Do Swim Caps Keep Hair Dry? (Here’s What to Expect)


It can be a hassle to deal with wet hair, especially when it’s drenched after a swim session. If you haven’t worn a swim cap before, you may be under the impression that this swim accessory may be the solution to your hair wetness problem, but is this actually the truth?

Swim caps fail to keep hair completely dry because that’s not their intended function. Rather, the purpose of swim caps is to make swimmers more hydrodynamic and tidy up loose hair strands. However, swim caps can help to keep hair only partially wet, instead of fully drenched.

In the subsequent sections, we’ll go over the underlying reasons for why swim caps fail to protect your precious hair from pool water. Read until the end to receive additional tips on how to keep hair wetness to a minimum, in spite of rigorous underwater swimming exercises.

Why Swim Caps Fail to Keep Hair Completely Dry

Some of you likely came to this article with the belief that swim caps would be the saving grace of your hair. I hate to burst your bubble, but this is not the case for the following reasons.

Swim Caps are Not Intended to Be Complete Water Sealants

The purpose of swim caps has nothing to do with the wetness of your hair, contrary to popular opinion. Swim caps are primarily designed to reduce water drag so that they can move faster underwater. They also function to clear hair strands out of a swimmer’s face to increase underwater visibility.

Swim caps may help to mitigate some of the negative effects that pool chemicals may have on your hair by acting as a physical barrier, but this was not the primary goal of swim cap manufacturers. Their only concern is with swimming performance, not hair aesthetics.

Plus, it could be argued that a completely waterproof swim cap would actually be a detriment to swimming performance rather than a benefit.

If chilled water were prohibited from accessing a swimmer’s scalp, this part of the body would be disproportionately warmer than the rest of their body. On top of the lack of cool water, any heat lost through the scalp would be confined underneath the swim cap. Approximately, 7 to 10% of body heat is lost through the head, so a swimmer would definitely notice this additional entrapped heat (source).

This excess head warmth may be distracting for swimmers, to the point where they may even be convinced that they’re overheated. Distractions like these typically do not bode well with swimming performance, particularly when they feel that their health is at risk.

For further information about overheating in swimmers, click over to Why Your Body Feels Hot After Swimming (Explained!).

Even if swim cap manufacturers had a particular interest in forming a watertight seal with their designs, it would be a near impossible task to accomplish. Much of these problems have to do with the nature of water, which is our next topic of discussion.

Water Can Seep Into the Tiniest Cracks and Crevasses

The sad truth is that it’s near impossible to keep you hair completely dry when swimming because of the inherent properties of water. Water has a knack for uncovering the smallest access points, regardless of how tight a seal may seem.

It would take an engineering miracle for a swim cap to be 100% effective at keeping water out.

For one, no two swimmers have identical head dimensions in terms of shape and size. For this reason, a completely waterproof cap would have to be perfectly contoured to the swimmer’s head. Too loose, and water will seep in. Too tight, and the swim cap will be too uncomfortable to wear.

Another thing to consider is that humans do not have perfectly smooth skin. Human skin has natural creases and wrinkles throughout, which affords water numerous access points to gradually seep underneath the swim cap. The cap would quite literally have to fasten to the skin to seal up any possible leakage points.

Needless to say, such an undertaking would require more resources than it’s worth. For these reasons, swimmers must inevitably come to terms with the fact that their hair is going to get wet.

Why People Mistakenly Believe Swim Caps Keep Hair Dry

The misconception that swim caps are waterproof likely stems from their appearance and tightness around the head. The look and feel of a swim cap often gives people the impression that they feature an airtight seal.

Often times, people underestimate how effective water is at locating weak points in a seal and exploiting such vulnerabilities. As previously discussed, the fluid state of water is nothing to be trifled with, especially considering just how much time swimmers put their head underwater over the course of a workout.

It also doesn’t help that certain swim cap products have been marketed as “waterproof” to the public. These so-called “waterproof swim caps” are often meant for activities where an individual’s head is predominantly above water, like water aerobic exercises for instance.

Under these circumstances, it’s very possible that a person may be able to keep their hair completely dry since they’re not submerging themselves underwater. Unfortunately, swimmers immerse their heads underwater for the majority of their workout.

Consequently, when a swimmer tries on one of these “waterproof swim caps,” they’re shocked to find that they’re not so waterproof after all.

