Silicone Vs Latex Swim Cap (What is the difference?)


a swimmer rests poolside wearing a silicone swim cap

Silicone and latex swimming caps are typically the most commonly used swimming caps on the market.

At first, it’s difficult to spot the difference between latex and silicone swimming caps.

To the untrained eye, they both feel like soft rubber, however, they are different materials with unique material properties.

As a general rule, silicone swimming caps are durable, soft, very comfortable and hypoallergenic, and favoured by competitive swimmers for their hydrodynamic shape. Latex swim caps are typically a little larger with less “squeeze”, lighter, and thinner, but not suitable for anyone with a latex allergy.

Both swimming caps are great, and many swimmers (myself included) have used both silicone and latex swim caps for different swimming environments.

But when should you choose silicone over latex? And which option is the best to buy?

In this article, I will explain the differences between silicone and latex swim caps, covering the advantages and disadvantages of both types.

What Is The Difference Between A Latex And Silicone Swim Cap?

At first, it can be difficult to tell the difference between silicone and latex swim caps, but the first thing you will notice between both swimming caps is the thickness of the material.

As a general rule, latex swim caps are thinner than silicone.

This can lead to a range of advantages and disadvantages for each swim cap type.

The following table lists the key differences between latex and silicone swim caps.

Swim FactorsSiliconeLatex
Leisure SwimmingGoodGood
Fitness TrainingGood
Good
[Often lighter, so a good option if you tend to overheat while training]
Competitive SwimmingExcellent
[The only option. Creates a smooth head profile which helps speed.]
Poor
[The latex can wrinkle, which does not create a smooth head profile.
Comfort LevelGood
[Very soft]
Good
[Creates less “squeeze” than silicone]
Warm WaterGood
[If you get too hot, chose latex]
Good
[Latex can feel more cooling in warm water as it is lighter]
Cold WaterGoodPoor
Big Head FitGoodExcellent
[Latex is more generous with its sizing and is often bigger.
Small Head FitExcellentGood
Long HairGoodPoor
This Table Shows The Differences And Similarities Between Latex And Silicone Swim Caps

Which Type Of Swimming Cap Is Easier To Put On?

As a general rule, silicone swimming caps are easier to put on.

The silicone material is much softer to the touch than latex, and although silicone swim caps look much smaller, they can stretch much more without breaking.

In addition, I find that silicone swim caps do not pull my hair when I put them on. For example, when I put on my latex swim cap, I find that my hair sticks to it, like static.

Although this is fine and not a big deal for me, I am more aware of my hair when wearing a latex swimming cap.

In addition, latex swim caps tend to be a bit bigger than silicone swim caps (because they are less stretchy), so for a small head, you feel like there is more material than is needed.

This makes latex that bit more uncomfortable on the tips of the ears and more adjustment is often needed to get a comfortable fit if you have a smaller head size.

Finally, latex has a different texture from the smooth silicone. I find that my swimming goggle straps fit better with my silicone swim cap.

My goggle straps make good contact with the silicone swim cap, however, I find the latex swim cap more “sticky”, so again, I have to fiddle with my goggle straps to get them in a position I like, working around the extra material of the latex.

Does A Latex Or Silicone Swim Cap Keep Your Hair Dry?

Swimming caps do not keep your hair dry.

I appreciate that this might be hard to believe for many, but keeping your hair dry when submerged is difficult to do and one swimming cap alone will not do it.

I tested this, which you can read more about in this article, “Do Swim Caps Keep Your Hair Dry? (I tested it)”

When it comes to keeping your hair dry, neither silicone nor latex swimming caps alone will work. To find a better solution on how to keep your hair dry while swimming, I have given some tips on how to keep your hair dry while swimming in this article:

Is A Latex Or A Silicone Swim Cap More Comfortable?

As it often comes down to personal taste, it is difficult to say with confidence which swimming cap material is more comfortable.

However, both silicone and latex have unique material properties, which will help you decide which will be the better choice for comfort.

1. Temperature

Silicone swim caps are better for cold water. Latex swim caps are better for warm water.

Many swimmers will have both a silicone and latex swim cap in their gym bag as they both have different temperature properties.

As silicone is thicker and very insulating, it is better for keeping your head warm.

If you are training hard or swimming in warmer water, then latex is a great option as the thinner, lightweight material is cooler.

Many professional swimmers will train with latex swimming caps to prevent overheating, but use silicone swim caps on race day.

2. Head Size

For larger heads, latex is a favourite option as they are often bigger than silicone swim caps.

On the flip side, latex does not stretch as much as silicone, so if you over-stretch your latex swim cap it will snap.

As silicone swim caps tend to be a bit smaller, they create a really snug fit for smaller heads.

If you find that your current swim cap is “squeezing”, then choosing a latex swim cap may be the better choice as it does not clamp the head as tightly as silicone.

3. Allergies

Silicone is hypoallergenic, which means it is kind to the skin and produces fewer allergy-inducing effects. [source]

On the other hand, latex allergies do exist.

Although less than 1% of the USA are allergic to latex [source] if you are sensitive to latex you need to avoid latex swimming caps.

Which Type Of Swim Cap Is Better For Long Hair?

