Whether you’re a casual swimmer or a competitive one, a private pool owner or a public pool goer, chances are you could benefit from wearing a swim cap. Anybody at any skill level can derive some sort of advantage from wearing a swim cap, even kids. As such, you should consider a swim cap to be an essential swimming item alongside a swimsuit and goggles.
Swim caps were originally worn by competitive swimmers because it reduced their drag. However, even a casual swimmer can wear it just to swim a bit faster, keep their hair from clogging up the filter, protect their hair from chlorine, prevent their hair from getting in their way or getting caught on a lane rope, and much more. The benefits of wearing a swim cap are numerous and substantial.
In this article, we will go over every single benefit that a swim cap provides to help you better understand why swim caps are such a versatile, essential item all swimmers should use.
How swim caps benefit you
Helps you swim faster
Okay, so how does wearing a piece of rubber/fabric over your head make you swim faster?
Basically when you’re underwater, you will experience water resistance, or drag. The smoother and more streamlined your body shape is, the less drag you experience. Conversely, the less smooth your body is and the bigger the surface area, the more drag you experience.
Hair on your body increases your surface area and makes it less smooth. If you have long hair or an abundance of hair, then you will experience more drag than someone who is bald and clean-shaven.
By wearing a swim cap, you don’t have to shave your head. You can just tie your hair up and keep it neatly compact under a swim cap, and water will glide off you as if you shaved your head.
The smoother the swim cap you wear, the better. Some ill-fitting swim caps, or swim caps with a seam in the middle, can create folds or wrinkles that are sub-optimal, but it should be a net increase in speed overall. Swim caps with no seam in the middle are the best for reducing drag.
If you want to feel even less drag, then shave the rest of your body hair, and if you have a beard, shave that off too. Then you will really feel like you’re gliding through the water compared to before.
Keeps hair out of the way
If your hair is long enough that it can obscure your vision or get caught on an object, then you owe it to yourself to not only tie up your hair in a bun, but to also wear a swim cap.
Tying your hair up is good, but still not good enough without a cap. You are still at risk of your hair getting caught on something or the hair tie failing you.
Furthermore, there are also other downsides like how your hair is still exposed to chlorine and UV rays, it can still shed into the pool and clog the filters, and it’s still increasing drag. Not ideal.
Having your hair get snagged by another swimmer, a lane rope, or if you’re swimming outdoors, on kelp forests, a fishing hook/line/net is extremely undesirable. Outdoors, it may even be fatal. Don’t take that risk and wear a swim cap!
Limits exposure to chlorine
It’s no secret that chlorine is damaging to your hair. Frequent swimmers need to have a specific hair routine if they don’t want their hair to end up dry and brittle like straw.
To help alleviate some of the downsides, you can cover your hair with a swim cap. Swim caps can reduce the amount of water that reaches your hair and even keep large portions of it dry. That said, swim caps are not waterproof nor are they intended to be, but it’s better than nothing.
If you tie your hair up in a bun, you’ll find that typically the water doesn’t make it all the way up, so a decent chunk of your hair will be protected from chlorine.
Protects hair and scalp from UV rays
Swim caps also provide UV protection thanks to its high UPF number. Most swim caps have a UPF-50 rating, which means it blocks 98% of UV rays from reaching your hair or scalp.
UV rays can do similar damage to your hair as chlorine. However if it reaches your scalp, it can lead to sunburn and increased risk of cancer. Most people don’t wear sunscreen on their head, so a swim cap will provide a crucial layer of protection.
Keeps the pool water clean
When you or your pet(s) shed hair in the pool, where do you think the hair goes? It will just float along the water until it eventually gets caught in the filtration system.
In the meantime, it’s possible somebody’s hair can make its way into your mouth (yuck). Furthermore, hair can clog the filters very quickly (this problem is greatly exacerbated if you have pets!) and this will reduce the filter’s ability to keep the water clean.
Give the pool staff a break from having to clean the filter so often. By wearing a swim cap, all of the hair you shed will just stay in the cap where you can easily dispose of them in the trash instead of dirtying up the water with it.
Keeps goggles on your face
Goggles are only effective if they stay on your face. Unfortunately, they can slip and slide around often, especially if you’re diving a lot.
If you wear a swim cap, you can keep the goggles on your face more easily. You can wear the goggles under the cap, in which case the swim cap firmly holds the strap in place.
Even wearing the goggles outside of the swim cap, the swim cap’s texture provides more grip for the strap to stay on. The end result is that your goggles are less likely to slip and slide around.
Keeps head warm
Swimmers who like to swim outdoors know that the water temperature is much lower than at a pool.
It’s not unusual to wear a wetsuit to retain your body heat, but your head is still exposed… unless you wear a swim cap.
To keep your head warm, you specifically need a silicone or neoprene swim cap. The other swim cap materials are not effective at insulating your heat.
Keeping your body temperature high when swimming outdoors is essential for survival reasons, so if you don’t own a silicone or neoprene swim cap, then what are you waiting for? You need one!
Yet another benefit of wearing a swim cap for outdoor swimming is the increase in visibility it can provide. If you are wearing a bright-colored cap, you are making it easier for people on boats, canoes, kayaks, jet skis, surfboards, etc., to see you and avoid colliding into you.
The higher visibility also makes it easier for first responders to mount a rescue operation if you need to be extracted from the water. Make sure you wear a swim cap with bright colors in its design, because the reverse is also true: a blue or dark cap can make you harder to see.
Parents of children can more easily spot their kids outdoors when they are wearing a unique swim cap. This helps your child stand out more in a sea of other people. It can give you peace of mind knowing that you can easily pick out your child from the crowd.
Represent your team
Okay, let’s move on from the doom and gloom of the previous two points and talk about a positive benefit.
Swim caps can be custom made to have your team’s colors or logos. This makes it easier to identify you in a competition and to show off who you represent. Wear it proudly.
A swim cap can boost one’s confidence in the water, especially kids. It feels nice to wear appropriate gear for an activity – it makes you feel like a pro.
Furthermore, once you feel how nice it is to glide through the water with a swim cap on, it can provide a much needed psychological and confidence boost.
Keeps water out of your ears
Again, swim caps are not designed to keep your head dry, so a swim cap alone cannot keep water out of your ears.
However, there are swim caps that are designed with your ears in mind. These caps have ergonomic ear pockets that make it so your ears are not squished tightly. They also can help prevent water from reaching your ears, and can even be comfortably worn in conjunction with swimming ear plugs.
By combining these two items, you can ensure your ears stay dry and that swimmer’s ear is a thing of the past.
The bottom line
In this article, we went over many benefits that a swim cap provides. Not every single one will apply to you, but the ones that do are likely to be something you wouldn’t mind having all the time. It’s hard to go back to swimming without a cap once you’ve tried one on.
Many of these benefits are also applicable even if you are a recreational swimmer or swimming at a private pool. Protecting your hair from chlorine and not clogging up the pool filter, for instance, are benefits you would want to have no matter who or where you are.
The benefits of wearing a swim cap far outweigh any negatives like the cost of one or any minor discomfort it can cause in the short-term. Besides, there are workarounds to a lot of the downsides, so there isn’t much reason not to wear a swim cap.