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Waterlust Leggings Review (by a Plus-Sized Traveler)

Are Waterlust leggings worth it? Here's everything you need to know about Waterlust and their swim leggings. Spoiler: they're totally worth it!

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Some people are born to be on the beach. All year long, they dream about dipping their toes in bright blue water and frolicking on soft white sand, and they return from their beach vacation with sun-kissed skin, positively glowing with beachy bliss.

I envy those people.

While they’re happily soaking up the sun, I’m busy being burned to a crisp, accidentally inhaling mouthfuls of sand, swallowing saltwater, freaking out because I saw one single jellyfish, yanking tangles out of my hair, and trying to get sand un-stuck from places that sand should never, ever be.

I am truly the least graceful person who has ever been on a beach. And it doesn’t help that shopping for swimwear as a size 18, almost 6-foot tall Amazonian woman is an exercise in torture and frustration (what is this, a bikini bottom for ANTS?!). Honestly, somehow I find it easier to pack for a trip to the literal Arctic Tundra than a day at the beach.

That is, until I discovered Waterlust Swim Leggings, the best plus size swim leggings. Let me save you a long read and summarize this post for you in a nutshell: Waterlust Swim Leggings are amazing you need to buy a pair. The end.

Just kidding, we have like, 3k words left in this post. And only most of it is gushing.

In this post, I’ll cover why I’m obsessed with my swim leggings, why Waterlust is one of my absolute favorite ethical and sustainable apparel companies, and a few other Waterlust products I’ve tried and loved (and one that I didn’t like at all).

By the way – no, this post is NOT sponsored. I purchased my swim leggings with my own money, fell in love with them, frolicked around on a beach in them feeling like a mermaid, and then sat down to wax poetic about them all on my own accord. Should I … admit that? Is that actually weirder??

Let me take you on a journey. A journey that does NOT involve chub rub or rashes in unmentionable places or butt sunburn… ahhhh. *cue angel choir*

Psst: Looking for more unbiased product reviews to help you pack for your next adventure? Take a look at all of our product reviews, or browse our most popular posts:

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Waterlust swim leggings on the beach
Hi, it’s me! I’m wearing Waterlust swim leggings and matching top in size 2XL. For reference, I am 5’10” and a size 18.

What are swim leggings?

Swim leggings are, essentially, a pair of leggings made for swimming. They’re made from the same kind of quick-drying material as bathing suits, and they’re designed to be worn both in and out of the water.

They’re popular among surfers and other incredibly athletic people who do a lot of things in the water, and also me, a not-very-athletic person who just really loves swim leggings. Here’s why:

  • Swim leggings provide sun protection, so you don’t need to worry about re-applying sunscreen.

If you’ll be out all day long in the water, this is a huge benefit – you won’t get a sunburn even if you forget to re-apply or don’t apply evenly.

As a very pale person who hates applying sunscreen (especially reef-safe sunscreen, which is also the only sunscreen that’s OK to wear in the ocean) and spends a lot of my time on vacation butt-up with a snorkel mask on, swim leggings sounded like the answer to all of my problems.

Covering up my skin with leggings and a rash guard meant I would hardly have to apply any sunscreen at all while still protecting my skin!

  • Swim leggings provide some protection from the elements.

Like a much lighter, more comfortable cousin of a wetsuit, swim leggings can help you feel a little warmer in the water.

Plus, you’ll get a little bit of protection from things like accidentally brushing your leg against razor-sharp coral, which protects you AND the coral!

  • Swim leggings protect your skin from chafing and rubbing while doing athletic activities.

As a plus-size woman, I get chafing just from going on a long walk wearing the wrong pants, so when wearing a swimsuit, anything more than lying around on pool chair looking fabulous is usually going to be uncomfortable and/or require several layers of anti-chafe balm. Like, would I ever go on a bike ride or hike while wearing a swimsuit? Absolutely not, that sounds incredibly painful.

And while I don’t usually get chafed underwater, getting in and out of the water, walking back to the car or down the beach, standing up and balancing on a surfboard or paddleboard, and so on can all irritate my skin.

Swim leggings solve this problem – just like leggings make it easier for me to hike, run, climb, and generally lead a chafe-free life.

If you’re doing water sports or high-intensity activities in the water (or even just swimming laps), swim leggings are a much better option than a swimsuit!

