Could I be Allergic to Neoprene?

Michael Pollick
Michael Pollick

Ironically, the synthetic rubber called neoprene was originally used as an acceptable alternative to latex, which could trigger serious allergic reactions in certain wearers. Neoprene is often found in medical braces, protective gloves, elastic fabrics and wetsuits.

Neoprene may be found in medical gloves.
Neoprene may be found in medical gloves.

It is very possible for a person to become allergic to neoprene and experience a form of contact dermatitis. Scuba divers and surfers have been known to suffer from a rash caused by the neoprene used in some wetsuits, and wearers of elastic bandages and braces may discover signs of contact dermatitis wherever the neoprene remains in contact with their skin.

Neoprene is often found in medical braces.
Neoprene is often found in medical braces.

The reason you may be allergic to neoprene could be a sensitivity to several different compounds used to cure and harden the natural rubber. Traces of these chemicals can remain in the finished neoprene product and cannot be easily removed through ordinary washing.

Neoprene may be found in wetsuits.
Neoprene may be found in wetsuits.

When someone is truly allergic to this rubber, any extended contact could cause a reaction. It is possible that you might actually be sensitive or allergic to a medical cream or other substance placed on the neoprene, not the neoprene itself. If you have a reaction on your skin after prolonged contact with a neoprene glove, wetsuit or brace, examine the object for any other contaminants or substances which could trigger a similar reaction.

Neoprene may be found in elastic fabrics.
Neoprene may be found in elastic fabrics.

Testing to see if you are indeed allergic to neoprene usually requires a visit to a local allergy clinic for a specific patch test. This is different from a scratch test, so you'll want to tell the doctor about your contact with neoprene. There are at least 6 different compounds used to cure and harden natural rubber, so the allergist may need to examine the actual object which may have triggered the reaction. A neoprene allergy patch test is not always on the standard menu, so your allergist may have to arrange for a more thorough battery of tests.

If you are indeed allergic to neoprene, the best solution may be to avoid it as much as possible. There are modern wetsuits which have either eliminated neoprene altogether or minimize its contact with the wearer through layering. An application of a chemical barrier such as Vaseline may also minimize direct contact with neoprene braces or bandages. Avoid using athletic shoe liners which may contain neoprene and check the labels of active sportswear and swimsuits for the presence of neoprene.

If you do suffer an allergic reaction to neoprene, you may want to take antihistamine medications such as Benadryl® and allow the rash to heal naturally. Some medical professionals discourage the use of over-the-counter anti-itch creams until the root cause of the dermatitis can be determined. The wrong medication may actually worsen the effects of a neoprene allergy.

A medical professional wrapping a person's knee with a neoprene bandage.
A medical professional wrapping a person's knee with a neoprene bandage.
Michael Pollick
Michael Pollick

A regular wiseGEEK contributor, Michael enjoys doing research in order to satisfy his wide-ranging curiosity about a variety of arcane topics. Before becoming a professional writer, Michael worked as an English tutor, poet, voice-over artist, and DJ.

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Discussion Comments


My son has a huge rash patch on the top and sides of his feet after wearing Duck Unlimited boots for a eight hour shift. His feet are so sore and swollen that he has trouble getting his shoes on. Help.


Skin reaction! I trust someone can shed light on this.

I got a new wet suit and it broke me out in a nasty bobbled rash on my neck, shoulder, chest, tummy. Lasted over a week. The second time I used it, I wore a rash vest under the wet suit. This broke me out in a red rash on my chest and shoulder tops. So I presume the rash vest is doing something. The third time, I used a different rash vest, and broke out in a red rash on my chest top, shoulders and the front of my neck. The docs say it's an allergic reaction. But to what? Any ideas?


I was just reading the post by anon 274433 post no. 16 and I have exactly the same problem. I wear a CPAP for sleep apnea. Mine is also made by ResMed. I finally came to the conclusion today that the mask itself is causing what I thought were cysts. I knew I had a problem with Neoprene but didn't connect my mask with the problem. My doctor also told me last year that I had folliculitis and gave me a lotion. The problem has been coming and going but now it is really bad. Now I have to figure out what to do about this.


I first had an allergic reaction on my legs from my sliding pad when I was in high school. At the time we didn't know what it was about the sliding pad that caused this reaction.

Four years later, when I was student teaching in a band class, I was learning to play the saxophone and once again I started having a reaction. It wasn't nearly as severe, but it reminded me of the incident back in high school. That's when the two dots connected. The neck strap was made out of the same type of material.

I recently hurt my wrist and the urgent care Doc gave me a thumb splint that is made out of neoprene. Hoping to try using Vaseline as a barrier between the brace and my wrist.


