The 12 Best Swim Caps of 2024

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The 12 Best Swim Caps of 2024

Long hours spent in the water, especially in a pool, can cause everything from split ends to serious hair damage. I’ve mitigated the risk by regularly wearing swim caps since childhood. Sometimes it was mandatory in the school pool, but for many young Black girls with hair relaxers, swim caps were a way to avoid uncomfortable conversations about why we didn’t want our hair to get drenched. Until I did my research to find the best swim caps out there, water managed to permeate, I often broke into a sweat trying to put them on, and, in adulthood, I found myself with a headache during swim workouts at the Y.

The variety of swim caps now available for kids and adults makes it easy to find one to suit your needs and priorities, whether you want something designed for a certain haircut, snorkeling, or multiple days a week at the pool. A wide range of materials, including latex, lycra, and silicone, cater to different styles and purposes.

Keeping all of these factors in mind, we’ve rounded up the best swim caps based on comfort, durability, purpose, and style.

Why We Love It: Comfortable with a high amount of elasticity, this swim cap can fit over a solid amount of hair and maintain a snug seal.

What to Consider: With dimensions of 8.7 x 5 x 0.7 inches, this will be a tight fit if you have big or longer hair.

There are few more recognizable names in the swim industry than Speedo. It’s a go-to brand trusted by professional athletes and casual swimmers alike, and you know what you’re getting with Speedo thanks to decades of lab research backing up its products. While this isn’t an extra-large cap, the high flexibility allows it to fit over a good amount of hair, and the silicone material is a great preventative measure against snagging and pulling. The cap is lined with a microgrid texture that keeps it in place during every lap or ride down the waterslide. Color options range from a vibrant lime to a fun watermelon graphic and black. When it comes to the best basic pick for the greatest number of people, this unisex cap’s high quality makes it ideal for training, competition, and leisure wear.

The Details: Silicone | One size | Not adjustable

Why We Love It: The retro style of this swim cap makes it stand out from the more athletic varieties.

What to Consider: Though there’s a comfortable stay-in-place edge, this is a looser cap designed for water fitness. A dive into a pool or water will surely break the loose seal.

Inspired by vintage photography and old films of women in stylish bathing caps — that’s what they were called in the past — I purchased two for the summer in recent years. Decorative and great in beach photos, these swim caps saved me hours in manipulating my vacation hair and shortened the transition time from beach day to dinner.

This 100 percent latex, pull-on style swim cap has a slight panel to cover the ears. However, this panel leads to a widened nape of the neck in the design, leaving room for water to come in despite the stay-in-place ledge. Although it has a snug fit, this Sporti swim cap is not airtight, so your hair is likely to get a little damp using it. But if looking like an old-Hollywood screen siren exiting the hotel pool is worth it to you, this could be the perfect pick.

The Details: Latex | One size | Not adjustable

Why We Love It: The extra space in the cap allows for a tight seal, leaving your hair dry and protected from harsh pool chemicals or salt water.

What to Consider: If you have more room in the back of the cap because you have less hair, the flapping excess can be cumbersome during laps.

Black-owned brand Soul Cap made headlines when it was initially barred from the 2020 Tokyo Olympics after the Federation for International Competition in Water Sports (FINA) decided that athletes did not need swim caps of such size and configuration. In 2022, the ban was reversed, furthering the brand’s mission to see inclusivity in all arenas of watersports by making swim caps that are designed to accommodate natural hair. Made from 100 percent silicone, the Soul Cap is bigger than traditional swim caps so swimmers with voluminous curls, locs, and braids can rest assured they won’t be wrestling to fit it over their hairstyle. The band provides a snug fit that’s airtight so your hair remains dry even with intense water activity. Another added bonus? The premium silicone is almost silky to the touch, creating minimal hair snagging.

Sizes L-XXL and junior are available to suit every hair length. Large is recommended for “thick or long hair down to your shoulders,” and XXL is designed for hair that goes past the middle of your back.

The Details: Silicone | L-XXL | Not adjustable

Why We Love It: This dome style is proven by experts to help reduce time spent putting on your swim cap.

What to Consider: It’s on the expensive end of swim caps, so only consider this purchase if milliseconds make a difference in your lap times.

Great for training, this Arena cap is a dome style, meaning it’s made of 100 percent silicone through 3D-molding technology. Thanks to a snug fit with higher compression, a dome cap reduces drag and provides a great fit. Molded silicone caps are designed to be completely smooth with no wrinkles, making them more hydrodynamic for competitive swimmers. If you’re especially serious about getting an edge on competition, consider trying the Aquaforce Wave Cap. Raised silicone waves and a rough microstructure on this external cap reduce surface drag, but, at $65, this is also not for the casual recreational swimmer.

The Details: Silicone | M-XL | Not adjustable

Why We Love It: Larger than average swim caps (9.1 x 11.4 inches), this Dsane swim cap was designed with voluminous and long hairstyles in mind.

What to Consider: If you do not have enough hair volume or length to fill the cap, water can seep in.