Girl wearing Waterlust swim leggings and a white rash guard in front of tidepools and volcanic rock.
I actually have worn my Waterlust leggings as regular leggings (they’re hella comfy) but I wouldn’t advise wearing regular leggings as water leggings. Read on to find out why.

Why can’t I just wear regular leggings in the water?

You might be wondering: couldn’t you just, like, wear regular leggings into the water? But there are a few reasons why you shouldn’t:

  • Your regular leggings are not designed to hold up against salt, chlorine, or sunscreen.

That means that they could break down in the water, which is a major bummer in general, but also means that you might be leeching tiny little particles of non-biodegradable fabric that could harm ocean life. Yikes!

  • Your regular leggings are not designed to dry quickly after being soaking wet.

Lots of athletic leggings are “moisture-wicking,” which means they pull sweat and moisture off your skin and allow it to evaporate quickly through the weave of the fabric. But that isn’t the same as a fabric designed to be “quick-dry,” which means the fabric itself is designed to dry quickly even when soaking wet.

To skip the technical jargon, imagine wearing a bathing suit versus wearing a polyester work-out shirt in the water: when you’re done swimming, your bathing suit is going to start to feel dry a lot faster than your shirt will.

This is important because sitting around in wet leggings is really, really bad for your lady bits. Moisture, bacteria, and chafing are all natural consequences of wearing wet leggings!

So now that I’ve convinced you NOT to ruin your Lululemons by going snorkeling in them, let’s talk about why Waterlust’s swim leggings are awesome.

Girl in the ocean wearing swim leggings.
Flopping gracefully around on the beach, shortly before having the wind knocked out of me by a giant rogue wave.

Why I’m a (Huge) Waterlust Fan

Before we even start talking about my swim leggings, I want to talk briefly about the company that makes them: Waterlust. Waterlust is an ethical and sustainable conservation-focused apparel company. Waterlust was founded by ocean science graduate students with a goal to educate the public about ocean conservation.

Waterlust is one of my all-time favorite ethical and sustainable clothing companies. They focus first and foremost on making a positive social & environmental impact – the same core tenant we follow here at Practical Wanderlust (read more about their mission, and read more about our mission).

Waterlust didn’t actually even start out as an apparel company: they begun as a handful of Marine Biology students who wanted to inspire the world to care more about conserving our oceans. What they found was that apparel was one of the best vehicles for their ocean conservation goals – and thus, Waterlust proucts were born.

Today, Waterlust describes itself as making “eco-responsible apparel used to help fund research and educate the world about environmental conservation.” And while many eco-aware companies incorporate a recycled element into their textiles and call it a day, Waterlust takes things several steps further (but also yes: 88% of their fabric is recycled polyester made from post-consumer plastic bottles).

Each of their products is designed to visually represent a specific conservation topic – from sea turtle research to coral reef restoration. Each product is designed as an educational and functional science communication tool, which makes my nerdy little heart SO happy. And each design is paired with a specific research & educational organization, donating 10% of profits to help fund specific projects.

For the design I chose, for instance, the cause I’m supporting is Coastal Resiliency, which focuses on the impact and development of tropical storms, which can have devastating effects on coastal communities. The study of air-sea interaction is critical to understanding the life cycle of a tropical cyclone. 10% of the profits of my leggings were donated to graduate students at the Alfred C. Glassell Jr. SUSTAIN Laboratory at the Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science, where scientists utilize a state of the art wind/wave tank to better understand tropical storms. Specifically, the funds will be used for creative projects that enable the students to communicate their work to the broader public such as through film, photography and art.

…. How freakin’ cool is THAT!? And now I get to splash around like a mermaid in my cute leggings, knowing that I helped fund science.

But that’s not all. In addition to using recyled materials and funding scientific research and conservation, Waterlust also has a collection of apparel called Divers in Solidarity created in partnership with the Black Girls Dive Foundation.

100% of the profits from that collection go towards the foundation, a non-profit dedicated to educating underserved youth about swimming and empowering young girls and women to explore STEM and become leaders in conservation. The CDC reports that Black children are 5x more likely to drown because of their lack of exposure to swimming – Black Girls Dive helps to address that disparity while helping inspire young Black girls and women to learn about and pursue careers in the aquatic sciences. So while you’re shopping for leggings, please add something from the Divers in Solidarity collection to your cart, too!

