How to Keep Your Swim Cap from Falling Off (Easy Guide)


The swim cap is a vital piece of equipment for any serious swimmer. Rarely, if ever, do long-haired swimmers engage in a pool workout without one. Nevertheless, one common problem that continues to plague swimmers is the inability of certain swim caps to stay on. For this reason, many swimmers inquire about any proven strategies to keep their swim caps from falling off.

You can keep your swim cap from falling off by:

  • Reevaluating how you put your swim cap on.
  • Correcting any mistakes with your swim technique.
  • Keeping your hair organized and free of product.
  • Getting the appropriate sized swim cap.

At first glance, these strategies just seem like insignificant details. After reading the sections below, however, you will find out just how massive the implications are if you neglect these details. Unfortunately, it only takes one mistake for a swim cap slip off of your head.

Reevaluate How You Put Your Swim Cap On

If you struggle to keep your swim cap on, the very first thing you should observe is how you place your swim cap on your head. Many swimmers are under the impression that all they have to do is pull the swim cap over their heads. Contrary to popular opinion, this process is not as straightforward as that.

Simply placing the swim cap on the head may work for certain people, but the swim cap is more likely to fall off this way. There are a few things that you should keep in the back of your mind and subsequently apply as you put your swim cap on. To make things easier on you, we will go through these ideas step-by-step.

Wet Your Hair & Swim Cap Beforehand

First and foremost, make sure to wet both your hair and swim cap before everything else. Wetting your hair will help to flatten it down, which makes it easier to put the swim cap on and to keep it in place. Hair tends to be more full and voluminous when it’s dry, which can make it difficult to put the swim cap in an ideal position.

Plus, adjusting a swim cap with dry hair can hurt. In the absence of water, hair strands can be pulled out by the swim cap material as they rub together. Trust me when I say that this is not a pleasant feeling!

It’s smart to wet the swim cap as well since it yields its own benefits in placing the swim cap in the correct position. Some swimmers just give their swim cap a shallow rinse. Oftentimes, it’s better to pool the interior of the swim cap with a bit more water. This helps to stretch the material, which eases the process of correctly placing the swim cap on your head.

Since you’re planning on being wet anyway, there’s really no drawback to pouring a little water on your head as you flip the swim cap on. Getting wet just a little earlier far outweighs the pain of accidentally pulling out your own hair.

Align the Swim Cap’s Seam from Front to Back

As you put the swim cap on, be weary of the orientation of the swim cap’s seam. If you notice, every swim cap that comes out of the packaging is folded with a manufactured seam that runs across the material. This seam serves a greater purpose than simple aesthetics. It acts as a guide for how the swim cap should be placed onto the head.

The seam should run from the front of your head to the back of your head. It should not run ear to ear. By orienting the seam in the wrong direction, your swim cap is bound to fall off.

This is because everything will essentially be backwards. The swim cap will lack space in places where it should have plenty of room and have too much space in places where it doesn’t require ample room. To avoid these issues, make sure that the seam of your swim cap is oriented correctly.

Pull the Swim Cap Down to the Eyebrows

With the seam in the appropriate direction, the next order of business is to be certain that the swim cap has been pulled down far enough.

You don’t want the front of the swim cap to lie at your hairline. At this position, the swim cap is hardly even on. It won’t take much force from the water to pull the swim cap off your head. A simple dive off of the blocks would likely be enough to rip the swim cap free.

Instead, you should do your best to pull down the swim cap to just above eyebrow level. Don’t pull it too far though! If you pull it too far, you may risk tearing your swim cap. In the event that the material doesn’t tear, it will likely interfere with the seal of your goggles. This may resolve the issue of your swim cap falling off, but it creates a whole different problem with water leaking into your goggles.

Smooth Out Any Bunched Hair Beneath the Swim Cap

This may not be a problem for short-haired swimmers, but long-haired swimmers should take the extra time to flatten down their hair once their swim cap is fully on. It’s more than likely that certain sections of your hair have bunched up, even if you did implement all the steps above.

