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Swim Cap Materials – Let’s see what you’re made of!
Swim caps are made from a variety of different materials. The most common are silicone, latex, and lycra/spandex, but you may also come across caps made from rubber, neoprene, and polyurethane.
Silicone is one of the most ubiquitous materials used for swimming caps. Additionally, it is extremely durable. Silicone caps will last for years, when cared for properly. As a competitive swimmer, silicone is definitely my favorite cap material. Not only is it long-lasting, but it also lends itself well to slipping on and off without pulling hair (a plus for both men and women!).
Latex is a far thinner material than silicone. It is also less durable. Latex swim caps rip more easily especially if you do not put them on properly or fail to take proper care of them. Since they are lighter than silicone, latex caps allow for more “breath-ability.” Retaining less heat, these caps may be better suited for warmer climates in which heat loss is not an issue. Latex caps are also generally much cheaper than other types of swim caps. So if you’re looking for a cap that won’t break the bank and durability isn’t a concern, then latex is the way to go.
Rubber is a common elastic material that is made from latex. Rubber caps are slightly thicker than their latex counterparts and, because of this, are usually not as stretchy. Similar to latex, rubber swim caps are also light weight and relatively inexpensive. However, if you have a latex allergy, a rubber cap would not be an ideal option due to the fact that it is derived from latex. Also made from rubber are crepe bubble swim caps. This style of swim cap is particularly well-suited to swimming in colder conditions. Because of its heavy-weight rubber and air bubble insulation, crepe bubble caps hold in heat in order to keep swimmers warm and tend to block water entry better than any other style. Crepe bubble caps are also known for their durability and longevity because of the thickness of the material.
Lycra and Spandex Caps
Lycra™ is a trademarked name for a synthetic fiber commonly known as spandex or elastane. Swimming caps made of spandex are very durable and will typically last for a long time if rinsed of chlorine after every use. Lycra swim caps are known to be very soft and will never catch or pull your hair. Since Lycra is a fabric, however, these caps will allow water to flow through the material while swimming. A permeable cap material is not as efficient as silicone or latex, but will still reduce drag to a greater extent than wearing no cap at all. Because of this, Lycra swim caps are not ideal for use in competition. They should primarily be used for practice or sun protection.Wearing a higher resistance cap during practice will actually help you perform better when wearing your silicone race-day cap. Getting your body accustomed to a higher level of resistance will allow for better performance when it comes to competition.
Neoprene is a synthetic rubber, commonly used for wet suit material. Just like wet suits, the purpose of a neoprene swim cap is to keep a thin layer of water close to your body to act as insulation. This makes neoprene caps an excellent choice for people who swim in cold pools, lakes, rivers, or the ocean. You will still need to wear a wet suit though: contrary to the popular myth that 45% of heat loss is through your head, the head actually only accounts for 10% of your body’s surface area. So a thermal swim cap will only help you if the rest of your body is covered as well. Since they do not efficiently reduce drag, neoprene swim caps are more suited for open-water swimmers and triatheletes than for competition swimmers racing in heated pools. In addition, neoprene caps do not pull hair.
Ouch! Swimming Caps That Won’t Pull Hair
Caps made from softer fabrics like Lycra and neoprene won’t pull your hair at all. But, as discussed above, these materials are not the best for reducing drag. If you need to swim with a rubber, silicone, or latex cap for competition, try using baby power, talcum power, or corn starch in the cap while in storage, making it easier to put on without snagging.
How Water Temperature Can Effect Swim Caps
Although the neoprene and silicone swim caps are very durable, they are a thick material and tend to hold heat. If you’re swimming in a pool that is 80 degrees or warmer, a cap made of a thick material like neoprene can cause your body to overheat quickly. A better choice for warmer water is a latex cap. The thinner material will not hold heat as well, making your swim more comfortable.