If you've get that hangman's rope burn around your neck after a dive, you want to keep reading. I regret not taking a picture of the first "hickey" I received as it was a doozy and it would have rounded out this article nicely.
After extensive research on the net and receiving lots of great advice from the gracious members of the ba_diving list, I have settled on using hair conditioner to lubricate my neck seal. Here is a summary of the various seal maintenance and donning tips that I learned along the way.
One diver said to trim the seal really tight so that it doesn't move on your neck. That would kill me. Another diver said that once you get to the point to where it is comfortable, one more cut will let the water in. I was tempted to cut, but that advice kept me from going there. Trim with a really sharp knife to avoid creating rough edges which would irritate the neck.
Wash the seal with a non-detergent soap and water after use to wash away salt crystals which could cause irritation. More important, wash away skin oils and sunscreen which degrade the latex.
Store away from water heater, furnace, gas dryer and other flames as well as electrical motors such as those in air conditioners. These give off ozone which is detrimental to the latex. The best place for storage is in a dark closet, away from these appliances. The garage is the worst place.
Lubricate seal liberally with hair conditioner. This is the solution that I settled upon. It's really comfortable! It doesn't wash away too easily. It doubles as a great lubricant for my dry glove ring seals so that they pop off with ease. Make sure there isn't any oil in the conditioner which would degrade the latex.
Cricket suggests a mild dish soap such as Palmolive or Dawn for donning and lubricating the seals. Others suggest baby shampoo which doubles as a mask defogger and hair wash. The use of soap as a lubricant doubles to wash the seal as above. I found that the shampoo dried out or dissipated before the dive was over and I still got a bit of a burn.
Another reader phoned DUI and found that they recommended Ivory dish liquid diluted 10 fold with water. Ivory because it doesn't have dyes, which they said could attack the Latex.
Unfortunately, when it's hot and I'm sweaty, talc turns to mud and I'd get the burn. Microscopically, talc is an abrasive.
Like the talc, cornstarch turns to mud when it's hot and I'm sweaty and I'd get the burn. Cornstarch is preferred over talc to protect and preserve the seals during storage (which Cricket recommends and is what I do). Put the cornstarch in a sock for easy dispersal.
I found that it washed away too easily and I'd get a burn.
Initially, I thought that the sunscreen I was using (one of those clear types) was aggravating the condition. However, now that I'm using conditioner, it doesn't matter if I'm wearing sunscreen or not.
Here are some more suggestions I received that I didn't try:
It comes in a stick like deodorant which can be easily rubbed around the neck. It's not messy and at least two divers said it worked well. The manufacturer was contacted and they claimed that there isn't any petroleum in their product. It can be purchased at REI.
This is a band that protects your neck. The advantage is that it's very comfortable; the disadvantages are that it is easier for water to seep in and it will degrade your seals faster. You used to be able to read a review at http://www.divernet.com/equipment/1003divertests.shtml; you can buy them at at Leisure Pro.
Apply sparingly to the neck and wash off thoroughly after diving. I'd never do this since glue doesn't stick to silicon. If you got it near the seam, you wouldn't be able to glue a replacement seal on your suit.
If the burn was caused by allergy, I'd assume that it would happen every dive and affect the wrists as well. But it doesn't. So in my case, I doubt that's the reason. It really does seem to be a case the seal moving combined with having too much friction while it does so.
Copyright © 2006, 2008 Bill Wohler
Last modified: 2008