Why Do Nipples Hurt After Swimming? (Is It Common?)


Ever wonder why do nipples hurt after swimming? Though the reasons may vary, the pain is as bothersome as it gets for each individual. In this article, we will give the details of this matter. 

A sore nipple is a common problem for swimmers. The main reason behind the nipple pain after swimming is the abrasion caused during your dive. Some other factors that cause painful nipples are irritating clothing, allergies, and chemicals.

Risks of an Irritated Nipple

After finishing the swimming session, the nipples can dry out and become brittle. These fissures can develop into deeper fissures or split into the nipple or breast tissue, which is prone to bleeding and infection. 

In addition to the irritation that causes the soreness and/or pain, friction can also cause the nipples to become significantly more rigid than usual. 

Now, this is not to scare you, but you should never ignore any discomfort or irritation that you might be feeling in your breasts. Call the doctor if you notice any unusual issues in your nipple.


3 Reasons for Sore Nipples

If you have never experienced this type of pain before, you may be alarmed by the soreness or pain in your nipples following your swimming session. It keeps you wondering if this is normal. 

However, this pain/soreness, known as “Surfer’s Nipple,” is extremely common, though everyone might not experience it. Typically, it occurs for the following reasons:

1. Irritating Fabrics and Underwear

Doctors suggest that swimsuits can be responsible for itching and skin reactions in the same way that skincare products can. Textile contact dermatitis occurs when you are allergic to the fabric or, more commonly, the chemicals used to process the fabric, such as those in your bra.

Additionally, your suit may be too tight. This can cause itchy nipples, especially if swimming involves a great deal of rubbing or friction. 

The movement between the skin and the bathing suit, combined with the sand and saline water trapped between the breasts and the swimsuit material, causes even more rubbing, which irritates that particular section. This irritation or chafing can be extremely painful.


2. Allergies

Pain and irritation accompanied by skin that is flaky, crusty, or blistering may indicate an allergic reaction or atopic dermatitis (eczema). Some people’s skin is sensitive to certain stimuli, even in the shower. 

If you happen to be allergic or sensitive to something and it comes into contact with your skin, you may experience itching and possibly a rash.

Typically, something that comes into direct contact with the nipple, such as a nipple cream, may cause itchy nipples. However, other products you use, such as your detergent, body lotion, and fabric softener, may also cause nipple itching.

3. Chemicals

A change in laundry detergent or shower gel is a common cause of the sudden onset of sore nipples; you may be having an allergic reaction to one of the chemicals in these products. Although the term was derived from surfing, the condition can occur in both open water and pools.

If you have a swimming pool, either the chloride concentration is too high or you spent too much time in the pool. Chloride is a chemical that kills insects and bacteria in the pool, but doctors say that it can also dry out and irritate the skin, including nipples. 


If you suspect chemicals are responsible for your pain, stop using that soap and detergent immediately, and skip your swimming sessions until the pain eases.

Tips for Preventing Sore Nipples

Multiple factors, including hormonal fluctuations, unsupportive bras, and excessive swimming, can cause your nipples to feel sore, swollen, and achy, and it’s more common than you might think. But, that’s not to say that you can’t do something about it.


Prevention is better than a cure. Here are a few of the best practices before going on a swim.

Use a Lubricant or Apply a Bandage

Apply an emollient that is waterproof, such as Vaseline. Lubricants form a protective barrier and reduce friction between your suit and nipples by forming a protective barrier. 

Your suit glides more easily over the lubricant than it does over the skin. Additionally, one can use talcum powder on their nipples (it will create more of a paste over them once the powder gets wet).


Consider applying (carefully!) waterproof plasters to the nipples. Creating a barrier between your skin and your suit is one method for reducing friction and decreasing the likelihood of chafing. Many swimmers enclose nipples with bandages or adhesive tape to create this barrier.

Wear a Proper Swim Suit

The most important thing you should do to suppress sore nipples during your swimming session is to wear perfectly fitter clothing. Stay away from wearing tight or loose-fitting clothing.