All that positive impact – and their products are technical and high-performance AF, too. As someone with a fashion design degree who left the corporate apparel world because I didn’t feel I was making enough of a positive impact on the world, Waterlust makes me cry tears of joy. I absolutely LOVE companies like them, and I LOVE supporting them!

So now that you understand why I love Waterlust so much, let’s talk about their awesome leggings.

Girl wearing swim leggings and top in the ocean
Feeling like a mermaid/Aquaman, trying not to get destroyed by very strong waves, etc

Waterlust Leggings Review

I tested out a pair of Swim Leggings in size 2XL on a recent trip to Hawaii (along with a matching swim top and scrunchie). I wore them swimming, snorkeling, hiking, and kayaking. And here’s why I’m obsessed:

✔ I felt like a strong, athletic mermaid.

When I put on my swim leggings, I felt like I could run and jump into the nearest body of water and take off like freakin’ Aquaman, like I’d just put on a waterproof second skin or superhero suit.

I felt athletic and powerful – and cute! I didn’t feel vulnerable at all, like I often do in a simsuit. And I wasn’t concerned about what might be slipping out or burning in the sun – I could just focus on enjoying myself in the moment.

✔ No need to apply sunscreen!

Combined with a long-sleeved rash guard, I only needed to apply sunscreen to my face, hands, and feet. Waterlust’s swim leggings and tops are rated to UPF 50+, and my skin didn’t even get the slightest blush in the hot Maui sun. I felt cool and covered, even 4 hours into a sunny kayaking trip.

Not only does not needing to apply sunscreen to my legs mean my skin was better protected about sun damage and skin cancer, but I also didn’t need to worry about whether my sunscreen might be harming marine wildlife. (Even if you use mineral sunscreen, it might not be reef-safe – look for “non-nano” on the label. This is what I use.)

✔ Comfortable to wear and walk in – even while soaking wet!

After swimming for a while, I was ready to dry off with a nice long walk on the beach. Normally, I wouldn’t be able to walk in a wet swimsuit – hello, chafing!

But to my delight, the Waterlust swim leggings were comfortable to walk in even while soaking wet. They kept my legs cool while the water evaporated, stayed where they were supposed to, and didn’t ride down or slide.

I was able to walk comfortably straight out of the ocean with no chafing, which has literally never happened to me before.

Girl in snorkel gear and swim leggings in front of black volcanic rock.
Full snorkel sun protection, head to toe with my leggings and a rash guard! Why yes, I AM the sort of person who packs her own snorkel gear in her suitcase. And yes – my snorkel mask may look ridiculous, but it’s also well worth the space it takes up in my suitcase.

✔ Protection against the elements.

In some of my photos from Maui you can see a giant gash on my leg. That’s thanks to a rock and a lot of falling off a paddleboard – not to mention the irritation on my legs from hoisting myself up over and over again.

Why didn’t I wear my swim leggings to go SUP-ing, you ask? Well, I was trying to resist the urge to wear my swim leggings every day of my trip and actually test out other swimsuits, for this post. I’ll never make that mistake again – I may honestly never wear a swimsuit into the ocean again.

That said, I did find one downside: on one particularly windy day, I got my a** handed to me by a few massive rogue waves, which dragged my entire body along the sand as I rolled in with the surf. When I managed to stand up, I found that my pockets were filled with sand – and I later discovered (after a comfortable stroll along the beach, out of the way of the surf) there was a fair amount of sand underneath my leggings, too! So, you know … if you’ll be rolling around in the sand, maybe wear a swisuit.

✔ Quick drying, just like a swimsuit.

The swim leggings are made from the same kind of material as a swimsuit, so they dry just as quickly, whether they’re on your body or if you hang them up in a sunny window.

With that in mind, just like swimsuit bottoms, you’ll want to avoid sitting around in wet leggings. You won’t be hot or cold while they dry or anything, it’s just not good for your bits.

✔ Adjustable length.

As a very tall person (I’m 5’10”), I usually struggle to get pants that are long enough: and thankfully, Waterlust leggings are perfectly lengthy for me!

