Do Swim Caps Keep Hair Dry? (I tested it)


swimming cap

As a regular morning swimmer with long hair, it would be amazing if I could keep my hair dry and reduce the amount of hair maintenance that is needed every morning. As a result, I have tried multiple types of swimming caps and techniques.

As a general rule, swim caps do not keep hair dry. Creating a water seal is very difficult and a swim cap alone will not keep your hair dry. Swim caps are great for hygiene in the pool, streamlined swimming, keeping hair out of your face and protecting your hair from pool chemicals such as chlorine.

In this article, I will share be exploring:

  • Are swimming caps waterproof?
  • How to keep your hair dry in a swimming cap
  • The best swim cap to keep your hair dry
  • How to choose your ideal swimming cap
  • Why swimmers wear swimming caps

Are Any Swim Caps Totally Waterproof?

It is a common misconception that swim caps will keep your hair dry when swimming.

Just looking at a swim cap, they appear waterproof and tight, so you would be forgiven for assuming that their function is to keep hair dry.

There is no swim cap that is 100% waterproof. If they advertise a swim cap as 100% waterproof, check the small print as this most likely means it will keep your hair dry if you do not submerge your head under the water.

For example, if you are doing a water aerobics class where your head is always above the water, a swim cap will protect your hair from splashing. The second you submerge your head, however, water will get in.

All our heads are different shapes and sizes and we all have different amounts of hair, hairstyles and hairlines.

For a swim cap to form a watertight seal and protect your head from the water completely, it will need to mould to your head perfectly. That means zero gaps.

Any hair that might be caught on the seal or fringe of the swim cap will cause a leak.

As you can imagine, this is nearly impossible to achieve, as the smallest crack will allow water to ingress, therefore no swim cap is 100% waterproof.

How Do You Keep Your Hair Dry In A Swim Cap?

To be honest, I have yet to find a reliable solution to keep hair 100% dry while I swim. However, there are some useful hints and tips that can help provide a better watertight seal and prevent your hair from getting completely saturated.

1 – Wear Two Swim Caps

You might see competitive swimmers wearing two swim caps.

As a general rule, competitive swimmers wear two swim caps to reduce drag, giving them a more streamlined head shape and helping keep their goggle straps in place when they dive.

For leisure swimmers, wearing two swim caps can have the added benefit of creating a tighter waterproof seal and reducing how much exposure your hair has to the water.

Personally, I have tried this and found that my head gets too hot as I swim, so it might be a better solution for outdoor swimming or swimming in colder pools.

If you are thinking about using two swim caps to keep your hair drier, consider using a silicone swim cap and a soft latex swim cap in combination

I tried fitting two silicone swim caps, and I found the double layer of silicone material was too tight for my head.

2 – Wearing A Head Band

Because swim caps alone are not efficient at keeping your hair dry, they have developed many products to solve this problem for swimmers.

One of the better ideas is to fit a waterproof latex headband.

Again, this will not keep your hair 100% dry unless you just have a perfect fit!

It has a similar effect to wearing two swim caps, but as it is just a latex band that goes around the forehead, it is not as hot and far more comfortable than using two swim caps.

Here is a video of this idea in action.

What Is The Best Swim Cap To Keep Hair Dry?

I tested all the main swimming cap types, including:

  • Silicone Swim Caps
  • Neoprene Swim Caps
  • Polyester and Lycra Swim Caps
  • Bubble Swim Caps

I have medium to long hair (mid-back length).

None of these swim caps kept my hair 100% dry, however, I found the silicone swim cap to be the most effective at protecting my hair. My hair was less “soaked” or saturated after each swim.

Swim Cap TypeLevel of Water ProtectionWaterproof Rating
Silicone Swim CapGood (hair still wet, just less soaked)⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Latex Swim CapOK (hair still wet, relative protection)⭐⭐⭐
Neoprene Swim CapPoor (hair saturated)⭐⭐
Polyester Swim CapVery Poor (hair completely saturated)
Lycra Swim CapVery Poor (hair completely saturated)
Bubble Swim CapGood (silicone-based, hair still wet just less soaked)⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

How To Choose A Swim Cap?

We all have different head shapes and sizes with different swim cap requirements.

Over the years, I have always used the Speedo Unisex’s Silicone Cap Swimming as it creates a good fit, is not too tight, lasts a long time and protects my hair well. (I have bleached blonde highlights and no green hair yet!)

Below is a list of the main swim cap types listing the pros and cons of each.