Natural hair/afro wearers often dread that fight to put on a swim cap. But the sodium hypochlorite — or bleach — found in swimming pools can be a nightmare to afro-hair with fewer cell layers, drying it out and leading to damage, so caps are a must. The less amount of chlorinated water getting in, the better. This Dsane swim cap’s design includes a roomy crown with a lot of hair in mind, reducing the struggles of fitting your tresses inside. Made of 100 percent silicone, the Dsane swim cap glides off easily: less snagging and pulling strands!

The Details: Silicone | XL | Not adjustable

Why We Love It: Great for a team sport or an event, this standard latex swim cap offers quality at an excellent price.

What to Consider: Even though Tyr’s is high quality and durable, latex is thin and prone to ripping. Watch out for those fingernails when putting this cap on.

A classic swim cap (it was probably one of your firsts), the Tyr Latex swim cap gives you the design and execution of a swim industry titan in the most basic of models. Tear-resistant, this swim cap is designed with all swimmers in mind. However, in a pool, latex does get damaged from constant chlorine, so after a while, the cap will need to be replaced. This is why the low price is so attractive. The Tyr cap is best for when you’re just getting your feet wet, so to speak.

If you’re training or doing water activities in a heated pool, you might want to consider the latex cap, as it’s a lot thinner than silicone and you’ll have fewer issues with feeling overheated. A latex model is definitely going to be your best bet for warm water. We also love the wide range of colors and think it makes this an ideal cap for group activities.

The Details: Latex | One size | Not adjustable

Why We Love It: The comfortable ergonomic ear pockets and tabs allow for maximum sealing.

What to Consider: The ear flaps do occasionally pull up.

A few of the swim caps we listed, like Soul Caps and Dsane, were designed to protect afro-textured hair and locs, but if you do not mind wetting your hair first, this is another great option to protect your hair while in a swim cap. Made of 100 percent silicone, The Friendly Swede Swim cap is slick to take on and off and will not snag your hair. With dimensions of 9.17 x 5.87 x 0.75 inches for the standard size, it’s not as voluminous as other protective swim caps, so there’s less chance of air bubbles and then water coming in. The Friendly Swede cap also is equipped with comfortable ergonomic ear pockets for perfect fit and to allow for maximum comfort. The extra space allows the cap to fit down over the nape of the neck for a snugger feel.

The Details: Silicone | One size | Not adjustable

Why We Love It: The neoprene scuba-style material is going to be your best bet in maintaining that body heat and keeping your head warm in open water swims.

What to Consider: Neoprene works by allowing some water in, heating it up with your body heat, and then using that water to insulate you. It’s not designed to be completely resistant to water.

Open-water swimming is quite popular amongst the racing community, and neoprene swim caps are your best bet for keeping your head warm in these cold water conditions. With a low drag hydrodynamic style, this thick thermal cap is made of the same material as scuba diving suits and is great if you’re regularly swimming in a cold ocean or lake. We love the bright orange color of this Zone3 Neoprene swim cap, which makes you more visible to vessels and other swimmers on open waters. This Zone3 cap is made from a 4-millimeter super-stretch neoprene and has a velcro chin strap to cater to different sizes. The strap function also prevents the cap from gradually riding up.

The Details: Neoprene | XS-L | Adjustable

Why We Love It: This reversible headscarf is made in part with recyclable materials and can be adjusted in the back, making it amenable for different head sizes and hairstyles.

What to Consider: This is a porous cloth material, so your hair will be wet after swimming.

This headscarf offers a seamless way to go from land to water workout. The tieback adjustable fit makes it ideal for a variety of hair lengths. Made from Infinitex Fitness Eco chlorine-resistant fabric, the Adidas Positivisea Print Headscarf is a great option for swimming in a pool and the breathable material is light enough to avoid overheating but thick enough to provide UV protection. This is a great option for water sports like snorkeling or days on a boat. The soft material prevents hair snagging too. One thing we love about this headscarf is the ease of putting it on. As it’s not silicone or lycra, it doesn’t require the strength or maneuvering typical of putting swim caps in place.

The Details: 78 percent recycled polyester, 22 percent elastane tricot | S-L | Adjustable

Why We Love It: The 3D molded ear pouch offers great protection against swimmer’s ear.

What to Consider: If not placed properly, the ear spaces can actually act as a reservoir for water that has seeped into the cap.

Are you prone to swimmer’s ear or ear infections? This Alepo 100 percent silicone swim cap with its molded 3D ear pouch was designed to work against overpressure, chlorine, or bacteria in the water. The 3D ergonomic style even has enough room to fit waterproof earbuds in case you like listening to music while you train. The durable, elastic material makes it easy to get over the ears. The shape allows for fastening tabs at the sides to seal the seepage points behind the ears and along the back of the neck with the thicker trim, keeping the tab from popping up with use.

The Details: 100 percent silicone | One size | Not adjustable

Why We Love It: We love the dorsal fins and patterns for distinguishing a child in the pool.

What to Consider: It’s a very particular style, so your child might age out of it quickly.

