Swimskin Vs Wetsuit: Find Out Which One to Choose

If you're a triathlon noob and trying to figure out between swimskin vs wetsuit before your next race, we’ve got you covered.

Wetsuits are supposed to be quicker and make the best choice in most wet conditions. But wait, not in all conditions!
And there the swimskin comes into play.

So is it a replacement for the wetsuit? Or simply an alternative that has its own reasons to be worn?

In this article, we’ll be answering these questions while drawing a solid comparison between swimskins and wetsuits in terms of impact, benefits, and the way they’re made.
To find out which one excels where and what to buy, bear with us throughout this article.

Why You Can’t Use These Suits Interchangeably

Let’s begin with why this comparison even matters! It matters because they’re completely different and you can’t mess by ending up with the wrong one!

The swimskin doesn’t intend to create any more buoyancy when you’re out in the water, but it could still assist you in different ways for your triathlons. Some of these include keeping you tighter and smaller, decreasing drag with the hydrophobic fabric, and boosting the performance. 

On the other hand, a wetsuit is the best choice for colder temperatures (less than 78F) swimming conditions, and triathlons. It provides many advantages compared to other suits in terms of buoyancy, warmth, body positioning, less fatigue, and so on.

So we see while swimskin doesn’t have the advantages like wetsuits, it still helps you in conditions where you can’t legally wear a wetsuit.

What is a swimskin used for?

Swimskin is one of the latest additions to triathlon apparel. It’s a skintight, nonporous speed suit that’s worn over tri suits to reduce the frontal drag in the water.

When put on, it’ll extend over the knees to the shoulders and has a zipper generally located on the rear side

But what makes it so worth it?

Swimskin is thinner and is becoming very popular for warm-water triathlons. It’s also considered a smaller replacement for the wetsuit.

For some events and pool rules, you can’t use wetsuits in water having temperatures more than 78F like USA Triathlon or WTC events. In such cases, swimskin becomes an excellent choice.

So it makes a great option for swimming in smaller water bodies where temperatures tend to be higher.

Although swimskin offers little to no warmth or buoyancy, it’s the best you can get for non-wetsuit swimming and legal races.

While Zoot Swimskin is our personal favorite, some of the other top brands include HUUB, ROKA, TYR, and so on.

What is a wetsuit used for?

Wetsuit refers to the sung-fit rubber garment (consisting of foamed neoprene) that the swimmers, divers, or surfers wear for thermal protection in wet conditions.

It comes with many benefits, among which the main one is to provide insulation to retain body heat for swimmers.

Besides, it’s considered an unparalleled choice for buoyancy and speed for triathlons or other wetsuit races.

The research finds that wetsuits provide great performance benefits as well. We’ll discuss more of its advantages in detail below.

For the wetsuits brand, we prefer O'Neill Wetsuits, while some of the top ones include Hurley, Rip Curl Surf, Patagonia, Xcel, and so on.

Swimskin Vs Wetsuit: What Is The Actual Difference?

Now it’s time to check out the comparison factors and how both these suits are different from each other.


Swimskin is generally made of polyester which is a durable fabric and provides great compression. This fabric is thinner compared to the wetsuit.

On the other hand, a wetsuit is made of special rubber fabric known as foamed neoprene consisting of nitrogen bubbles.


We’ve already seen that the swimskin provides compression and body contouring to reduce frontal drag and increase speed. And it’s not intended for warmth or buoyancy.

On the contrary, the wetsuit is designed to keep the wearer warm and provide enhanced buoyancy to make swimming much easier.

Pool Temperature

These suits vary in terms of the pool conditions or temperatures they’re suited to. Wetsuits are suitable for races or pools having a cutoff temperature around 78F. Anything less than that is fine to wear wetsuits.

On the other hand, swimskin is appropriate for the warm water races (having pool temperatures of more than 78F) where the wetsuits aren’t allowed such as WTC or USA Triathlons.


A Swimskin top generally comes with a zipper at the back which provides a wide opening and makes it easy to put on as well.

Similarly, the wetsuit also has a back zipper option. However, it comes with an added option which is the front zip wetsuit.