If your regular swimsuit/swimming attire does not fit right and gives your proper protection, you might purchase a rash vest instead.


Despite your best efforts, you may occasionally experience chafed nipples. When they do, use these guidelines.

Clean Your Nipples

The most essential action is to treat them appropriately. Thus, they will not continue to become more painful. First, clean the affected area, especially if your nipples are sufficiently chafed to bleed. Cleanse it with water and soap. Then, ensure that the area is completely dry to prevent further chafing.


Apply Cream and Some Bandages

Steroid creams or an evening primrose oil can assist in the reduction of swelling and inflammation in your nipple area. If the skin on the nipples becomes inflamed and broken, apply an antibiotic cream. 

Cover them while they are healing to prevent further irritation. While the skin is broken, it is probably best to stay away from swimming. And, of course, avoid sunburn on site.

Lastly, if you happened to see visible tears, you will need to apply gauze bandages to the nipples. Then give them time to heal; you should stay away from the water or alter your training regimen to let them recover completely.

Avoid Breast Pain When Surfing

Extra breast support or chest wall can benefit the women who surf a lot. This extra support can be a protective bikini, bra, or neoprene rash vest. A normal rash guard provides minimal support, whereas the support of the neoprene rash vest depends on its fit and thickness. 

It must be ensured that the breasts get the support and are not compressed. This advice applies to guys as well.


Making Sure Your Sore Nipples Are from Swimming

As with all medical matters, it is difficult to completely rule out serious conditions without consulting a doctor. Consequently, if you are concerned and your symptoms persist, or you have related questions, you should seek advice from medical professionals. 

Usually, nipple pain is diagnosed based on common sense and a consideration of the activities that may cause it. However, it is essential to be aware that sore nipples can develop other complications as well and therefore needs immediate diagnosis, treatment, or surgery.

With so many potential causes of irritation, how do you know when to consult a medical professional? Here are a few things you should take notice of before calling the doctors:

  • Itching that persists for several weeks or longer
  • Itching is not alleviated by over-the-counter medications
  • A rash with open sores or blisters
  • A rash that appears to be becoming infected (you might observe swelling, redness, or drainage on the tissue)

Additional Causes of Nipple Pain

Hopefully, you’re feeling better about this experience/problem at this point, but you may still be wondering what painful nipples indicate. There are numerous causes of itchy nipples, but the vast majority of these “other problems” are not life-threatening. However, many severe conditions exist as well.

Hormonal Changes

Perhaps the most common cause is a fluctuation in the female sex hormones progesterone and estrogen. Whether it occurs with the onset of puberty or as a result of your monthly menstrual cycle, breast pain caused by hormones is completely normal – although that does not make it any less painful!



Several infections can also cause breast pain. The following conditions can cause nipple pain and should be treated by a doctor:

Thrush: This is a common yeast-based infection (the candida fungus). This yeast thrives in warm, moist conditions and milk. During breastfeeding, thrush can be active in a baby’s mouth, providing an entry point for infections.

Mastitis: This is an infection that causes breast inflammation. Long-term obstruction of the milk ducts is one of the many potential causes.

Breast Cancer and Paget’s Disease

Some pain and other symptoms may indicate conditions such as cancer, although tumors typically do not cause pain. Cancer-related breast and nipple pain typically affects only one breast and nipple, but it also affects many breast parts, like the breast glandular tissue.

Paget’s disease is a rare form since it affects the nipple that frequently co-occurs with breast tumors. People with these complications may also experience the following additional symptoms and should consult a doctor immediately for diagnosis:

  • An inverted or flattened nipple
  • Bloody or yellowish discharge
  • Tingling or itching sensations


Breast aches and discomfort are also one of the earliest indicators of pregnancy for women. If you are of reproductive age and not on birth control or if you have not been using your birth control method correctly and consistently, you should not be surprised if your doctor says you’re pregnant. 

If you have bilateral breast pain and haven’t had a period in a few months, you should strongly consider pregnancy as the reason why your nipple is hurting.