Why the Buzz About Neoprene Free Wetsuits?

November 24, 2022



A male surfing

If you’ve been shopping for a new wetsuit, you might be noticing that some products are marketed as neoprene free wetsuits. Why does it matter that a wetsuit is neoprene free? What are the problems with neoprene wetsuits and how do non neoprene wetsuits compare? We’ve broken it all down to help you understand why you’re seeing this new generation of wetsuits and why they matter.

Issues and Concerns with Neoprene Wetsuits

Chances are that you’ve been using neoprene wetsuits for years without realizing that they were problematic. After all, for decades, there weren’t any other options. As it turns out, there are several reasons neoprene wetsuits aren’t desirable.

1. Petroleum Usage

Petroleum is widely known as one of the top contributors to climate change and other aspects of ecological damage. Petroleum isn’t just used as fuel, though – it’s the fundamental origin of neoprene too.

Neoprene is made through a complex chemical process but it starts with petroleum. This is a problem for two reasons. First, petroleum is a non-renewable resource and one that is quickly running out. Second, the processes of extracting and transporting petroleum are environmentally harmful.

2. High-Energy Production Process

When a neoprene manufacturer gets its petroleum, it begins a chemical process that extracts chemicals from the petroleum and turns them into new polymers. We’ll spare you the in-depth scientific details, but these processes use a significant amount of energy and fuel. This leads to heavy carbon emissions, which contribute to climate change.

3. Health Concerns from Production Emissions

The neoprene production process harms not only the planet but people as well. A primary chemical involved in creating neoprene is chloroprene. Chloroprene emissions in the air have been linked to severe health risks, especially liver cancer and lung cancer, with repeated exposure. Chloroprene has been named as a “probable carcinogen” by the EPA.

Using neoprene products doesn’t create enough exposure to put you at risk. However, manufacturing neoprene can be harmful to the people working at these facilities and to anyone who is continually exposed to the air near the facilities, including people who live and work in the area.

4. Lack of Non-Damaging Disposal Options

When a neoprene product is at the end of its life, there isn’t an eco-friendly way to dispose of it. Neoprene is not biodegradable or compostable, nor can it be recycled. The only option is to send it to a landfill, where it takes hundreds of years to break down. As a result, neoprene contributes to the growing problem of garbage pollution.

Is Limestone Neoprene an Eco-Friendly Alternative?

Knowing the many problems that traditional neoprene wetsuits can cause, some people switch to limestone neoprene wetsuits as an alternative. Are they actually better, though?

The core difference in limestone neoprene is that it uses limestone instead of petroleum. The problem, though, is that limestone is also a non-renewable resource. The limestone mining process is also harmful to the environment.

Ultimately, limestone neoprene is slightly less environmentally damaging than traditional neoprene, but it can’t be called eco-friendly either.

The Solution: Non Neoprene Wetsuits

With all of the above information in mind, it’s clear to see why neoprene free wetsuits are a hot commodity. They do everything that neoprene can do while also protecting the planet. Because wetsuits are predominantly used by people who are passionate about watersports and recognize that preserving the planet is the only way they can continue to enjoy those sports, the watersports community has embraced neoprene free wetsuits.

Benefits of a Wetsuit with No Neoprene

While there are a few types of non neoprene wetsuits on the market, the primary options are wetsuits made with an innovative Yulex material. Yulex’s neoprene alternative is a plant-based material that uses entirely Forest Stewardship Council certified natural rubber. It offers a host of benefits, including:

  • Eco-friendly materials and production practices
  • Production without using or releasing toxic chemicals
  • Sustainably created with natural materials from farms that use eco-conscious farming practices
  • All the same advantages of traditional neoprene, like water resistance, temperature insulation and thermal control, flexibility, light weight
  • No compromises in performance, with many reviewers actually preferring it to neoprene in real-world use

Where to Buy a Neoprene Free Wetsuit

With today’s excellent neoprene alternatives, there’s no reason you can’t enjoy all your favorite watersports while preserving this beautiful planet. Patagonia’s neoprene free wetsuits are the best-known products on the market, but you can also find Yulex products from Billabong, NeedEssentials, The Sea, Ansea, Pride Bodyboards, Fourth Element,MDNS, Project Blank, Senosen, Srfce, Scubapro, Aqualung, Finesterre, Rip Curl, H&M, and more.

Shop for neoprene free wetsuits at a variety of major retailers, and in the meantime, learn more about Yulex for wetsuits.

Back to all articles
black arrow icon Yulex

Upgrade from neoprene to Yulex®

We love providing our partners with the opportunity to move towards a more sustainable future. Make the conscious choice and start your transition away from neoprene.
Start your transition
black arrow icon Yulex