I remember the days when we used to have to wear a swimming cap to use the pool at school. All you were able to buy way back then were black or white rubber swimming caps. There was no choice. Today however, there are countless different colors, mixtures of colors, designs, shapes and several alternative materials to choose from. This page looks into the different types of materials that swimming caps come in and their advantages.
Silicone Swim Caps
Silicone swim caps are top of the range and the most expensive but are the biggest selling ones available and are becoming ever more popular. They are a relatively new creation and they came about as a result of many people suffering from allergies from the latex and they needed caps to swim. The myriad of designs and colors really caught people’s attention and they became popular amongst swimmers that are not allergic to latex too.
Apart from their enticing looks, the real reason that they are so popular is that they have many benefits as opposed to the other types of caps.
One of their biggest selling points is that they are more durable than latex caps. Latex caps can have a tendency to tear quite easily but as they are so cheap, it doesn’t really matter. The point here is the inconvenience of getting a tear in the cap and people want to keep the inconvenience down to a minimum. Silicone caps can last for years if they are cared for properly. They will pay for themselves in the long run so they are economical.
Another benefit is that they can be placed on the head more easily. I have seen swimmers struggle getting in and out of their latex caps and getting very annoyed. Silicone caps will not pull on the hair so much and are easier to put on and take off. However, this easy sliding action tends to make them liable to slip on the head more easily than latex caps whilst swimming. This only happens if the cap is too big for the swimmer so a snug fit is recommended. Otherwise a spandex cap can be fitted underneath to stop the slippage.
Silicone caps can keep the head warm better than latex because it is thicker and has a greater thermal insulation capacity. Lots of heat is lost through the head and long distance swimmers will benefit the most. This may not seem plausible but in fact if a silicone cap is warn in warm areas, the head can become overheated.
They are very stretchable and soft so they are comfortable to wear. They fit well around the head so keep the water out effectively. Because they fit so well to the head, they don’t tend to wrinkle as much as latex meaning faster speeds. If speed is your main goal, a silicone cap may be your best option.
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Latex Swim Caps
Latex Swim Caps became established over100 years ago and were the biggest selling cap for many decades.
The only real advantage that they have over silicone caps is that they are less expensive so if you are on a tight budget, they will be more affordable for you. You can buy three or four for the price of one silicone cap. If you are not a regular swimmer they may be beneficial.
The other benefit is that they won’t move about on the head so much because the latex grips the hair better that silicone.
They do keep the hair dry effectively and free from chlorine and out of the suns uv rays when outside.
Latex isn’t as durable as silicone and they are prone to tearing more easily but being inexpensive this is not really a problem. The problem is that it can be frustrating when your cap is tearing regularly. Don’t get me wrong, they won’t tear for no reason and they can last a long time as long as they are treated carefully.
They are not as thick as silicone and not as stretchy so when they are on the head they are not as comfortable. The latex catches the hair more too so this also can cause some discomfort to the swimmer. Putting the cap on and taking it of can cause some aggravation unless it is put on in the correct manner.
A downfall to latex caps is that they can cause an allergic reaction to some people. If you suffer reddening or a rash around where the cap fits, it would be advisable to go and get it checked out with a doctor.
Being thinner than silicone, latex emits heat out of the head much more but this might be an advantage in warmer areas where it can get very uncomfortable wearing a silicone cap.
Spandex Swim Caps
Spandex swim caps are the third most popular after silicone and latex.
The thing that is different with this type of stretchy fabric caps are that they don’t keep the water out as they are totally porous. If you are looking to protect your hair from the chemical damage, chose one of the first two caps. They do offer protection from the UV rays though and they do keep the hair from your face. These caps are often used by swimmers where the pool rules insist that clients wear a cap.
Spandex caps are very easy to put on and take off as they don’t catch or grab the hair and they are used regularly by swimmers to put under a waterproof cap. They want the benefits of a waterproof cap and the benefits of ease of application. Many Olympic swimmers now use two caps.
Because they glide easily over the hair, they can move about quite a bit when swimming which can be quite frustrating.
These types of caps last a very long time as they don’t tear like the other two. They do need to be rinsed free from pool chemicals more so because they are made from fabric. Pricewise they are somewhere between the first two caps.
They aren’t used in competitive swimming because they cause drag through the water although they may be used in practice to train with that resistance.
Because they are fabric, they are very comfortable but they don’t do any good if you are looking to keep as much heat in your body as possible.
Neoprene Swim Cap
Neoprene caps are made from the same material as what wetsuits are made from. These caps are mainly for long distance open water swimmers such as triathletes and swimmers that like to swim in cold areas.
The theory is the same as for a wetsuit, get some water under the neoprene and let your body heat warm up the water to keep an insulating barrier against the cold.
These won’t be used by anyone but these specialised swimmers but to keep thing equal I will speak quickly about the benefits.
Neoprene is gentle on the hair and is easy to get on and off the head. The caps typically have a strap to stop it moving about the head. They would be fat too warm to wear in a swimming pool or in warm weather. They don’t keep the water out because their intention is to keep the water in. Chemicals aren’t a problem because they are worn outside. They keep UV rays out but that isn’t usually a problem in the colder areas.
They will last an awfully long time and their cost is two to three times the cost of a silicone cap.