A good swim cap will keep hair out of your child’s eyes and help protect them against painful ear infections. A brightly colored pattern or design also helps you distinguish your child in a crowded swimming pool. We love this cute cap from Start Smart Kids with the choice of a blue shark with dorsal fin and tail or a pink minnow. Made of silicone, the inner side of the swim cap features grooves so as to make wearing it easy and to ensure it doesn’t snag the child’s hair. The ‎7.4 x 2.91 x 2.68-inch swim cap also features a molded ear cap to leave room to easily fit over your child’s ear without ripping the cap. You can also grab a pair of matching goggles to add extra fun to your day in the sun.

The Details: Silicone | One size | Not adjustable

Why We Love It: With UPF 50+ protection, this lightweight swim cap is great for warm-water swimming.

What to Consider: Lycra caps are completely porous, and your hair will get completely wet.

This lightweight swim cap is perfect if you don’t mind getting your hair wet and your main priorities are making sure your locks stay out of your face and maintaining sun protection. This durable cap offers UPF 50+ protection and is perfect for months of daily use in the pool. The soft, lycra fabric won’t pull or snag on your hair and is easy to put on and take off. Keep in mind that the best way to care for a lycra swim cap after the pool is to rinse it in a chlorine-neutralizing solution to maintain elasticity.

The Details: 80 percent recycled nylon, 20 percent xtra life lycra fiber | One size | Not adjustable

Swim caps are used universally, from a toddler in swim lessons to a triathlete in the bay to an Olympic swimmer. With all of this in mind, what are your reasons for buying a swim cap? Did you just join a new gym and swim caps are required for pool hygiene? Is your hair proving cumbersome and getting into your eyes during laps? Or maybe the pool’s chlorine is damaging your hair, causing breakage and split ends. On another note, you might be considering a swim cap for a triathlon in open water or for snorkeling during a family vacation. Are you or your child prone to ear infections? These are all scenarios to consider that may lead you to a different style and material of swim cap. Think carefully about your needs so there’ll be less trial and error in your selection.

A swim cap made out of silicone is the most popular among swimmers as it’s thick, durable, and doesn’t snag your hair. Latex is also a popular material, but its lower cost usually means it’s thinner and more likely to rip. However, the thin material may actually be better if you’re swimming in a heated pool or body of water and are at risk of overheating. A lycra swim cap is made out of the same material as your swimsuit and is probably the most comfortable, but it is not water-resistant. If getting a lycra swim cap, consider chin straps as these caps are more prone to falling off. 

One of the biggest misconceptions about swim caps is that they’re supposed to keep your hair dry. While often an added bonus, keeping your hair dry is not the main objective of a swim cap. If this is a concern, a tight silicone cap should do most of the job of keeping your hair from getting wet, or you can double up on a silicone cap with a lycra cap underneath.

There are a few benefits to wearing a swim cap. If you swim competitively, a swim cap is best for hydro-dynamics, as a swim cap prevents your hair from acting as drag, slowing you down in the water or coming undone so you can’t see.

As mentioned, caps aren’t made to prevent your hair from getting wet, but they will prevent it from being absolutely soaked with salt water or chlorinated water — both of which are pretty damaging to your hair. When in high-reflection environments, like snorkeling, swim caps also provide great sun protection. In those cases, you may want to try a lycra one for breathability.

Swim caps also are pretty hygienic, especially in a public pool. Have you ever been doing laps when a cluster of hair floats by? This can clog up pool drains. That’s the main reason why many public pools, say at your gym or spa, might have a swim-cap mandate.

If pulling is a main concern of yours, try a lycra swim cap, as they are easy to put on and the soft material will not pull at your hair. Silicone is also another great option as the material slides over your hair instead of gripping it. With latex swim caps, there is a chance of pulling when removing a swim cap, especially around the hairline.

Hold the cap by the sides and with your head tilted forward, pull the cap over your forehead and move backward. If you have long hair that is able to be styled into a bun, that is a great option for wearing under your swim cap. Another great option for long hair is leaving your hair out in the back and tucking it into the cap, and then smoothing the edge of the cap to make sure the seal is tight.

A well-fitting swim cap fits over all of your hair, seemingly sealed, but is not so tight that it leaves forehead marks, which can lead to subsequent headaches.

To ensure the durability of your cap, rinse it in cold water after using it and let it air dry. Do not leave your cap in the sun for long periods of time. A swimmer’s trick is to sprinkle talcum powder inside of your swim cap after it dries to prevent the cap from sticking to itself and accumulating any mold or bacteria. 

Multi-hyphenate Nneya Richards (pronounced en-NYE-ah) is a fashion and travel creative, blogger, and public speaker. She is best known for her blog, ’N A Perfect World, a curated intersection of travel, food, style, and geopolitics, inspired by the millennial global citizen. Nneya is a twice-published author, most recently contributing a short story about a trip to Cuba for the dance and travel anthology “Dance Adventures: True Stories About Dancing Abroad.” To curate this list of the best swim caps, she researched and used dozens of products and spoke to several triathletes and recreational swimmers in her life.

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The 12 Best Swim Caps of 2024

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