Your Ultimate Swim Cap FAQ

If you’ve been to a pool, chances are, you’ve seen people wearing swim caps. And while they seem simple, they’re not without confusion. Such as what is a swim cap and what type of cap should you wear?

Trying to figure it out on your own can be frustrating. To help, we’ve compiled a list of frequently asked questions to help you sort through the confusion. From how to put on a cap to why you should wear one, we’ve got you covered 🙂

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What is a Swim Cap?

A swim cap (or a bathing cap, depending on where you live) covers the top part of a swimmer’s head. Specifically where there’s hair. 

They come in several different materials and styles, each with pros and cons. Swim caps can be worn by competitive swimmers and leisure swimmers alike. 

Related articles: Your Quick Guide to Swim Caps

What’s the Purpose of a Swim Cap?

Swim caps hold several different purposes, based upon the individual wearing them. 

While they might be uncomfortable, the benefits they provide a swimmer far outweigh the disadvantages that come with them. 

When worn correctly, a swim cap helps reduce drag in the water, therefore, increasing hydrodynamics. In layman’s terms, it helps a competitive swimmer go faster! 

For open water swimmers or triathletes, swim caps have a double purpose aside from helping them swim faster. Thicker neoprene caps help retain body heat in the cold water. While brightly colored caps provide safety and visibility.

Most individuals outside of competitive swimming use a swim cap to protect their hair from chlorine damage. The chemicals in the pool can strip away the natural oils in the hair, leaving it dry and rough. Caps can also help protect hair from the sun if you’re swimming outside!

Why Should I Wear a Swim Cap?

Aside from the benefit of protecting your hair from chemical damage, a swim cap has other benefits. Not just for you but for others, too!

Some other reasons you should wear a swim cap are:

  • Keeps hair and hair products out of the pool
  • Prevents hair from getting in your face
  • May help protect your ears

Are Swim Caps Supposed to Keep Your Hair Dry?

As of this writing, no cap will keep your hair 100% dry. While the belief is that a swim cap will and should keep your hair dry, the truth is that swim caps aren’t completely effective at keeping your hair dry. 

At best, you can expect the hair around the edges of your cap to get wet. 

Because of the contours of the head and ears, it’s not easy for the cap to get an airtight seal. Add in some hair and the constant movement in the water, and you can see why some water might get into your cap.

That said, some swim caps are better at keeping your air mostly dry compared to others. Caps such as a lycra cap are mesh and breathable, allowing the water to pass through the material. Latex and silicone caps, though, have a thicker material that doesn’t allow much water in. 

Is it Bad to Swim Without a Cap?

Not really, if that’s your preference. You can get by without wearing a swim cap the next time you’re at the pool and having fun. 

But we will note that if you’re training or doing some type of water exercise, it’s a good idea to wear one. 

Related article: 6 Reasons Why You Should Wear a Swim Cap

Do Males Need to Wear Swim Caps?

It depends on the individual and what their needs are. Males can and do wear swim caps, based on their preference. And while you tend to see men wearing caps in competitive swimming, you can still wear one even for leisure swimming, too.

Regardless of gender, a swim cap helps protect hair. If a male has long or short hair that they’re wanting to keep healthy, they should consider a cap.

Even those without hair can still swim with a cap. Some individuals don’t like the feeling of the water going over their ears. Wearing a swim cap can help with this.

Long story short. Males don’t need to wear swim caps if they don’t want to. However, depending on if they’re training or not, they might want to consider a cap.

Can You Swim Without a Swim Cap?

You can. If you plan to swim without a swim cap and have long hair, we suggest that you pull your hair back into a ponytail. Or braid it back so it won’t constantly get into your face when you swim. 

This will help you see better in the pool and make it easier to breathe. Have bangs? Pin them back so they don’t cover your eyes 🙂

Rinse out your hair before getting into the pool to help wash out any leftover hair products you might have. This will help keep the pool a bit cleaner for everyone.

Lastly, be prepared to deal with dry, straw-like hair after your swim. And potentially some tangled and knotted hair. Use products like SwimSpray to help remove the chlorine from your hair and then follow up with your normal hair care routine. This can help your hair recover from the chemicals. 

Should a Swim Cap Cover Your Ears?

Yes and no. Again, this comes down to individual preference.

A swim cap shouldn’t sit bunched above the ear. Instead, it should come down to cover, at least, half of your ear. 

For some swimmers, this is enough. Other swimmers, such as myself, prefer to have the cap completely cover their ears. Again, this is a personal choice depending on what makes you most comfortable.