But for my shorter friends (or my mom, who is a solid foot shorter than me), Waterlust has helpfully found an easy way to make their leggings customizable: you just cut them. With scissors. Mind-blowing!

Seriously though: Waterlust adds length markers at 31”, 29”, 27”, 25”, and 23” to help you figure out where you want your leggings to hit. Turn your leggings inside out, find your length market, draw a straight line with a ruler, and slice away (here’s a helpful tutorial). The leggings won’t fray or tear, even without hemming. Pretty awesome, right?

✔ No tags!

Such a small thing, but it makes all the difference. No itchy scrap of fabric digging into me, and no waste once I inevitably cut it off.

✔ Nice wide waistband.

I love a good thicc waistband, and Waterlusts’ is even long enough to fold over on itself, complete with a matching inner lining. Personally, I prefer to keep mine all the way pulled up, which I find helps keep them sitting high o my waist with absolutely no slippage.

✔ Matching reversible swim sports bra!

This is my first set of matching sports bra + leggings, and I felt so cute! The top is reversible to either match the leggings print or the waistband, and they were hella cute together.

I ordered a size L/Xl and while it fit, I wish I would have ordered the larger size because I did notice the bottom band of the bra rolling up a little bit.

Speaking of the Swim Top, we also tried out a few other Waterlust products. Read on for a quick summary of each one.

Girl wearing long-sleeved rash guard swim shirt and swim leggings.

Other Waterlust Products We Love (or Don’t)

Both Jeremy and I have tested out a few other Waterlust products, most of which we loved but one of which we did not. Here’s what we’ve tried, and what we thought:

  • Swim Top: Basically, this is a sports bra for swimming. Is it any better than a bikini top? Not really, but it made me feel athletic and sporty, which was nice because I was doing athletic and sporty things. Plus, I felt really cute matching with my leggings. Necessary? No. Fun? Totally!
  • Swim Scrunchies: These waterproof scrunchies are made from scraps of the same bathing-suit material as Waterlust’s leggings, and they’re actually one of my all-time favorite Waterlust products! Unlike regular scrunchies and elastic bands, they don’t slip out in the water (and then inevitably fall to the bottom of the ocean, harming fish the entire way down). They dry as fast as my hair does, and they don’t get all tangled up in my salt- or chlorine- soaked curls. It’s been so nice to be able to tie my hair up in the water for the first time ever. Plus, I match from head to toe! Cute AND functional.
  • Swim Shorts: I really thought I would love these. They’re basically the exact same as Waterlust leggings, but … shorts. But they just did NOT work for me. For starters, there was less reason to wear them in general – I got a pair of knee-length bike shorts which just aren’t as cute on me as leggings are, and I still needed to layer sunscreen on my knees and legs. But the real irritation was that the waistband kept falling down! I don’t know what the difference was between these and my leggings – which didn’t slip an inch – but these just weren’t my favorite.
  • Men’s Board Shorts: Jeremy loves his Waterlust board shorts because they’re stretchy and lightweight. Jeremy likes the tie – it’s not just velcro and a shoestring, it laces through with a button to feel more secure. They’re comfortable enough to wear as regular shorts, and they don’t have any extra pockets or grommets so they don’t LOOK like board shorts. They dry quickly out of the water, and the design hits you right at the knee. He plans to get another pair!
  • Divers in Solidarity T-shirt: 100% of the proceeds from this t-shirt are donated to Black Girls Dive, a non-profit dedicated to educating underserved youth about swimming and empowering young girls and women to explore STEM and become leaders in conservation. Also, the shirts are super soft and comfortable.

The Bottom Line: If you enjoy water sports, or have ever thought to yourself “boy, I sure hate constantly applying sunscreen while I’m just trying to see some fish and live my life”, you need to get a pair of swim leggings. They are amazing.

Curious to try out Waterlust? Sizes go up to 24 and there are tons of designs – and each design benefits a different ocean conservation cause!


Ready to pull on a pair of Waterlust swim leggings and dive into the nearest body of water? Are there any other questions about Waterlust products or swim leggings (or life in general, I suppose)? Drop us a comment below!

Psst: Looking for more unbiased product reviews to help you pack for your next adventure? Take a look at all of our product reviews, or browse our most popular posts:

xo Lia & Jeremy signature graphic

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