What is a Swim Cap?

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  • Written By: Sheri Cyprus
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 11 February 2020
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A swim cap is a silicone or latex head cover worn by recreational and competitive swimmers. Swim caps are also called bathing caps. Keeping the hair out of the face, protecting hair from chlorine or sea salt and reducing the loss of body heat are said to be some of the benefits of wearing a swim cap. Competitive swim caps are also designed to create less drag or resistance in the water.

Swim caps cover the entire head from the forehead to behind the ears to the nape of the neck. Both the silicone and latex types of swim cap are stretchy and made to adjust to different head sizes. Some swim caps even fit both children and adults. A swim cap is not usually recommended for children under age four. Many children's swim caps feature fun designs in bright colors.

Adult swim caps are also colorful and may feature graphic designs. Silicone caps are usually more vivid in color than latex styles. They also may be more comfortable and last longer than latex swim caps. Also, silicone is a more breathable fabric. A latex swim cap is often less expensive than the silicone variety and may be ideal for occasional use.


Both latex and silicone swim caps tend to tear easily from contact with items such as bobby pins or sharp fingernails. A swim cap may be easier to put on if the hair is wet. Many swim caps don’t keep hair totally dry anyway as air pockets may be created in the cap during swimming. Shorter hair is usually easier to manage when wearing a swim cap, but longer hair may fit better in the cap if it is first twisted into a bun.

Women’s designer swim caps may feature added embellishments such as flower petals made out of latex or silicone. A swim cap may or may not have a strap under the chin. Competitive swim caps may be printed in team colors and logos, but otherwise are as minimal as possible in design. Like swimsuits, swim caps should be rinsed in cold water after use and hung to dry. Damp swim caps are susceptible to mold and mildew, so a swim cap should always be completely dry before it is stored in a drawer or sports bag.


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Post 4

@Feryll - Regardless of the type of swim cap or whether they wear swim caps at all, I think U.S. swimmers can beat most of the countries they go up against. Anyway, if you're going to buy a swim cap, I would stay away from the rubber ones. They can be so hot.

Post 3

@Drentel - Speaking of how much time a swimming cap can shave off of your lap times in the pool, do you remember all of the controversy over the United States swim team's outfits in the Olympics several competitions back. I don't remember the exact year or the location, but the U.S. had these new age looking suits and they were winning a ton of medals.

All of the other teams thought the uniforms were giving the U.S. an unfair advantage in the water. This goes to show just how big of a difference a lycra swim cap or lycra swimsuit might make.

Post 2

@Animandel - I think most people wear swim caps because they want to keep their hair dry. A swim cap isn't going to make a significant difference in lap time for the average swimmer, or maybe I should say that the average swimmer doesn't care about a 100th of a second one way or the other.

However, in swimming competitions the difference between first place and third or fifth place can be so small that a swimming cap and less drag could be the difference in winning and not placing.

Post 1

I had no idea wearing a swim cap could really make that big of a difference in drag when I am moving through the water. Sometimes I get in the water and swim with a swim cap and sometimes I don't wear one. I can't really tell a difference in the way I move through the water or in my speed with or without the cap.

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