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Choosing Swimming Caps

Choosing Swim Caps Female Swimmer Underwater

Firstly, let’s clear up a big misconception with swim caps: they are not designed to keep your hair dry! I know this may come as a shock but no swim cap is guaranteed to keep hair dry. Although some caps will do quite a good job, this is not their purpose. To try to keep your hair dry as much as possible you can either wear 2 caps (maybe a Lycra cap and a silicone cap over the top) or use a silicone cap which gives a tight fit and should keep most of the water out.

The reasons for wearing a swimming cap are:

  • To make you more streamlined in the water:  If you swim competitively, speed is very important and your hair will cause water drag, which slows you down.  A swimming cap will reduce water drag and keep your hair out of your face so that you can see as you swim.
  • To protect your hair from the damaging effects of chlorine:  Whilst your hair will still get wet, caps will prevent your hair from becoming saturated with the chlorinated water in the pool which can damage your hair.
  • Hygiene: People who swim without a cap lose hair in the pool and this ends up floating in the water and clogging up the filters.
  • Warmth: If you swim in open water a swim cap will help to keep you warm in cold water.



Silicon Caps


Silicone caps are very popular as they are very strong and durable and give a sleek and secure fit. If a swim cap is going to keep your hair relatively dry, then the silicone cap is it, as it gives a tight fit to prevent a lot of water getting under the cap. Silicone caps are ideal for regular swimmers whether you are training for your squad or fitness swimming every week. Moulded silicone caps are designed to be completely smooth with no wrinkles, making them more hydrodynamic for competitive swimmers.

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Neoprene Caps


Due to the rise in popularity of triathlon and open water swimming, neoprene caps or thermal swim caps are now readily available and are designed to keep your head warm when swimming in cold conditions. Neoprene is used to make scuba diving wetsuits and it works by allowing some water in and then keeping it close to your body, which heats it up and insulates you. So if you are an open water swimmer who needs to keep warm then this is a great choice, but if you swim in a heated swimming pool we would not recommend a neoprene cap.

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Polyester and Lycra Caps


If comfort is your main priority, then a Lycra or Polyester swim cap is a good choice. The soft fabric will not pull or catch your hair and gives an easy fit. However, Polyester and Lycra caps are completely porous and therefore your hair will get completely wet.

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Bubble Caps


Bubble caps are usually made from Latex rubber and have a retro look. These swim caps are great for long hair as they give a more generous fit than a silicone cap and are very comfortable. The bubbles are filled with air and this, along with the thick rubber material, makes them quite warmideal for swimming in open water.  Bubble caps will normally cover your ears too, adding to the warmth and blocking out noise.

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Putting a swim cap on can be tricky business, especially if you have long hair! The best way to do this is to hold the cap by the sides and bring your head forwards and start by pulling the cap over your forehead then carry on working it down.

If you have long hair you should leave your hair out to the back, pull the cap on half way and then twist up the rest and try to put it in the cap as evenly as possible so that the cap still has a good seal.

Swimmers that put their hair up in buns or pony tails create a point in their cap which may let water in because it is not sealed correctly around the face.




After swimming you will find that you have wet spots on your hair unless you have found a swim cap which fits you perfectly and has a great seal. If you want to avoid chlorine entering your cap you could wet your hair in the shower first before you put your swim cap on. This will help prevent chlorine from seeping under your cap by filling and sealing the hair shafts.

Some people condition their hair before putting a swim cap on but this can cause the cap to pop off. However, if you have goggles on over your cap this should prevent it from rising up. If you do brush conditioner through your hair first you should make sure you have a cap with a good seal so that conditioner doesn’t get into the pool.

If you like swimming without a cap we would suggest that you rinse your hair in the shower before you swim and rinse well after with shampoo and use a conditioner to help repair any damage from chlorine. If you swim regularly then we advise that you use a deep conditioning treatment once a week as well.

To prolong the life of your swimming cap and keep it in good condition you should rinse it in cold water and then dry it after use. Do not leave your swim cap exposed to sunlight for long periods and avoid contact with sharp objects such as hair clips and pins as these could puncture it.




Q. Are any swim caps totally waterproof?

A. No, unfortunately not. Swim caps are not designed to keep your hair dry but to reduce drag and for hygiene reasons. However, silicone caps or wearing two caps together with a silicone one on top, does create quite a good seal to prevent a lot of water seeping in. If you are swimming without putting your head in the water then a swim cap will protect your hair from splashes and will probably stay dry but if you swim with your head below the water line, water will seep into the cap because there is not a watertight seal.

Q. Do swim caps come in different sizes?

A. Most swim caps are one size but some will come in small, medium, large etc; normally racing caps or open water neoprene caps. Many swim cap manufacturers design caps for adults or children with the children’s caps being smaller. 

Q. I have long hair and a large head.  Will a normal swim cap fit?

A. There are long hair caps available from suppliers like Speedo and Zoggs which give a roomier fit to accommodate long hair. Bubble caps are also a good choice for longer hair and larger heads, although these do create warmth, so if you are a performance swimmer they may be too warm for you.

Q. Do swim caps cover your ears and prevent water getting into the ear?

A. The Aqua Glide Swim Cap from Aqua Sphere has ear pockets to give a fixed fit over your ears and gives a good seal to prevent most water getting under the cap, however, it is not guaranteed to prevent any water seeping in. Bubble caps are also good for covering the ears, but because swim caps do not give a watertight seal, water may still get into your ears. You can use products such as Earol Swim