I used to hate wearing swim caps. I always struggled with putting them on, I had issues with them tugging on my hair or occasionally sliding off, I wished there was some kind of swim cap alternative that I could use instead.
Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be a good swim cap alternative. The simple and effective design of a swim cap, along with its affordability, have made it too attractive of an option for most. I don’t see any new products coming out that could replace a swim cap any time soon. So if you have any problems with a swim cap, you need to learn how to fix these problems or make peace with them, because there are no better options currently.
You can potentially try wearing a shower cap or a waterproof headband, but you’ll quickly find that they do not hold a candle to a swim cap. So where does that leave you?
In this article, I want to discuss the pain points of wearing a swim cap – the same ones I experienced and likely the same ones you’re experiencing currently – and how I dealt with them. After addressing these issues, there was no need for me to find a swim cap alternative because a swim cap did everything I wanted already. Hopefully it will be the same for you.
There isn’t a good alternative to swim caps
Make peace with this fact right now. If there were something better than a swim cap, or at least just as good, don’t you think swimmers would be wearing them already? Swim caps have been in use for decades and if they haven’t gotten replaced yet, then maybe they never will. Don’t fix what isn’t broken and so on.
“That sucks, I’m having a lot of problems with a swim cap! Are you really telling me there’s no alternative?” Unfortunately, there aren’t, at least not any good ones. That’s why I had to shift my perspective from asking “is there a swim cap alternative” to “how can I fix what I dislike about swim caps?” It would do you a lot better if you shifted to this mentality as well.
The closest things to a swim cap alternative
I’ve seen some people try swimming with a shower cap. To be honest, I felt second-hand embarrassment; I don’t have the courage to wear a shower cap in public. But if you do, more power to you, I guess. Who am I to judge?
But I was curious how effective it was, so I tried wearing a shower cap at home and submerging my head underwater. I found it to be completely useless. Shower caps are not designed to keep hair dry underwater. As soon as I dipped my head underwater, water came rushing in and my hair was completely soaked.
Ironically, I’ve found the best use of a shower cap is to wear it underneath a swim cap. It is less likely to tug on your hair and is much more effective at keeping water out with the help of a swim cap. But the goal here was to not wear a swim cap, so this is a moot point.
If all you care about is keeping your bangs away from your face, then a waterproof headband may be the option you’re looking for. That said, you’re missing out on all the other swim cap benefits like reduced drag or protecting your hair from chlorine and UV rays.
Also, just like with the shower cap, I’ve found the greatest success was wearing the waterproof headband with a swim cap. This actually does a surprisingly good job at keeping water out of your ears and your hair, so your hair and ear can stay dry.
But again, the point is to avoid wearing a swim cap, right? That’s why I say these options are not ideal. On their own, they are ineffective, but worn with a swim cap they start to shine.
Common swim cap problems and how to fix them
In this section, we go over the pain points of wearing a swim cap that has you screaming for an alternative, and how to address them so that they are not such a nuisance.
Hair is not kept dry
If you were wearing a swim cap to keep your hair dry, understand that that is not its primary purpose, so don’t be surprised that some water can seep in. This is normal and not indicative of a faulty swim cap.
However, what swim caps can do is limit how much water reaches your hair, allowing at least the upper portion of your hair to be dry. If you wear a swim cap with a shower cap or waterproof headband, you may even be able to completely keep your hair dry.
To help the swim cap provide an even better seal, consider applying some Vaseline or food grade silicone grease where the cap touches your skill to get a tighter seal.
Problems putting on the swim cap
Are your frustrations with a swim cap stemming from difficulties putting it on? Not to worry, there are videos on how you can do it quickly and easily. The video below demonstrates how I prefer to put on my swim cap.
To put these instructions into words, first place both hands inside the swim cap, palms facing each other. Find the seam or middle section of the swim cap and then stretch the cap open with the backs of your hands. You are opening the cap wider so it’s easier to place it over your head.
Next, “hook” the cap on your forehead and then pull the rest of the cap over and towards the back of your head. Slide your hand out quickly and the cap should snap over your head. Adjust the fit as necessary.
If you want your hair to remain dry, consider wearing the cap over your ears. Also wear your goggles over the swim cap instead of under, so as not to create any gaps where water can enter.
Swim cap pulls on hair
If a swim cap painfully tugs on your hair, then you either need to adjust it, get a better fitting swim cap, or you need to wet your hair if you haven’t already done so.
Some swim cap materials, particularly latex, stick to dry hair. By wetting your hair with fresh water (which you should be doing before entering the pool) then you can reduce the friction latex has on your hair. You can also put some conditioner in your hair to make it smoother.
Swim cap slips off head
Does your swim cap keep slipping off? Chances are you just have an ill-fitting cap. Swim caps are not one-size-fits-all, and you need to pick the size closest to your head size. Since they are only effective if they are tight, then you might need to pick a smaller size rather than a larger one.
You also might need to find a swim cap that is made with a different material. Silicone caps are thick and durable, but some people find it uncomfortable to wear for long periods of time. So they switch to latex or lycra, which are much softer and easier to put on, but that also makes them more likely to slip off.
Another consideration is that you’re wearing a swim cap wrong. Perhaps you need another person to assist you with wearing a cap to help close any gaps that may appear if you’re putting on a swim cap alone.
Swim cap gets moldy/sticks together
Are you tired of your swim caps getting moldy? That’s an issue with moisture – you need to thoroughly dry your swim cap before putting it in storage.
After rinsing your cap with fresh water and drying it as much as you can with a towel, there is still one final step you may be missing out.
Ideally you should put some baby powder or Talcum powder inside the swim cap. This not only absorbs the moisture but also prevents the material from sticking against each other inside.
You can also just hang your cap to drip dry somewhere, but make sure the location is well-ventilated and that the swim cap is out of direct sunlight.
Swim cap keeps tearing
If you keep accidentally tearing your swim cap, there are a few reasons why. The most common reasons are that you’re wearing the swim cap wrong, the swim cap is too small, you’re pulling too hard, the material is low-quality (e.g. latex) or you punctured it with something sharp or pointy such as your fingernails, earrings, or hair pin.
You will need to find a swim cap that is the appropriate size, made of either a durable material (silicone) or a stretchy one (latex, lycra), and try not to pull on it too hard and avoid coming into contact with sharp or pointy objects.
The bottom line
There is no good alternative for a swim cap, and what is available is ironically enhanced by wearing a swim cap over it. Therefore, the conclusion I and many others have come to is to embrace the swim cap. Learn what are the downsides, figure out how to address them, and make peace with wearing a swim cap.
If there were a better alternative, I’m sure people would be all over it. But as it currently stands, swim caps have been in use for decades and seem like they are here to stay. Make peace with it and move on.