When wearing a properly fitting wetsuit, some water will get into your suit. Your body will quickly heat up the thin layer of water that is inside your wetsuit. This warmer water will be insulated from the cooler surrounding water by the neoprene of the wetsuit and you will feel warmer!

If a wetsuit is too loose, then the water will flow in and out too quickly. This means it won’t have the chance to warm up, and keep you warm. This is why you want a wetsuit that fits snug but not tight.

When a wetsuit is snug and properly fitting then it makes a big difference for what to wear under a wetsuit! This does mean you will need to consider what to wear under a wetsuit to make it comfortable and give you freedom of movement.

WHY DO DIVERS WEAR ANYTHING UNDER THEIR WETSUITS?

Whether your dive destination is cold or warm, the temperature above water (wind, rain, etc) is an essential factor to take into consideration. As divers, we often experience different temperature fluctuations during one dive and making the right decision for your undergarment is so important to keep you comfortable, whether it’s a full-body, one-piece or bikini. A lot of garments on the market today offer high UV protection and can protect you against stings, cuts, and bites by being that extra layer between your skin and the environment.

What do women wear under wetsuits is something you may need to consider when deciding where you will be putting on and taking off your wetsuit. If you are going to be on a crowded dive boat, then it might be good to plan on what to wear under your wetsuit!

Here are some reasons when considering what do women wear under wetsuits.

Insulation

One of the main reasons for wearing undergarments under a wetsuit is the added protection and insulation from the elements. The extra layers provide the warmth our bodies need at a range of depths underwater (and out of the water!), especially in colder temperatures. Rather than wearing a very thick wetsuit, which can be restrictive for movement and deplete you of energy, divers do choose to wear thin layer(s) to help with comfort from the cold. 

Hygiene  

If you are renting a wetsuit, it’s not a nice thought to think of your bare skin rubbing against places where other people’s skin has previously been, particularly in ‘those’ areas! It’s worth mentioning that some people do pee in their wetsuits, which is even more of an incentive to pop something on underneath your wetsuit. One-piece swimsuits would suffice, although for peace of mind, a full-body would be the best protection. Wetsuits should be cleaned with disinfectant after every dive by your dive operator.

Comfort

Some divers do go nude under their wetsuits, which can sometimes be uncomfortable, not to mention painful due to the constant rubbing of skin against the inside material of the wetsuit. 

There are areas that tend to chafe when diving (especially when diving for longer periods), such as the neck, crotch, behind the knees and armpits, which are the usual places. To avoid this, you can apply anti-chafing gel or cream to avoid this inevitable problem, alongside your undergarment if wearing a one-piece for example. 

Decency

Being a diver isn’t as glamorous as it sounds (only some of the time!), especially when having to change in public areas; often busy beaches / packed out boats and this can come with little privacy. If you’re diving somewhere tropical, you may be feeling a little hot and bothered in your wetsuit, wanting to get out of it as quickly as possible and this is a time where you do want something on underneath. Wetsuits are notoriously hard to put on and take off, which means it’s not something that can be done discreetly or quickly.

Wearing an undergarment, such as a one-piece, bikini, rash guard, full-body can avoid those embarrassing moments and provide you with the coverage you need to enjoy your time above the water.

WHAT ARE THE FEATURES OF A WETSUIT?

Wetsuits are made from closed-cell neoprene with big, even bubbles that provide insulating qualities. It’s normally lined or coated with sprays or a type of fabric to add strength, but this can also make it easier to slide into the wetsuit. Without this, bare neoprene on the inside of the wetsuit doesn’t make for easy use, but it does reduce water circulation within the wetsuit.

The varying thickness is key to the warmth you’ll receive when diving. Thickness of wetsuits can range from 1mm and progress all the way up to 9mm. The most common thickness you’ll get in a dive centre when renting a wetsuit is 3mm (which is commonly used for warm water diving).

There are different styles of wetsuit to choose from – shorties, full body suits and two-pieces.

  • Shorties are one-piece suits that come with short sleeves and thigh or knee-length legs and cover your torso with around 3mm of thickness.
  • Full body suits fully cover your arms and legs. They have either a long front or back zipper for ease of getting it on. 
  • Two-piece wet suits are popular because when you use them together, you get double the insulation. You can also use the pieces separately. They are also much easier to put on!

There may also be additional features that come with wetsuits.

  • Some come with an attached hood to prevent water from flowing into your wetsuit from the neck as you’re exploring the underwater world.
  • Wrist and ankle seals minimise water entry, kneepads and elbow pads to minimise impact on sensitive areas that could be exposed to sharp edges or rocky bottoms.
  • And pockets, which are good for carrying things such as slates, camera gear or gloves. Pockets are most commonly placed on the thigh or calves.

HOW DO I CHOOSE WHAT TO WEAR UNDER MY WETSUIT?

So, you now know your options, now it’s time to get into the nitty-gritty detail. What is right for you and your diving needs? Do I need to wear anything at all?

In warmer climates and waters, you can choose to wear undergarments with minimal coverage (swimsuit, diving shorts, bikinis etc), or nothing at all. If you plan to rent a wetsuit, you’re most likely going to want to wear something underneath.

For cooler climates, adding layers is recommended for comfort and protection. There are many options to choose from and if you have a thinner wetsuit (2mm-4mm), you can add a rash guard, full-body suit, or any other type of undergarment that will provide you with the added insulation you require. This will save you money on having to buy or even rent another wetsuit. 

Ultimately, it does depend on the environment and climate that you are diving in, how sensitive your body is to the cold, wind speed, and many other variables that can sometimes be out of your control. What do women wear under wetsuits will also depend on your comfort level. Being prepared is key! 

As you can see there is no right or wrong way when deciding what to wear under a wetsuit. The main thing is that you are comfortable and that whatever you decide to wear does not restrict your movements when scuba diving. When figuring out what do women wear under wetsuits, you should try to avoid any bikinis with knots or any protruding decorations. And also bear in mind that when taking off a tight wetsuit, your bikini straps might come undone on the boat! You can also choose more coverage and opt for one-piece swimsuits, sports bras, bicycle shorts, rash-guards and more.

If you know the water temperature of your next dive, then head over to our wetsuit temperature guide to find out ‘what thickness wetsuit do I need’ to ensure your comfort and keep you feeling nice and warm!

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