What is Surf Rash and what to do about it.

Posted by Jane Belcher on

A while back now, a bunch of friendly folk filled in a questionnaire about their experiences with surf rash. In short, the research told me that there is a significant problem that needs to be solved, but of course, the first step to finding a solution was to understand the underlying cause.

What the research said

  • On average, the respondents suffered from surf rash almost 40% of the time they surf.
  • The biggest problem is from surfing without a rash vest, followed closely by rashes from boardshorts and wetsuits.
  • The vast majority would like to see a surf rash cure than is effective and made with natural ingredients.

Causes of surf rash

I have struggled on and off with surfing rash for most of the many years I have been surfing:

  • Initially, I thought the marks on my neck were the result of too many consecutive mornings and evenings, even some school days, spent surfing in a wetsuit (sadly not the result of a teenaged love affair…).
  • Then I wondered if the searing pain on my thighs after surfing was from the materials in cheap pair of boardshorts I picked up from a market when I first landed in Indonesia.
  • Even recently, I assumed the rashes under my armpits and on my chest was wax irritating my skin, and giving me the worst full body hair removal job known to man.
What is Surf Rash and what to do about it

It turns out that whilst friction against wetsuits, seams on boardshorts and shirts, or even surfboard wax may upset some people’s skin, there is a more all encompassing, and ultimately inescapable answer. Surf rash occurs when the skin is softened and weakened by exposure to salt water, as well as minuscule, abrasive sea salts rubbing against the skin, creating an exfoliator effect. Over time, this combination breaks down the skin causing inflammation, pain and even superficial wounds. In short, this means that if you’re in the ocean and you’re skin is rubbing against something, you could be on the way to developing a rash.

What to do about Surf Rash

In the past, there were several strategies you could employ in a bid to avoid surf rash, each with differing levels of efficacy:

  • Use Vaseline - good at stopping a rash, but be very careful not to let it near your board or you will slip & slide. It is also mainly petroleum jelly and the EU has banned products where the petroleum is not adequately refined to remove the carcinogens, so tread carefully
  • Invest in a good quality rash vest - Pretty reliable, and if you're in the tropics it will protect you from the sun damage too, but this only helps the upper body.
  • Don't surf...clearly not a real option!

If the above options aren't for you, you do have another option now. SETT Surf Rash Cream is designed to to reduce the redness and sensitisation of a surf rash, keep you skin in great condition, and get you back in the water enjoying the waves ASAP! 

  • Natural, organic skincare
  • Reduce redness & sensitisation of surf rash
  • Child safe formula
  • Paraben free & allergen free
  • Developed to strict regulatory standards
What is Surf Rash and what to do about it

Enjoyed this blog?

  • If this has been helpful or interesting at all, please share it. Go ahead, forward this email, share on Facebook, or follow SETT on Instagram using the buttons below.
  • I would also love to hear from you about what you think about SETT, the website and what I am working on, so feel free to drop me a line on jane@settsurf.com.

Speak soon!


Protection skincare surf rash

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  • I have struggled with this (surfer rash) all my life. From age 3 on up to now 42. I’m not a huge surfer but I love body boarding. I was borne in California and no matter the shorts I would always get thigh and groin rash. Now into my 40’s it mainly just groin rashes, and if anyone has experienced one or multiple you know sadly that enjoyable ocean day is done.

    Just recently I did however find a quick fix that worked so well I have sought out to find the most attractive article and share. We live on the east coast (Virginia) and visit or vacation to the outer banks (OBX) often.

    With the pandemic we hadn’t go to the beach since the summer of 2019. In our hast and excitement in packing I forgot my vaseline. I will admit it’s pretty amazing and my “go to” for my aging weak skin.

    So I find myself hours later (of course after a long) 6hrs beach walk realizing the chafe and burn 🔥 is back. The “surf rash” has yet again returned with its vengeance. My inner groin area just along the medial groin to inner thigh with literally a 6inch line on both sides burns and stings that I could barely walk.
    As I expressed to my wife and 3children that my day was done. I returned to the showers and rinsed off, changed my clothes (in my pickup) and as I was sitting there was thinking what could I possibly use now or would I need to do a store run.

    This it dawned on me… ready for it? Lip balm. Yes you read it right, I used Bert’s Bees all natural lip balm. Fortunately the car was hot from the sun and the balm was slightly melted/softened. After applying I was truly shocked and amazed, it soothed, calmed and had a menthol like cooling. I had changed and my clothes were dry and I did not re-enter the water.
    So for me a quick fix actually became a sigh of relief. Thank you Berts Bees 🐝

    As for now just gotta love the beach. Life’s a wave, ride it!

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