LAST UPDATED: July 10, 2021

Best swim cap: Protect your hair and increase your speed with these picks

Best swim cap for long hair The Speedo Unisex Adult swim cap is the best for long hair. Speedo Unisex Adult Swim Cap

The silicone construction and micro-grid texture provide ultimate comfort.

Pros
            • Snug fit
  • Multiple colors
Cons
  • Not ideal for people with thick hair
  • Fragile construction
Best child swim cap FUNOWN Kids makes the best swim cap for kids. FUNOWN Kids Swim Cap

Offers a fun design and lightweight feel.

Pros
  • Non-allergenic
  • Good elasticity
Cons
  • May be too large on younger children
  • Can be tight on older children
Best fashion swim cap Best fashiBALNEAIRE Silicone is the best fashion swim cap. BALNEAIRE Silicone Long Hair Swim Cap for Women

Comes in four stylish patterns and provides extra room for longer hair.

Pros
  • Elegant look
  • Soft feel
Cons
  • May not keep hair as dry
  • Thin
  • Hard to use with long hair

Love it or hate it, a swim cap is a useful piece of gear. Whether you’re a competitive athlete or just enjoy taking a dip in your neighborhood pool, the best cap will help protect your hair from chlorine and other chemicals. They can also help increase your speed as you swim, as they reduce drag in the water.

But not all caps are created equal—and not all will suit your needs. Plus, you’ve got a few things to consider before choosing one: Should it be made of latex, silicone, or another material altogether? Do you want it to go with your swimsuits, or do you need it to help enhance your performance? Read on for our guide on purchasing the best swim cap.

What to consider when looking for the best swim cap

Swim caps first became popular in the 1920s, as women wanted a way to protect their expensive hairstyles. They became a requirement at many public pools and evolved to include fashionable styles that complemented bathing suit styles of the time. And, of course, as the range of men’s hairstyles grew, so too did swim caps to accommodate them. Swim caps are also practical for athletes, too. They keep hair out of the face, increase speed by decreasing drag, and can help keep earplugs in place. 

Swimming caps are made from several different cap materials, but the more common ones are silicone and latex. Silicone caps tend to be popular among competitive swimmers, as they are sleek and can reduce drag. Latex caps protect hair well and are generally inexpensive, but because they’re so stretchy, they tend to bunch up and become wrinkly.

Beyond material, the best cap for you will fit your head size and hair length. If you’ve got long locks, for example, you’ll want a cap that’s capacious enough to handle your ‘do. That said, kids will likely need a smaller cap that fits snugly on their head and protects their hair. Here’s what else to consider when choosing the best swim cap.

Related: Get wet, stay safe: The best water shoes for splishing and/or splashing

Do you need a swim cap for long hair?

If you’ve got tresses that trail down your back, you’ll need a swim cap that can handle your locks and keep them dry. Many brands offer caps with larger capacities specifically for people with long hair. You can also look for a bubble cap, which is typically made from Latex rubber. They give a roomier fit, and, as an added bonus, they usually cover your ears as well.

Best for long hair: Speedo Unisex Adult Cap

Extra Space, Smooth Fit

This lightweight and durable option provides comfort and enhanced performance.

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Speedo’s Unisex-Adult Swim Cap is the ideal cap for long hair. The latex-free silicone provides a snug fit that also helps prevent drag. Available in five different colors, this Speedo cap is also designed with extra room to tuck in long hair. 

Are you a competitive swimmer?

Competitive swimmers need a cap that will help increase their speed and cut down on drag from their hair while swimming laps. Athletes tend to favor silicone caps, but some also use latex caps, as they’re cheaper and breathable. If you’re a competitive swimmer, an important detail you should pay attention to is whether a swim cap has wrinkles when you pull it on. This can contribute to drag.

Best swim cap for athletes: Speedo Elastomeric Silicone Cap

Smart Construction

Available in six vibrant colors, this super-soft model has an elastomeric fit.

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This Speedo swim cap’s silicone construction ensures it won’t pull your hair and cause any pain. The micro-grid texture provides extra comfort while the elastomeric tech provides a snug fit. Get it in sport neon, blue, metallic gold, pink, white, or black.

Related: The best swimming goggles for people who love the water

Kids need a child swim cap

Swim caps are crucial for kids. Not only do they protect their hair from harsh pool chemicals, but they can also help prevent ear infections. Child caps work to provide a snug fit on your little one’s little head. If your child is a competitive swimmer, you may want to look into a silicone cap. But if you’re just looking for a cap they can wear for a fun day at the pool, latex options tend to be cheaper. That way you don’t need to worry about spending a ton of money on something they may outgrow soon.

Best child swim cap: FUNOWN Kids Caps

Fun Design

The ergonomic fit and unicorn art make this comfortable and cute.

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Intended for kids aged two to eight years old, this unisex child cap from FUNOWN is non-allergenic and lightweight. Plus, it’s leakproof and tearproof for long-lasting durability. And they’re fun gifts for swimmers. Just stretch it, snap it on, and head out for a day of fun.

You can show off your personal style, too

Fashion swim caps don’t need to be left in the 1960s—you can get a cap to match your personal style. These may be more expensive, but some come in packs of two or three to coordinate with different swimsuits. And if you’re worried about potentially clashing with future suits, you can grab one in neutral colors.

Best fashion swim cap: BALNEAIRE Silicone Long Hair Cap for Women

Choose From Four Designs

These floral patterns can complement a variety of swimsuits and beach wear.

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Available in lotus, black floral, white tulip, and zebra patterns, this cap provides extra room for those with mid-length or longer hair. The non-toxic silicone gives a soft feel and keeps the hand-painted patterns vibrant after multiple uses.

Need a budget option?

If you’re looking for a budget cap, consider latex caps, as they’re cheaper to make and buy. They’re not ideal for athletes, as they can bunch up and wrinkle, adding to drag. But, if you just need one for a day at the beach or neighborhood pool, a budget swim cap will do the trick.

Best budget swim cap: TYR Latex Cap

Universal Fit

This tear-resistant option fits both adults and children.

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TYR’s latex swim cap has a durable ribbed edge and offers drag reduction and a secure fit. At under $5, it’s available in more than a dozen colors and protects your hair from chlorine and other bacteria in the water. Plus, they’re lightweight, making them great for getting your feet wet in competitive swimming. 

FAQ: People also ask

What is the best cap to keep hair dry?

The best swim cap to keep your hair dry should contain all your hair and fit snugly against your head. When in doubt, grab a bigger cap that can handle your locks. You’ll want to ensure that the cap is made of silicone, latex, or lycra to stay as dry as possible.

Do swim caps keep hair dry?

They aren’t designed to keep your hair completely dry—you’re fully submerging yourself in water! What they can do is prevent ear infections and limit your exposure to chlorine and bacteria. To keep your hair as dry as you can, make sure your cap sits flush against your head and doesn’t have too many wrinkles or empty space.

Why do swimmers wear 2 caps?

Caps help swimmers reduce drag—so wearing two caps ensures that no hair pokes out and affects performance in the slightest. Plus, they can help keep goggles in place to further improve speed.

 The final word on the best swim cap

Swim caps are a hygienic way to keep your hair safe and help prevent infections from the water. And for athletes, they’re an essential accessory for competing successfully. The most important test for the best cap is how well it fits against your head—if there’s too much wiggle room after you’ve tucked all your hair in, it can’t do its job well.

Natasha Roy
Natasha Roy

Natasha Roy is an editorial assistant for PopSci's commerce team. Contact the author here.