Full-body Lycra skin suits fit like wetsuits. They offer sunscreen protection over your entire body and help to keep you warm if you're snorkeling in a cold-water area. Some full-body skin suits are made from Lycra and some are made from neoprene. Some snorkelers dislike the full-body skin suits because they're inconvenient when you have to go to the bathroom.
It took scientist Joseph C. Shivers more than a decade of research to develop the product we call Lycra. Around since 1959, Lycra has found its way into many different clothing items, including snorkeling gear. Lycra's tensile strength and ability to blend with other fibers make it a perfect material for water gear. When choosing Lycra skins for snorkeling, consider where you'll be snorkeling, what types of jellyfish live there and whether you want to wear sunscreen.
Full-Body Skin Suits
When you don't need a full-body suit because the temperature of the water is pleasant, try using just a Lycra rash guard for snorkeling. Rash guards are stretchy shirts that protect you from jellyfish stings. They come in short-sleeve and long-sleeve varieties. Good quality rash guards have an SPF rating, which tells you that it will protect you from the sun as well as from jellyfish. The SPF rating is helpful for a couple of reasons. First of all, you don't have to apply sunscreen to any skin covered by the rash guard, and secondly, you do less damage to the environment. Sunscreen has been linked to coral damage in some areas of the ocean.
Most commonly seen in Australia, stinger suits are like full-body skin suits, but they also cover the head and hands and parts of the feet. The reason these suits are called stinger suits is that they prevent stings from the infamous box jellyfish, which has a lethal sting. Box jellyfish live near the shore in Australia, so if you plan on snorkeling in that area, buy or rent a stinger suit to stay safe.
Hybrid skins combine the properties of wetsuits with the properties of Lycra skins for snorkeling. In essence, hybrid skins provide the same sunscreen and sting protection of a snorkeling Lycra skin, but they also provide the warmth benefits of a wetsuit. For those who chill easily, a hybrid skin will keep you more comfortable. Water reduces body heat 800 times faster than air, so you can feel chilled even in tropical waters. Hybrid skins are generally slightly more expensive than traditional Lycra skins for snorkeling.
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