As everyone from professional marathon swimmers to English Channel swimmers know, open water swimmers often apply Vaseline® to their underarms, inside thighs, chin and/or neck in order to prevent chafing.
Lanolin is also often used to help reduce the initial impact of cold water.
According to the Open Water Swimming Dictionary, lanolin is a greasy, fatty substance, insoluble in water, that is extracted from wool-bearing animals used to coat the skin of swimmers, especially to friction points (e.g., underarms, inside thighs, chin and neck) in order to prevent chafing or help reduce the impact of cold water. Lanolin can generally be found in pharmacies or ordered at medical supply stores throughout the U.S. and Western Europe
Most experienced swimmers ask their coach or trainer to firmly spread a thin layer of lanolin on their skin shortly before entering the water. Many coaches use rubber gloves to apply the lanolin which can be difficult to get off or have a towel readily available to wipe off.
It is important to firmly press the lanolin into the skin and keep away from the swimmer's goggles, palms, ankles and inside of their foreams. Gobs of lanolin are generally not used.
Photo by Dr. Jim Miller of Britta Kamrau with lanolin on before the 2007 World Swimming Championships in Melbourne.
Copyright © 2008 by World Open Water Swimming Association