Swim caps serve a few important purposes. For competitive swimmers, they create a hydrodynamic surface with less hair-related resistance to boost speed. They also help keep your hair out of your face while you swim and help prevent green-tinted, damaged, and dry swimmer’s hair.
Picking out the perfect swim cap isn’t too complicated, but there are a few key considerations. In particular, where you swim and whether you’re swimming competitively should be taken into account when selecting your cap.
Here’s some advice on choosing just the right swim cap for your needs and personal comfort.
Swim Cap Materials
These are the common materials swim caps are made from and what you need to know about each one. Latex and silicone are by far the most common.
- Latex swim caps are generally the cheapest, which is nice for your budget, but also means they’re the least durable and most prone to tears. They’re lightweight and breathable, making them better suited to swimming in heated pools and warm water. Latex is known for snagging and pulling hair, though, so it can be rather unpleasant for swimmers with long hair.
- Silicone swim caps are pricier, but offer increased durability and insulation. They’re more likely to lead to overheating in warmer water, but work well for cool and cold water. Silicone is also smoother than latex, doing more to reduce drag and also easier to slip on and off without catching and pulling your hair.
- Rubber swim caps typically contain latex (so they’re not a viable alternative if you have a latex allergy), but they’re thicker that straight latex caps. They’re basically a middle ground between latex and silicone in terms of price, durability, insulation, and drag reduction.
- Elastane/Lycra/Spandex swim caps are a synthetic fabric that’s soft, smooth, and durable. They should last a long time and won’t pull your hair. However, water passes through this porous material, so it doesn’t protect your hair from damage, keep you warm in cold water, or reduce underwater resistance as much as other materials.
- Neoprene swim caps, like neoprene swimsuits, are designed to insulate you in cold water. They’re also known as thermal swim caps, and they’re favored for open water swimming in cold bodies of water. This soft material doesn’t pull your hair, but it also isn’t ideal for minimizing drag and maximizing your hydrodynamics.
Sizing Your Swim Cap
Every material and brand is a little different, and many caps are sold as one-size-fits-all, so sizing a swim cap is mostly just a matter of trying them on and choosing one that feels comfortable. Pay attention to whether it pulls your hair when you take it on and off and whether it fits snugly. Don’t buy a cap that feels uncomfortably tight; if it’s at all unpleasant wearing it for a minute in the store, it’s not going to feel good after wearing it longer while you swim.
Keep in mind that cheaper latex and rubber caps may stretch out a bit after you wear them a few times and not completely return to their original size. So, if they’re even the slightest bit loose at the time of purchase, they may not reliably stay on your head after several uses.