In short, don’t buy into any swim cap that claims that their product is 100% effective at keeping water out. Instead, you keep your expectations realistic and be ready for post-swim hair wetness.

If Swim Caps Fail to Keep Hair Dry, Are They Even Worth Wearing?

Now that we’ve discussed the functionalities and misconceptions surrounding swim caps, the thought has probably crossed your mind of whether or not they are worth wearing.

Even if you don’t plan on becoming the fastest swimmer in the world, it’s smart to get into the habit of wearing a swim cap if you have long hair. You won’t have to exert as much force to propel yourself in the water. Plus, your rhythm won’t be constantly disrupted by loose hair strands obstructing your vision.

If these reasons aren’t convincing enough, at least wear a swim cap as a common courtesy to others in the pool.

Hair strands are already prone to breaking when faced with physical pressure. The high concentrations of chlorine present in pool water only weaken these hair strands further (source). No one wants to have to deal with somebody else’s hair strands floating around in the water.

So although wearing a swim cap may not be the solution to your hair wetness problem, it can be of great assistance in other facets of your swimming. These benefits make it well worth it for long-haired individuals to wear a swim cap.

Ways to Reduce Post-Swim Hair Wetness

Once you’ve come to accept the fact that your hair will never be completely dry after prolonged underwater swimming, you can begin to experiment with strategies to help keep your hair at least partially dry.

Center Your Hair High Up on Your Head

One way to reduce hair wetness is to organize your hair so that it’s positioned high up on your head, while still being in the center.

One way to accomplish this is to organize your hair into a high bun. With this hairstyle, your hair is tucked safely away from the fringes of the swim cap where the most amount of water contact is likely to occur. Once the swim cap is on, you may have to smooth out the bun beneath the swim cap so that it lays flat. Other than that, however, you should be good to go!

Another viable option is to have someone braid your hair and then carefully layer it over the top of your head underneath the swim cap. This accomplishes the same basic goal of trying to concentrate the most amount of hair away from the swim cap fringes, where water is likely to pool.

The main drawback with this method is that you will need the assistance of another person to handle the braiding. If there’s not someone nearby willing to do this for you, you might just be out of luck.

Wear Two Swim Caps

Another method of reducing post-swim hair wetness is to wear two swim caps simultaneously.

With this technique, the underlying rationale is that if one swim cap layer is enough to decrease hair wetness, why not slap on another layer on top of that? Although still not quite 100% waterproof, adding a secondary physical barrier between the pool water and your hair should make a slight difference.

This may take some getting used to though, as doubling the swim caps may also double the discomfort level. It may take some trial and error to see which two swim caps work in combination the best.

Wear a Shower Cap Under Your Swim Cap

Another way to implement the two-layer strategy described above is to wear a shower cap and a swim cap together, rather than just two swim caps.

When this method was first described to me, I was skeptical of its results. But it seems that this method actually yields better results than the two-swim cap strategy.

Although, it is worth mentioning that it takes some additional effort to packing the shower cap completely underneath the swim cap, as the shower cap does have a tendency to protrude outward from the swim cap’s fringes. Once this problem is fixed, however, it should be smooth sailing from there.

If you truly want to keep your hair as dry as possible during and after a swim, you may want to consider employing multiple strategies at once. For example, your hair may stay even drier if you were to put your hair into a high bun and stuff it beneath two swim caps.

All in all, there’s no tried and true way to go about the issue of post-swim hair wetness, so be creative in your approach!

If you would like to see any of these aforementioned strategies in live action, watch the clip below!

Shave Your Head

If all else fails, it may be time to consider shaving off all your hair as a last resort.

This may not be the answer you want to hear, but many swimmers opt to go this route once their hair has been excessively bleached and damaged beyond repair by chlorine. Not only that, it also may actually help you to move faster underwater, since there’s less hair to promote water drag.

Of course, some of you will never ever consider this to be an option no matter the circumstances, but it’s an idea to keep in your back-pocket.

Final Thoughts

When you swim underwater, expect for your hair to get at least partially wet, regardless of how many swim caps you wear or what hairstyle you choose. There are ways to slightly reduce how wet your hair gets, but at the end of the day, water will find a way past your swim cap seal.

No matter how wet your hair gets, don’t let this discourage you from swimming! There’s a lot more to be had from swimming than wet hair.

Sources: 1 2

Austin Carmody

I am the owner of HydroPursuit. I enjoy kicking back and getting out on the water as much as I can in my free time.

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