About a year ago I wore fishing waders that had neoprene booties. I developed a severe rash where the neoprene touched my body. The rash eventually turned into painful tiny white blisters The tiny blisters grew into large oozing, painful pustules. I still have scars from it. The research I did indicates that neoprene can indeed cause chemical burns for some people. Lucky me -- I'm one of them.


I too have a severe allergy to neoprene. I had a moderately painful and itchy rash after a three day surf holiday a few years ago, but never realized it was from a wetsuit until I recently had to wear a neoprene brace on my hand and due to an injury and came out with what looked like a chemical burn. It was sore, itchy and blistering! I now realize that is what I had a few years back after wearing a wetsuit for a few days on the trot.

I have, however, found a site that makes thermocline wetsuits (neoprene free) for all you divers/surfers out there. They may not be cheap but definitely worth it if you don't get a rash fourth element thermocline suits online. They may help if you spend a lot of time in a wetsuit.


I have sleep apnea and wear a C-Pap mask w/machine every night. My scalp gets small red pimples that get pus that cause pain and itchiness for one to three days and then go away. This happens continuously. The mask has a strap that goes around your head to support the air machine. Mine is manufactured by ResMed.

I have been to several doctors and even had a biopsy. They say I have folliculitis. Anyone ever have this? Anyone been told it's caused by latex or neoprene?


I wore a brace for two hours on my ankle after suffering a fracture. It was 80 percent neoprene, and 20 percent polyester. I developed what looked like a chemical burn, and after a week, I still have bloody sores, and the skin is coming off. I had blisters that were weeping, and it is painful.

Now, I am suffering from a rash on my hands and feet, that is brutal. It is itchy and feels like prickly heat all over, almost like my hands are asleep. I am on prednisone (60 mg per day over five days) and after three days, it is not helping. I am thinking I am going to have to go back to the doctor for a stronger prescription.

Has anyone ever had it this bad? It absolutely is pushing me to the edge of sanity. Not really, but it is rough! Oh-- also the day I noticed the rash on the hands and feet, I had some trouble breathing and went to the hospital.


I have been wearing Henderson wetsuits for years to swim in. I just got a new one and immediately broke out with a red, very itchy rash on my stomach and back, akin to poison oak or ivy. It is awful. It's even hard to sleep. There has to be an alternative to neoprene that does not cause this. Does anyone know?


I use Tape Relief for contact related allergies!


Try St. John's wort oil. It will certainly solve the problem. Spray with oil from this herb the critical parts of the dress suit. Sasha, from Serbia


I now have a poison-ivy like, itchy rash on the backside of my elbow after wearing a neoprene elbow brace for four days in a row. which is unfortunate, because I like the support it provides.

Why doesn't the makers of these braces put a neoprene-free liner on these braces as a barrier to protect the skin from the highly Irritant neoprene?


all divers out there could check out some of the dry suits out there. Whites makes "twin skin" dry suits that actually are easier to swim with than neoprene. Ocean Rodeo makes good variations for surfers, although these may be too hot for summer.


Geoprene booties caused same skin reaction as neoprene.


I have experienced problems with neoprene braces as well. The skin reactions from neoprene are very painful. I was lucky to find bio skin neoprene free braces. Now I can wear my knee brace without skin irritation. I would suggest finding alternatives to neoprene; there are many options.


My girlfriend is allergic to neoprene which made it hard for me to take her out snorkelling/diving. She tried rash vests which worked (a bit) but we found a type of full lightweight wetsuit from Fourth Element, it's in their "Thermocline" range. This has almost completely solved the exposure/reaction to neoprene and she's very happy now :)


I am having the exact same issue as garyvz. I purchased my neoprene brace several years ago but had not worn it until I went back to curling this year. The worst area is the tender skin behind the knee. It is swollen and red, oozing a watery substance and very painful. I have washed the area and allowed 'air dry' as neither antiseptic creme or the benadryl cream seem to work. I have tried wearing a flannel material under the brace (cut out leg of an old pajama) and it is worse. I play weekly and there is not enough healing time between. I need the brace and will have to go back to using a tensor bandage next week. I like the support of the neoprene brace. Are there any suggestions?


Does Geoprene solve the allergy issue? Anyone tested it yet? G


I have a severe allergy to neoprene, resulting in a full body rash of hives and then nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. It is very debilitating and worsens with each exposure. This means I really cannot wear a wetsuit, which severely limits my ability to snorkel or dive. I am desperate to find an alternative to neoprene so that I can, once again, wear a wetsuit, as well as water shoes or "reef walkers" (they all seem to be made of neoprene, too!)

Does anyone out there have a similar problem, and, more importantly, a solution?


I am a high school and college sports official. I've worn a neoprene brace on my right knee many times and I always break out in a terrible red rash. A prescribed cream usually clears the situation within a few weeks but the skin always itches and once the rash subsides the skin flakes and water oozes out. A very painful situation. Any suggestions to prevent this?

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