Are Swim Caps Bad for Your Hair?

Are Swim Caps Bad for Your Hair

Swim caps can be tricky to put on, and lots of adjustment may be needed for it to feel comfortable on your head. If you don’t have your technique down pat, you may experience some painful pulling and tugging on some patches of your hair. You might be wondering if this causes hair loss?

Your suspicions are only further confirmed when, after taking off your swim cap, you notice clumps of hair stuck on the inside. What’s going on here? Are swim caps damaging your hair and causing hair loss? Will you go bald if you wear swim caps frequently?

Consistent hair pulling from an improperly-sized, ill-fitting swim cap may cause a type of hair thinning known as traction alopecia. This is an extreme case and unlikely to happen as most swimmers would simply adjust the swim cap until it feels better. Hair that sheds in your swim cap is hair that would’ve fallen off anyways; the swim cap just happened to collect it all. In general, swim caps protect your hair by limiting its exposure to chlorine and UV rays.

In this article, we will discuss how swim caps affect your hair both positively and negatively, as well as provide tips on hair care after swimming so that you can continue to have a head full of beautiful, healthy hair.

Why are there clumps of hair in my swim cap?

Swim caps are not mandatory in public pools but pool staff love swimmers who wear swim caps. The reason is that swim caps can capture all of the hair that would have naturally fallen off from one’s head and keep it from clogging the pool filtration system.

There is a misconception that a swim cap exacerbates or increases the amount of hair that you would have lost and that you are slowly going to lose all of your hair over a long enough time.

This is simply not true. Balding is the result of genetics, hormones, medical conditions, and old age working together, none of which swim caps have any effect on.

Furthermore, shedding hair is completely natural. I know it seems like a ridiculous amount, but let’s look at some numbers here. Humans, on average, have 100,000 strands of hair on their head. We can lose anywhere from 50-100 hairs each day, which is only 0.001% of your hair.

Again, these are averages, meaning some people can shed way more and in terms of percentages, it’s still extremely insignificant.If you’re constantly combing or tousling your hair you can cause even more hair to fall off.

So unless you think that clump of hair in the swim cap has more than 100 strands and you think something is seriously wrong, then consult a doctor because you may have some kind of medical condition affecting you.

Can constant pulling from the swim cap cause hair loss?

Yes, constant hair pulling can cause hair loss. There is a condition called traction alopecia which is the thinning or loss of hair from pulling.

Even if the pulling has caused patches of hair loss, this is reversible in the short-term. Long term, the hair follicles can become so damaged from the constant pulling that it cannot grow new hair.

This sounds really scary but it’s very unlikely to happen to you. You would need to essentially have an ill-fitting cap, worn improperly, and for long periods of time before it gets that bad.

This is unlikely to happen because it feels so uncomfortable and most people would get a better fitting cap, or at least quickly adjust the swim cap so that it stops pulling on their hair.

Furthermore, the hair pulling would have to be done consistently in one area, and who would allow the same patch of hair to keep getting pulled on until it causes hair loss?

Traction alopecia due to hair pulling caused by the swim cap is such an unlikely scenario that it probably won’t happen to you.

The real cause of hair damage: chlorine

Even if your hair isn’t falling off by the handful, most swimmers have noticed that their hair has become dry and brittle. In what ways is chlorine damaging?

Chlorine strips the natural protective oils on your hair and skin (called sebum) and exposes it to dry air. With your hair drying out, it can result in split ends, irritation, and breakage.

Chlorine is also a harsh chemical that can cause chemical reactions in your hair, especially if you have dyed hair, causing it to discolor over time. You may have heard some people have had their hair turn green, and that’s because the chlorine has oxidized the copper in your hair.

Frequent exposure to chlorine can also lead to greasy hair and acne. With the natural oils constantly stripped from your hair and skin, your body will need to overproduce sebum to compensate, and this ultimately causes you to have very oily hair and skin.

To avoid these undesirable outcomes, you need to know how to take better care of your hair, which we discuss in the next section.

How to prevent hair damage from chlorine

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This is actually where swim caps are very effective. We’ve come full circle as you can see, because a tight-fitting swim cap can limit how much chlorine your hair is exposed to; in other words, swim caps will protect your hair, not cause it to fall out.

Note that swim caps do not keep your hair dry. Furthermore, you are recommended to wet your hair with freshwater before entering the pool. This helps keep your hair clean and saturates it with freshwater so that it doesn’t absorb as much chlorine. Wet hair also makes it easier to put on a swim cap without pulling on your hair.

After you’re done swimming, you must rinse your hair again with freshwater. Make sure to rinse off all of the chlorine because leaving it there can cause further damage. Use chlorine removal shampoo (called clarifying shampoo) to assist with this.

Make sure to use conditioner for swimmers after shampooing your hair. Conditioner will hydrate your hair and coat it in a layer of protective oil so that it will be protected from drying out.

The bottom line

Swim caps are not bad for your hair. Quite the opposite, they are very good for your hair because they offer protection from chlorine, the true culprit behind swimmers’ hair damage.

If you notice that you’re going bald, do not attribute this to wearing a swim cap. Baldness is caused by genetics, hormone changes, medical conditions, and old age.

Technically, swim caps can cause hair to thin or fall out, and this is known as traction alopecia. It is unlikely to happen because it would mean that you allowed a swim cap to consistently pull on your hair until it caused your hair to fall out. Most people would get a new cap or adjust their current cap.

The bottom line is, swim caps are actually very good for your hair, and you should be wearing them if you like to go swimming but don’t want your hair to dry out and become brittle. Swim caps are the first layer of defense, but you still need to take care of your hair by rinsing it and applying the necessary hair products afterwards for the best results.

Last update on 2022-11-16 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API