Many people think that swimming caps are meant to keep your hair dry, but there is not a single style of swimming cap that can accomplish that feat entirely. The real purpose of wearing a swimming cap is to keep your hair out of your face, protect your hair from the brunt of the pool chemicals, and keep some of your body heat in.
Wearing a cap is optional, unless you swim at a facility that requires one, but I would recommend wearing a cap to anyone with hair longer than 1-2 inches. The hassle of pulling your hair out of your face every few feet is just too distracting to the serious swimmer. If you don't like swimming caps, just wait. Once you try to take a breath and inhale your own hair (cue visions of death by seaweed monsters)...you'll be ready to try one.
Swimming caps come in all kinds of colors and fun designs, but the most important difference between swimming caps is the material.
- Latex Caps: These are the cheapest and most common types of swimming caps, but also the least comfortable and most fragile. If you are allergic to latex, these are obviously not an option, but there are other reasons why these are my least favorite kind of swimming cap.
Latex caps are made of very thin latex, which means they break very, very easily. Once a cap gets a tiny pin prick hole in it, it's dead. Also, these caps really pull your hair near the hairline when you are wearing them and especially when you try to take them off.
The one advantage to these caps is their price. You can get a latex cap for under $3 and often cheaper when you buy in bulk or find a sale. These are also the most economical caps to buy for
custom swim caps
, with a team logo or name, since you most likely don't have $10 to spend per person.
Click here to look at more styles of latex caps...
- Silicone Caps: These caps, made of a thicker, smoother silicone material, are my preferred kind of swimming cap. They don't break as easily and can last years when taken care of properly. They go on easily and don't pull the hair nearly as much as latex caps. They are also more expensive, up to $10 each in a sporting goods store, but you can find them for way less online. (The cheapest I've seen them is at
Click here to look at more styles of silicone caps...
- Lycra Caps: Lycra swimming caps are cloth-like swimming caps. They don't do much alone other than keep the hair out of your face, but when worn under one of the above types of caps, they make it easier to put the other one on and take it off without any hair pulling. I've personally never worn a lycra swim cap alone, because I prefer the insulating effect of the rubber caps. They minimize the shock from the cold water better than the lycra.
Click here to look at more styles of lycra caps...
Caring for your Swimming Cap:
Latex caps especially deteriorate very quickly if not dried properly or if left in the sun. (I've had caps literally melt after leaving my swim bag in my car). To make your caps last, let them air-dry fully then dust them lightly with some cornstarch or talcum powder before storing them in your swim bag so they don't stick together. If you do have a cap that is stuck together, don't try pulling it apart, as this can rip it. Put it in the water and gently pry the folds apart until the cap is open again and you can put it on.
Caring for the Hair Under the Swimming Cap
Swimming caps greatly minimize your hair's exposure to the harsh pool chemicals, but they don't protect you completely. Here are a few tips to keep your hair healthy:
1. If you can, wet your hair fully before going into the pool. By wetting your hair with fresh water, your hair absorbs the clean water and will not be able to absorb the chemically-treated water as much.
2. Wash and condition your hair immediately after swimming. Washing out the chemicals immediately reduces the drying effect the chlorine can have on your hair and the conditioner replenishes some of the lost oils.
3. Don't wash your hair too much. Chlorine dries out your hair, so washing it too often will only dry it out further.
4. If your hair is really dry, use a
specially-formulated chlorine shampoo
to keep it healthy.
Specialty Swimming Caps
Have really long, thick, rapunzel-like locks? They actually make caps with extra room in the back to fit all that extra hair.
Swimming caps tend to be a one-size fits all deal, but they do make slightly smaller models just for kids. They also come in really cool designs and colors. (Almost makes you wish you had a pin head...)
- Insulated Caps:
Specially designed caps to keep in heat and insulate the head, which is where most of the heat escapes out of our bodies. These are great for long-distance and open-water swimmers who need to stay warm.
Just like great, great, great grandma used to wear! Yes, they still make these, and people must still be buying them. Apparently, they are much looser and more comfortable to wear than rubber caps, so I guess I can see the appeal...
- Old-fashioned Chin-strap Caps:
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