Nowadays swim caps are an essential part of a swimmer’s kit, and that means it’s crucial to get a good one. They provide many benefits, including warmth, UV protection, less exposure to chlorine, and most importantly, decreased drag which helps you swim a smidge faster.
Depending on where you’ll be swimming, you may want all of these benefits, or you are only interested in going faster. There are many different swim caps to choose from, and they each excel in their own areas. In this article, we want to cover the two most popular options for swim caps: latex and silicone.
Latex and silicone have their own strengths and weaknesses so it is impossible for us to declare one to be better than the other. With that said, anecdotally it seems like silicone swim caps beat latex swim caps because they are long-lasting, comfortable, stretchy, easy to care for, albeit more expensive than latex caps.
However, don’t just take our word for it. Read the rest of the article to see the specific advantages and disadvantages each swim cap has and make an informed decision for yourself.
Comparing latex and silicone swim caps
The very first thing we need to discuss is cost, because it doesn’t matter how many features a swim cap has if you can’t afford it. Thankfully, both latex and silicone swim caps are relatively cheap, and you can get decent ones for under $20.
With that said, latex swim caps tend to be cheaper than silicone swim caps (you can buy 2-3 latex caps for the price of one silicone swim cap), and as you’ll soon find out, silicone swim caps tend to have the advantage so they can justify a higher price point.
If money is ultimately the deciding factor, go with latex swim caps. If you want the best value for your money, then go with silicone swim caps.
Between the two, latex swim caps are not as durable. They are susceptible to punctures and tears, which can easily be caused by stretching the cap too far or scratching it accidentally with a hair clip or fingernails. They can last up to a couple of years if they are properly taken care of, and that’s a big if, because you can’t always count on kids to be careful.
Silicone swim caps are more durable and can last a much longer time. They can still be torn and punctured, however they can endure much more abuse and still be in perfect condition. I’ve personally used some silicone swim caps for nearly a decade and they are still holding on like a champ. Even though it was more expensive, it clearly was worth the investment.
Many swimmers prefer silicone swim caps over latex because of how the material feels when worn. Silicone is smoother and easily molds to a swimmer’s head, easily achieving the hydrodynamic effect that swimmers want. Silicone tends to hold its shape better and is thicker, which helps it resist tears and punctures.
Latex swim caps tend to fall short of silicone swim caps in these areas. You will need to be more careful not to damage latex swim caps. On top of that, there is also the allergic factor to consider because some people can have a nasty reaction to latex.
As mentioned, silicone swim caps are thicker, but not everyone likes that. Many swimmers prefer latex swim caps because they’re stretchier. Silicone swim caps can sometimes turn people off from it due to how tight and restrictive they feel. This is beneficial for keeping your hair packed down for better hydrodynamics, but not necessarily for comfort.
That said, latex has issues with hair pulling due to how grippy the material is. It’s great for ensuring latex caps stay on your head, but if the cap should shift while swimming, you can feel an uncomfortable tug on your hair.
Another downside of latex is that it’s not very breathable. Wearing a latex cap for long can make your head feel uncomfortably warm, but depending on how cool the pool is, this may actually end up being a hidden benefit.
When it comes to comfort, silicone caps are smoother, easier to put on, and resistant to hair-pulling. However, they can feel more tight and restrictive and if that’s a dealbreaker for you, then go with latex swim caps.
The care routine for latex and silicone swim caps (and by extension, the other types of swim caps) are identical. After swimming, immediately rinse the cap with fresh, cool water to get rid of the chlorine. Dry with a towel, then leave it out to fully air dry in a location away from direct sunlight. Do not store the swim cap (or any of your swimwear) until it is completely dry because this can result in mold growth.
We have covered the major deal-breakers for each of the two swim caps, as well as the benefits they provide. Which one you ultimately pick is up to you.
However, to recap, silicone swim caps are more expensive. For the extra cost, you are getting a swim cap that is more durable, less prone to pull on your hair, smoother, and long-lasting. A major downside, aside from the highest cost, is that it can feel too tight on your head which can be uncomfortable when worn for long periods of time.
Latex caps are cheaper and less durable. They are not likely to last very long, but with some care, can still be good for a couple of years. Swimmers who prefer latex caps do so mostly because it’s stretchier, to the point where you can fit a significant portion of your body inside one (yes, swimmers do some weird things when they’re bored). However, latex caps are more prone to pull on your hair and some people have allergic reactions to latex.
Swimmers who dislike how tight silicone caps are or don’t want to spend up to 2-3x the price of a latex cap should pick a latex cap. That said, if you are allergic to latex, dislike getting your hair pulled, or want something more durable, then pick a silicone swim cap instead.
At the end of the day, both silicone and latex swim caps will keep your hair out of the way and reduce drag. You can’t really go wrong with either, because wearing a swim cap at all is better than wearing none!