Bunched up hair can lead to your swim cap falling off because it typically creates air bubbles within the swim cap. These air bubbles can become a major problem later on as you spend long bouts underwater. Since these air bubbles want to escape up to the surface from beneath the swim cap, they can take the pressure off of the cap and disturb the tightness of its seal.

Ideally, you want the swim cap to lie perfectly smooth against your head with your hair evenly distributed underneath. This not only helps to keep your swim cap from falling off, but it also helps to reduce water drag. Not to mention that bunched up, lopsided hair can make the shape of your head look rather strange to a passerby.

Wear Your Goggles Over Your Swim Cap

The correct placement of goggles in relation to the swim cap has been a hotly debated topic in the swimming community. Some argue that goggles should be worn over the swim cap, while others argue that goggles should be worn under the swim cap.

Ultimately, there’s no real right or wrong way to wear your swim cap and goggles. As a general rule of thumb, it’s best to do whatever is the most comfortable for you.

You can find additional information regarding how you should wear your goggles and swim cap by clicking over to Should You Wear Goggles Over or Under a Swim Cap?

That said, if you’re struggling to keep your swim cap on, you should at least experiment with the idea of wearing goggles over your swim cap.

The goggle straps will help to fix the swim cap material in place, especially if your goggles are set to the appropriate tightness. It can act as yet another safeguard to maintain the position of your swim cap, rather than relying solely on the tightness of the swim cap itself.

If you have a pair of goggles that features two straps, you should stagger the position of these straps to maximize its firmness. For example, if you put your hair up into a bun beneath the swim cap, you should stagger one strap above the bun and the other strap below the bun.

By spreading out the goggles’ points of contact along the surface of the swim cap, there’s a stronger likelihood that it will stay on.

Correct Any Mistakes with Your Swimming Technique

For some of you, the problem may not lie with how you put on your swim cap. Instead, the root of the issue may lie with your swimming technique.

Refrain from Swimming with Your Head Up

It can be tempting to want to look forward as you swim. It’s only natural to want to see what’s in front of you, since that’s what everyone normally does while walking on land. Sadly, this is not the best practice when it comes to swimming.

With many popular swimming strokes—like the freestyle or butterfly stroke—it’s advised that you make a conscious effort to look at the bottom of the pool as you glide underwater. In case of the backstroke, it’s advised that you look directly at the ceiling.

Whatever the case may be, the crown of the head should act as the leading edge. This way, the crown of the head takes on the brunt of the water drag and the force of the water pushes the swim cap material onto the scalp.

When a swimmer looks forward, this does not happen. Instead, their face takes on the brunt of the water drag. As they propel themselves forward, the water flows across their face and pushes back the seal of the swim cap. Over time, this effect can compound and eventually push the swim cap completely off of the swimmer’s head.

If you have a bad habit of looking up when you swim, this may very well be the primary cause of all of your swim cap problems. In this scenario, your swim cap’s inability to stay on is merely just a symptom of a much greater issue.

Perfect Your Turn Technique

Another prospective culprit that can detract from your swim cap’s ability to stay on is how you go about flip turning—or tumble turning—underwater.

The flip turn is an essential skill for any serious swimmer. It allows swimmers to quickly flip directions every time they reach the wall at the end of their lap lane without disrupting their rhythm.

The problem is that there are many subtle ways where a swimmer can go wrong during this movement. One minor mistake can lead to a break in your momentum, water up your nose, or—in this case—your swim cap falling off.

If you think your tumble turn technique needs a fair bit of work, you should watch the video below for a complete overview of how to perform this technique correctly.

After having applied these various technique tips, your swim cap will have a much more difficult time slipping off.

Keep Your Hair Organized & Free of Product

Another point to consider if your swim cap keeps falling off is the condition of your hair. Since the swim cap material is mostly contacting your hair, it would make sense that your hair’s condition plays a vital role in how well your swim cap is able to maintain its position when immersed in water.