Interestingly, some find the latter to be more convenient while choosing between front zip or back zip wetsuits. It’s because of its more comfortable neck, ease of access, less chance of flushing, and a more snug fit.


The swimskin triathlon sets are mostly available in sleeveless versions, however, you’ll get the short-sleeved ones as well. And for both these, you’ll find them going down to the knees after wearing them.

On the other hand, the wetsuits are available in both the full-sleeved and sleeveless versions. The full-sleeved ones make the best choice due to added coverage and buoyancy.

Swimskin Vs Wetsuit: Which one to buy?

Swimskin and wetsuit have different sets of advantages and are used in different conditions as well.

But are they worth it? Yes, they’re. Check out their advantages below to find out why.

Advantages of Swimskin: Why You Should Buy It

Swimskin doesn’t offer much warmth or buoyancy but it offers some great benefits. What are those? Let’s find out.

Provides Compression:

Swimskin offers excellent compression allowing the swimmer to keep up to the hydrodynamics and the speed while swimming through water.

Smoothes Out Contours:

It smoothes out the contours of your race kit and body. So the swimmer has to exert minimal effort to glide through the water.

Reduces Drag & Friction:

This suit makes your body smaller and smoother. As a result, it reduces the frontal drag as well as the friction created by the race kit against water, hence, increasing the speed.

Performance Benefits:

 It boosts performance as well. A pool test conducted by the U.S Olympic Swimming Team suggests that the swimskin can save around 2 seconds per 100 yards on an average compared to the regular training suits.

Advantages of Wetsuit: Why You Should Buy It

The wetsuit has some great advantages over regular triathlon racing and swimming suits. Let’s take a look at some of these here.

Maintains Warmth: 

The wetsuit keeps the swimmer warm by trapping water between the suit and skin. So it retains heat and helps the wearer avoid the low-temperature body condition called hypothermia.

Enhances Buoyancy:

 Neoprene (the fabric used in wetsuits) greatly enhances floatation or buoyancy. It holds the swimmer higher in the water, helping to get good results with less effort.

Reduces Drag & Friction:

 Wetsuit keeps the body tighter. As a result, it helps reduce the performance-lowering friction & drag to a great extent.

Boosts Performance: 

Wetsuit increases buoyancy, speed, and hence the overall performance. In a test conducted by the U.S. Olympic Swimming Team, it says that the wetsuit shaves off around 6 seconds per 100 yards compared to the regular training suits

Comparison Chart






Neoprene Synthetic Rubber

Suited Condition

75F or higher pool temperature

75F or less pool temperature


Compression, reduced drag, and speed

Warmth, buoyancy, reduced friction, and speed


Back side

Front and Back


Sleeveless or short-sleeves

Full-sleeved or sleeveless


If you’ve more questions, check out the followings to have them answered!

Does a swimskin keep you warm?

Since swimskin adds little to no warmth and is supposed to be used in warm races, it doesn’t need to provide additional warmth.

What do you wear under a swimskin?

You generally wear a tri-suit under a swimskin for non-wetsuit races.

Do wetsuits keep you warm in cold water?

Yes, they do. In fact, they’re designed to trap air and provide insulation. So that you stay warm and protected from cold water.

Do you float in a wetsuit?

Yes, you do for its buoyancy property. But not as much as you’ll float in a life jacket.

How should I figure out between the swimskin vs tri suit?

Well, it’s easy. Tri suit is what is worn for all three events of the triathlon, whereas the swimskin is the suit worn for swimming races only.

You May Also Like :  what to wear under wetsuit


Time to conclude things up. So let’s summarize what we can make out of this swimskin vs wetsuit comparison?

Apart from the warm races or sanctioned triathlons, it’s the wetsuit that you should be buying without hesitation. And you should know why from the discussion so far.

But for warm or non-wetsuit races, a swim skin suit will be the best option to buy. So both have their own reasons to be chosen.

We hope the article has helped you make the right decision

Norma A Robertson

Hey, my name is Norma A Robertson. My hobbies include paddle boarding, kite surfing, snorkeling, scuba diving, etc. I started this website to share my experience and ideas as well as review products that interest me to help everyone who reads it. I hope you find what you are looking for in my articles.