Swim Cap TypeProsCons
Silicone Swim Caps– Long-lasting & durable
– Very comfortable
– The best water-resistant material
– Great for speed
– Easy to fit
– Fits most heads
– Good for those with latex allergy
– Easy to put on
– Best hair protection
– Can feel tight at first
– Can get warm over long training sessions
– Can be expensive
– Sticks together when dry
Latex Swim Caps– A generous fit for all head sizes
– Very comfortable
– Very affordable
– More breathable
– Cooler for warmer climates
– Bad for anyone with a latex allergy
– Easily tears
– Hard to get a wrinkle-free fit
Neoprene Swim Cap– Very warm therefore great for open water– Poor choice for pool swimming as too warm
– Does not provide good protection from pool water chemicals
Polyester Swim Cap – One of the best swim caps for general comfort as it does not pull on the hair
– Very lightweight
– Does not provide a snug fit
– Polyester soaks water and you feel “drag” when swimming
– Hair will get soaked
– Longer drying times
Lycra Swim Cap
– Feels comfortable
– Easy to fit
– Cool for warmer climates
– Does not provide a good water barrier to protect hair
– Longer drying times
– Not durable and will need to be replaced more often
Bubble Silicone Swim Cap– Very warm
– All other pros of the silicone swim cap as mentioned above
– Can be too warm if training
– All other cons of a silicone swim cap as mentioned above
Long Hair Silicone Swim Cap– Great space to fit long hair
– Great for large heads due to generous room
– All other pros of the silicone swim cap as mentioned above
– All other cons of a silicone swim cap as mentioned above

Why Do Swimmers Wear Swim Caps?

Since swim caps do not keep your hair dry, you might wonder why do swimmers wear swim caps?

Swimmers wear swim caps to protect their hair from chlorine, to help keep hair out of their eyes, to help make them more visible in the water when outdoors and to increase speed by reducing drag caused by hair in the water.

There are many significant benefits of wearing swim caps, and we should encourage regular swimmers to wear them.

In some countries, for example, Ireland, it is very common for swimming caps to be mandatory in all public pools, including hotel pools. If you don’t have a swimming cap, you can typically purchase a cheap lycra swim cap at reception. This is to improve pool water hygiene.

In the UK, it is often not mandatory to wear a swim cap and you only see more advanced regular swimmers or swimmers who want to protect their hair by swimming with a cap.

From my personal experience of swimming in a variety of pools from luxury country clubs to inner-city public pools in both London and Dublin, I can say that the pools where swimming caps are mandatory always appear to have a better quality of pool water.

Here are some benefits of wearing a swim cap:

1 – Hygiene

As mentioned, it is more hygienic to wear a swimming cap as it stops hair from contaminating the pool.

When you shower or have a bath, you may notice some hair fall out, which is perfectly natural. Similarly, in a swimming pool, hair will fall out.

By wearing a swimming cap, you are trapping this free hair and stopping it from floating into the pool.

It is horrible to be swimming only to get someones else’s hair tangled in your fingers.

2 – Speed

By covering hair, a swim cap can increase your speed in the water by removing drag.

This is important for elite swimmers but is also relevant for amateur regular swimmers.

The faster we can swim, the more distance we can cover per session. In addition, you might be itching to change lanes into the fast lane and using a swim cap, might help you get the streamlined buoyancy you are looking for.

3 – Protect Hair From Chlorine

Chlorine is an essential pool chemical that keeps the water clean and free of bacteria.

However, chlorine is not good for your hair as it dries it out, making it dull and damaged looking.

Chlorine in the water bonds with the hair fibres, causing the outer layer of the hair to rise, making the hair more porous. This produces dull and dry looking hair.

In addition, if you have bleached hair, you may have heard that chlorine reacts with your hair to turn it green. This is not true, however, chlorine does not help.

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There are many chemicals in water, including copper. Over time, copper binds to the hair and with time will turn green, just like the statue of liberty.

If you have bleached hair, this “greening” effect is more obvious.

Wearing a swim cap will reduce your exposure to these pool chemicals, both natural and artificial.

For a more detailed exploration of the effect of chlorine and some tips on preventing damage, take a look at my article: Do Chlorine Removal Shampoos Work? A hairdresser weighs in.

4 – Keep Hair Out Of Eyes & Improve Technique

Keeping your hair in a swim cap while you swim will stop hair from going into your eyes.

Keeping your hair out of your eyes while you swim is not only more comfortable, but it can improve your swim technique.

My swimming technique improved dramatically once I started wearing a swim cap, as I felt more confident in the water and I was less distracted by my hair.

With a swim cap, you can move your head freely in the water and when you turn your head to breathe, your hair won’t hinder you.

5 – Visibility

When swimming in outdoor water, it is essential to be visible, therefore open water swimmers will often wear a brightly coloured swim cap to ensure they can be seen.

It is remarkably difficult to see a human in the water, particularly in dark and rough water.

It is important to be visible so that other water traffic such as boats can see you and so you can be easily spotted in the event of an emergency.

Final Thoughts

Swimming caps can often be an overlooked piece of swimming kit.

Although they will not keep your hair dry, they are essential for hygiene, speed, and overall optimised swim stroke.

Choosing a swim cap is a very personal thing, and finding a swim cap with the right material, fit and shape to suit your own head can greatly improve your swim sessions and overall comfort in the pool.

Louise Byrne

Hi, I am Louise and I am obsessed with swimming. I spend my free time in the water or getting ready for my next water adventure.

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