Avoid Cleansing with Shampoo & Conditioner Immediately Before a Swim

It’s common courtesy to shower prior to any swimming session. Since you’re entering a community pool, the least you should do is cleanse yourself of any harmful germs and stop them from accompanying you to the pool.

You can learn more about the importance of showering before swimming by clicking over to Should You Shower Before or After Swimming? (Explained).

However, if you’ve had problems in the past with your swim cap, soaking your hair in slippery substances probably isn’t the best way to go. These substances will make your cap much more prone to slippage.

It’s difficult for the swim cap material to get a grip, even if you do thoroughly rinse your hair afterwards. A good amount of shampoo and conditioner will inevitably linger, no matter how well you rinse with water.

Put Long Hair into a Bun or Braid

Short-haired swimmers can skip past this tip, but it’s imperative that the long-haired swimmers take this one to heart.

When hair strands are loose underneath a swim cap, it’s much easier for the swim cap to fall off. Loose hair strands can break the seal between the swim cap material and the skin, permitting water to seep through. If enough water passes through, your swim cap may work against you from the inside out.

The better the seal, the better you’ll be able to keep your swim cap on.

It may be a little more time consuming, but putting your hair in a bun or braid will help to mitigate this problem. Not only will it destroy the potential for trapped water and air bubbles, it will also be easier to tuck all of your hair underneath the swim cap.

Get the Appropriate Sized Swim Cap

If all else fails, it may just be that you’re wearing a swim cap that’s ill-suited for your head structure and hair volume. Under these circumstances, you may have to invest an entirely new swim cap that actually fits you.

Stretch Out Your Swim Cap

Before you commit to buying a new swim cap, you should take a good hard look at your current swim cap first. Oftentimes, swim caps need a couple of hard pool sessions to be broken in.

Just like a new pair of shoes, a swim cap typically won’t be perfectly suited for your head right out of the packaging. It needs time to stretch in certain places to fit the contours of your head. If you don’t take the time to endure this adjustment period, your swim cap will never have the opportunity to stretch and fit right.

So if your swim cap is still relatively new, experiment with it for a few more pool sessions. You may find that the resolution to your problem has do with patience.

Wear a Larger Swim Cap

Contrary to popular opinion, swim caps are not one size fits all. Swim caps vary in size from brand to brand. Depending on which brand you buy from, your swim cap may be too small.

Head size is not the only factor that should be taken into account. Hair volume is equally as important. Certain swim caps are specially tailored for long hair, while other swim caps are better suited for short hair.

As a general rule of thumb, the longer and thicker a swimmer’s hair, the greater the likelihood of their swim cap falling off. If you have long, thick hair and struggle to keep your swim cap on, wearing a larger swim cap should make a noticeable difference.

On a similar note, your swim cap should not feel like it’s cutting off the circulation to your head. It should feel tight, but not that tight!

So if you cannot stand to wear your swim cap for any extended duration of time in the water because of major discomfort, it would be in your best interest to go up a size.

Switch Up Your Swim Cap Material

The last point of consideration is the material of the swim cap itself. Time and time again, swimmers run into issue with certain swim cap materials—namely latex and silicone.

With these swim cap materials, swimmers tend to complain of excess tightness and mild discomfort. Long-haired swimmers often gripe about how these materials tug on the strands of their hair. In certain cases, this tugging may even occasionally uproot a few hair strands. Obviously, no swimmer wants to lose their hair without good reason.

Most experienced swimmers lean toward swim caps that are made of lyrca or nylon. These materials fit just tight enough to keep the swim cap on your head without sacrificing comfort. This way, you can focus entirely on your swimming workout, rather than worry incessantly over your swim cap.

Put simply, the size of the swim cap is not the only thing that matters. The material itself can affect how well the swim cap stays on as well.

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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