Does Salt Water Create Chafing?

open water swimmers

I went for a mamo today and the first thing out of the technician’s mouth was, “what happened to you???” Between my neck, under my arms, and scratches and bruises on my “boobs,” I looked like a mess!

When it first happened

A couple of weeks ago, in preparation for the Cross Bay Swim which was supposed to happen on July 9,  later rescheduled for August 12, I went in the water with my training buddy, Ray, and stayed in there for almost two hours. When I came out, my neck and my body were badly chafed.


Since it was a week before my daughter’s wedding, I showed her my wounds and she begged me not to swim the week leading up to the wedding. “Mom, we’re taking professional photos,” she said and pleaded with me.

Being a good mom, I didn’t listen. But instead of going in again without protection, I slathered my body with Vaseline.



My coach told me that I must have sensitive skin, but I never did before. So, I went on the Internet and did some research. I found an article by US Masters Swimming that was very helpful, entitled, “Aye! There’s the Rub.”

I read it and was interested to learn that chafe wounds and raw lesions form from repetitive motion in the saltwater. According to the article, chafing is a common problem among long-distance open water swimmers.

“Chafing occurs when something makes repetitive contact with your skin and irritates it. That can be skin from another area of the body, clothing, a watch, wetsuit, and ill-fitting bathing suit,” the article says.

How do you prevent chafing?

The article and many others that I had read suggested you slather yourself with Vasaline, Aquaphor, or any other product that provides lubrication.

The more you put on, the better! You can’t put on enough.

How do you cure your chafe wound?

I’ve been using ChafeZone, A&D Ointment, Aquaphor, and Zelios’ Betwixt chafing cream. I find that in conjunction with each other, they all seem to work. Thankfully, I healed before my daughter’s wedding and was fine for the photos. But as soon as I started swimming long again, they came back. So I need to keep slathering and hopefully, I can nail it for the race so it won’t stop me in my tracks!