Silicone swimming caps are better for long hair as they do not pull your hair in the same way that latex swimming caps do.

I find that my hair “sticks” to latex swimming caps more which pulls on the hair.

Many swimmers who use latex swimming caps will put baby powder or talcum powder into their latex swimming caps to stop them from sticking together when drying. This also makes it easier to put on, especially if you have dry hair.

I used to do this, but since I have been using a silicone swimming cap, I have not felt the need to do this.

If you are struggling to fit your swimming cap with longer hair or if it is drying stuck together, then placing a bit of talcum or baby powder into the swimming cap will prevent this.

This can be done on both latex or silicone swimming caps, but you really feel the benefit of using baby powder on latex swimming caps.

The best swimming caps for long hair are the following model from Speedo or the Soul Cap, which is a large swimming cap designed for dreadlocks, weaves, hair extensions, braids, curls and afros.

Speedo Long Hair Swim Cap

  • Extra-large with more room for hair
  • Unisex
  • Easy to fit
  • Long-lasting
  • Comfortable

Soul Cap Long Hair Swim Cap

  • Large swimming cap for long hair
  • Designed for long hair, dreadlocks, weaves, hair extensions, braids, curls & afros
  • Unisex
  • Silicone material

Big Head Swim Caps – Which Is The Best Option?

For years, swimmers with a bigger head size chose latex swimming caps.

Generally, latex swimming caps are more roomy or generous with their size.

For example, below is a picture of my two swimming caps – one latex in white and one silicone in black.

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Although both swimming caps are labelled as “one-size”, i.e. suitable for all head sizes, you can see that the white latex cap is much bigger.

This creates less “squeeze” and can feel more comfortable for swimmers who have large or bigger heads.

Zoggs Adults Latex Swimming Cap

  • Latex material
  • Roomy, with lots of extra space.
  • Lightweight
  • Great for warmer water or conditions

Small Head Swim Caps – Which Is The Best Option?

Silicone swimming caps are better for swimmers with small heads.

They are generally smaller because they can stretch more than latex. This results in a better fit for swimmers with smaller heads.

I consider myself as having a small head. Being a petite size, at just 5ft, I definitely fall into the small head swimmer.

Below is the swimming cap I use, which I find wonderful. Because of the extra stretch silicone offers, this swim cap will also work for larger head sizes.

Speedo Plain Moulded Silicone Swim Cap

  • One size to fit a range of head sizes
  • Soft and comfortable
  • Keeps the head smooth, which is good for a streamlined swimming position

Which Type Of Swim Cap Do Olympians Wear?

Olympians and competitive swimmers wear silicone swimming caps while competing. This is because silicone creates a smooth profile against the head, which creates a well-streamlined profile.

Many professional athletes will train with latex swimming caps, as these can allow the swimmers to feel cooler while training.

Typically, amateur swimmers who are part of a club will swim with latex swimming caps. This is because latex is cheap and very easy to print a logo onto.

Therefore, if you are swimming in a printed swimming club swim cap with your club logo on it, it is more than likely latex.

Here are some of the best swimmers in the world and the swim caps they have worn while competing.

SwimmerSwim Cap MaterialSwim Cap Link
Michael PhelpsSiliconeBuy On Amazon
Katie LedeckySiliconeBuy On Amazon
Adam PeatySiliconeBuy On Amazon
Simone ManuelSiliconeBuy On Amazon

The Soul Cap
(Simone also wore the Soul Cap, which is a large swimming cap for long hair. This was not FINA approved for competition.)
Olympians Swimming Cap Material

Which Type Of Swim Cap Is Better For Training?

As a general rule, silicone or latex is excellent for training.

Many professional swimmers or those who do intense workouts in the pool prefer a latex swimming cap for training, as it is cooler.

The thinner material of latex is less insulating and is more comfortable if the swimmer is overheating because of training or swimming in a warm pool.

What Is The Best Material For A Swimming Cap?

When it comes to the best material for a swimming cap, there are typically four material options to choose from which are:

  • Silicone
  • Latex
  • Polyester
  • Lycra

I would recommend silicone as the best material for a swimming cap every time as it is comfortable, long-lasting, affordable and hypoallergenic.

Although latex is a close second, I find it pulls my hair a bit with my hair “sticking” to it when I put it on.

Here is my favourite silicone swim cap:

Speedo Plain Moulded Silicone Swim Cap

  • One size to fit a range of head sizes
  • Soft and comfortable
  • Keeps the head smooth, which is good for a streamlined swimming position

Final Thoughts

Silicone and latex are both excellent materials for swimming caps.

Both silicone and latex have unique properties, with different benefits.

Silicone is typically used by Olympians on race day as it can create a tight and streamlined head profile in the water. Silicone also stretches well, is kind to the skin and is very long-lasting.

On the other hand, latex can be a great option if you overheat as you swim as the thinner material is cooler than silicone.

Although latex pulls on your hair more than silicone, it can be a good option for those with larger heads as the sizing is more generous.

Personally, I recommend silicone as it is my favourite but I also keep a latex swimming cap in my swim bag for warmer days or long training sessions.

Happy swimming!

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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