8 Reasons Your Swim Cap Slides Off

Written By: Chevron

Caps are great for swimming. Until your swim cap slides off in practice or during a race. Then it’s more of a hindrance and disappointment.

Trying to keep your swim cap on though is a challenge that almost every swimmer faces. There’s no one secret to keep it in place, but there are several options to keep it from falling off during your next swim.

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1. Wearing the Wrong Type of Cap

Wearing the wrong cap can make your swim cap slide off. Some caps, such as a lycra swim cap, aren’t the best when it comes to lap swimming or competitive swimming because they’re so loose fitting. Instead, they’re best suited for water aerobics, therapy, or even lessons.

An alternative to a lycra swim cap is latex or silicone caps. They offer a tighter fit on your head and are less likely to slide off. Some people may find latex or silicone caps uncomfortable though. Personally, I’m not a fan of latex because it pulls at my hair more than a silicone cap.

Related article: Your Quick Guide to Swim Caps

2. Too Much Conditioner or Hair Product

One of the biggest culprits of a slippery cap is too much conditioner or hair product in your hair. While this can vary by person, conditioner is by far the main reason your swim cap slides off. Hair gel can also play a factor in making your swim cap slippery.

To help prevent this, wet your hair and rinse out the product before you get into the pool. This will remove any product you might have in your hair still and can help keep your cap from falling off while you swim.

If it still slips around when you’re swimming, take off your cap and try rewetting your hair. Rinse out the inside of your cap, just in case any product is still on the cap itself. Once done, put your cap back on and see if it stays this time.

3. Moisturizer 

Face moisturizer can make your skin slick depending on the type or brand you use. Because the cap rests on your forehead, even having a bit of slippery skin can make it slip. 

Wash your face and dry it off before putting on your cap if you use any moisturizer. This can help give the cap a better chance to grip the skin and stay put. No moisturizer or lotion also gives your goggles a better chance to stay on, too!

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For me, I’ve found that a small amount of Oil of Olay doesn’t make my face too slippery in the water. Even if I forget to wash it off, it tends not to impact my cap or goggles. This does vary by person and you might have to try different moisturizers until you find one that works for you.

4. Incorrect Head Posture When Swimming

If your cap doesn’t have a good fit or seal and you’re swimming with your head up, you may find that the water will gradually start to push your cap backwards. To counter this, fix your technique and head position so that you’re looking more at the bottom of the pool.

This will keep the water level from hitting the point where the cap line meets your forehead and instead, will have it hit slightly above your forehead. Making the water less likely to push your cap off. Plus, it’s proper freestyle technique!

5. Incorrect Size

For some swimmers, the wrong size cap can cause the cap to fall off. This can happen if you have longer hair, as the bun might pull back on the material of the cap. If you have long hair, regardless of thickness, consider looking into a swim cap that’s designed for long hair.

These types of caps have a bit of extra material and stretch to help fit your hair better. And hopefully, help lessen the risk of the cap sliding off.

And while swim caps tend to fit most heads, some might find that their swim cap runs small or large. That said, if the cap feels too small, check that it’s not a youth cap. While swim caps for kids tend to have much cuter and fun designs, they won’t fit the average adult head. And they usually don’t fit a teen’s head, either!

If the cap feels too large or loose, however, you could consider trying a kid’s swim cap.

6. Worn Incorrectly

It’s not easy to put on a cap and even experienced swimmers ask a teammate or coach for assistance with putting on a cap. Because a well-placed cap is less likely to slide off than one worn incorrectly.

When wearing a cap, you’ll want to ensure that the seam goes down the center of your head, not side to side. If you’re uncertain, look for the logo. Most logos are on the side of the cap. You’ll want the logo facing either left or right when you put on your cap. Not in the front or back.

Related article: Your Ultimate Swim Cap Guide

You should also make sure that the cap covers the tops of your ears instead of bunching up around the top of them. Doing this will help prevent the water from rushing up into the cap when you swim. Which could cause it to slide off.

7. Hair Placement

If you pull your hair back before putting on a cap, you might find that placement of your ponytail or bun can cause your swim cap to slide off.

Try experimenting with different placements of your bun and see if that helps. Most swimmers have better luck with a lower placed bun than a higher one. Aim for either the back of your head or just a bit above your hairline.

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Keep in mind though that adjusting the placement of your bun can also affect your goggle straps. If you’re used to wearing the straps together, you might have to split them between the bun. Or vice versa.

8. Air Bubble

Once you put on your swim cap, check to make sure all the air is out and that it fits snug against your scalp. Any small pockets of air can make a swim cap slide off when you’re swimming. Or even just from jumping/diving into the pool!

You can usually avoid this if you wet your cap so the material sticks better to your hair. Once your cap is on, press it down against your head so that it better molds to your head. Yes, it sounds funny but it works! Watch Olympic or National level swimmers when they’re behind the blocks. You might see a few of them pressing down on their caps to ensure a good seal.

Bonus! Bad Dive

If you have a bad dive into the pool, you might find that your cap can fall off. Or that it will eventually slip off. This can happen because air and water rush into the cap as you’re entering the water and force it off your head.

Although chances are that if a dive alone can knock off your cap, there’s something else that helped it slide off. Check that you squished out all the air and that your hair isn’t slippery from any product. A poorly fitted cap tends to fall off easier on a dive than one that’s well fitted.

More Content for You: How to Stop Goggles from Falling Off

Bonus Content: 

6 Reasons Why You Should Wear a Swim Cap: Swim caps are a necessary evil and swimmers love to hate them. But why should you wear a swim cap and what’s the point of them?

Swimming Basics to Get You Started: If you just started to swim, you might feel that swimming can be overwhelming. Here are some swimming basics to help you feel more comfortable at the pool.

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Chevron is a current competitive swimmer with almost 20 years of experience at the local, national and international level. A current USA Swimming and US Masters Swimming athlete, she’s committed to providing guidance to all levels of swimmers and believes that everyone should know how to swim.