If you wear earplugs, however, you’ll want the swim cap to cover your ears completely. Your earplugs will stay in better with the material of the cap there to help hold them in place. 

How Do You Keep a Swim Cap On?

Swim caps are famous for two things. Either ripping at the most inopportune moments or for falling off.

One of the biggest culprits of a slippery cap is too much conditioner in your hair. While this can vary by person, conditioner is by far the main reason your swim cap slides off.

Related article: Why Does My Swim Cap Slide Off?

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.

You should also wash your face before putting on your cap if you use moisturizer. This will give your cap a better chance of staying on.

What are the Different Kinds of Swim Caps?

Swim caps come in several different varieties. Each with a different purpose and material. You should pick a cap that suits your needs and works best for your water workout.

If you’re not sure which cap is best for you, we’ve broken out the different kinds available and who they’re best suited for. 

Latex Swim Caps

Latex caps are the cheapest caps you can find ($2-5). They’re made of, you guessed it, latex, and run very thin. Because they run thin, they tend to rip easier than silicone caps. As a note: if you are allergic to latex, you probably shouldn’t choose this as your swim cap.

They can be uncomfortable due to their tight fit and how they often pull at the hair. However, for those swimmers who have difficulties keeping a cap from sliding off, latex ones typically stay on the best.

Silicone Swim Caps

Silicone caps are made of a thicker, more durable material than latex caps. Due to the material, they usually last longer than latex. These caps are better suited for individuals with longer hair, too.

They also tend to be more comfortable. Both in terms of wear and for those who have hair, as it pulls less. They’re also easier and less painful to put on and take off.

Lycra Swim Caps

Lycra swim caps are made out of a soft, mesh/cloth-like material. They’re best suited for individuals who need to keep their hair out of their face while doing something water-related. Such as water aerobics or therapy. 

One drawback to the lycra cap is that it will not keep your hair dry. The material is mesh-like, which allows water to pass through it. If you’re looking for a cap to keep your hair mostly dry, this cap won’t provide that benefit.

Dome Caps

A dome swim cap is the best swim cap for competitive swimmers at a meet. Their design and tight fit decreases drag and improves hydrodynamics for swimmers by providing a smooth surface free of wrinkles.

They fit extremely tight to the head and competitive swimmers often wear them over another cap. This provides a better grip and can help decrease drag, too.

Neoprene Caps

Open water and cold water swimmers wear neoprene caps. Made from neoprene, the material helps retain body heat in cold lakes or oceans.

Caps can come with either a strap that goes up under the chin for extra hold. Or they can come without a strap. Those with a strap cover the ears for additional protection and added warmth.

One thing to note with neoprene caps. Most of them come in darker colors that make it hard to spot you in open water. If you’re swimming outside, put on another, brighter cap so that boats and other swimmers can see you easier.

To Recap

As a quick overview, I’ve included a summary of the caps discussed here. 

Swim Cap TypePriceBest For
Latex$Lap swimming, practices  and, swim meets
Silicone$$Lap swimming, practices  and, swim meets
Lycra$Water exercise
Race/Dome Cap$$$Swim meets/competition 
Neoprene/Thermal Caps$$Open Water/Cold Water

How Do You Put on a Swim Cap?

The simplest way to put on a swim cap is to ask someone for help! Even experienced swimmers ask teammates or their coach for help at times. Chances are someone around the pool will know how to help you put on a swim cap. 

When getting help with your cap:

  1. OPTIONAL: Wet your cap 
  2. Stand in front of the person helping you
  3. Open your cap and place the front of it on your forehead. 
  4. Whoever is helping you will take the back part
  5. Lean down/forward just a bit
  6. The person helping you will stretch the cap back and over your head
  7. Adjust the cap so it fits to your liking

And that’s it! 

Putting on a Cap by Yourself

What if you don’t have anyone to help? Take a deep breath and don’t stress. It’s not as difficult as you think. 

Before you get started, you’ll want to pull back any long hair that you might have. This can be in a ponytail or a bun. If you have shorter hair, it doesn’t hurt to slick it back with some water. Another option is to wet the inside of your cap before getting started.

Place your hands on the sides of the cap and open it so you’re looking down into the cap. Put the front part on your forehead. It should stick to the skin without you needing to hold it in place. 

In one movement, pull the cap back and over your head. Adjust your hair so it’s covered and tuck in any loose strands. And that’s it!

Bonus Content:

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.

What is Swimmer’s Ear (otitis externa)?: The word ‘swimmer’s ear’ gets tossed around during the summer. But what is swimmer’s ear and can you get it if you’re not a swimmer?

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