Looking for swim cap recommendations.
November 2, 2009 2:07 PM   Subscribe

Tell me about swim caps.

I take water aerobics twice a week. I'm growing my hair a bit longer and want to start wearing a swimming cap to protect my hair and to comply with the pool's regulations.

I bought a basic silicone cap but it pulled my hair and gave me a headache and I hated it and threw it away. I'm hoping there is some magical alternative out there.

I have a large-ish head and slightly longer than ear-length, thick-ish hair, if that helps. I don't care too much about looking foolish, but I am not entirely lacking in vanity.
posted by jennyb to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (15 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
There are lycra swim caps that will be easier on your hair (from a pulling perspective) - but won't help as much in keeping water out.
posted by bitdamaged at 2:16 PM on November 2, 2009

also note there are latex caps as well but I don't think you'll like them any better then the silicone ones.
posted by bitdamaged at 2:17 PM on November 2, 2009

I would also be thrilled to hear any tricks on how to properly don a swim cap, if there are any. With the silicone cap, it is possible I was Doing It Wrong.
posted by jennyb at 2:22 PM on November 2, 2009

My experience is with the latex type (years of competitive swimming) Our technique was to fill it up with water which would stretch it out a bit and then pull over the head (tilting the head down a bit). This was usually done while standing in the shallow end.
posted by bitdamaged at 2:27 PM on November 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

Lycra/fabric caps are a lot less tight but not really waterproof, per bitdamaged. I wore one when I had long hair while swimming and it was very comfortable. being a guy, having a wet ponytail and split ends wasn't a big deal though, so YMMV.
posted by GuyZero at 2:28 PM on November 2, 2009

Its been more than a decade since I was a swimmer but at the time silicone caps were the best you could get - they kept your hair bone dry and they didn't pull or stick to your hair like regular latex caps and didn't need talc on the inside to keep them usable. If it was giving you a headache maybe it was just too small. If you buy from a store then maybe you could try a different brand with more stretch or a more generous fit. I never had problems with my silicone cap pulling my hair (and I'm very "hair sore") but putting a bit of talc inside the cap before you put it on can make it easier on your hair.
posted by missmagenta at 2:28 PM on November 2, 2009

Also we'd usually store our caps with a good dose of baby powder in it (toss it in while wet and rub around a bit, the cap would end up coated in a thin film of the powder), this keeps it from getting all stuck together making it harder to put on. I don't think the silicone caps have quite the same issue.
posted by bitdamaged at 2:29 PM on November 2, 2009

If you wet your hair with fresh water (shower, faucet) before entering the pool, the hair shaft is already saturated and less likely to soak up chlorinated water. I use bitdamaged's method for putting the cap on, so: wet your hair in the shower, fill the cap with non-chlorinated water like you're holding a bucket by the edges, and pour the "bucket" over your head while snugging the cap on. Also, you might look into Ultra Swim shampoo and conditioner.
posted by cocoagirl at 2:35 PM on November 2, 2009

bitdamaged has one pretty common method there. The other I've seen, and the one I personally use is to hold it with both hands inside the cap, place it against your forehead and pull it back over the rest of your hair. I have long hair and either have it in a bun or make it into the shape of a bun and sort of hold it in place with my hands (tucking in the lose stuff after).

I used the latex caps for competition, but I haven't had any trouble with hair pulling using my silicone practice cap. I have definitely had the headache problem from caps that are too tight. Again, going with the silicone cap largely solved that problem for me.

(I've never tried to use a cap with the intent of keeping my hair dry so I can't offer any tips on that front.)

You can buy swim caps in different sizes. Check the manufacturer's site to see what size should be right for you (they are pretty general sizes so you are probably looking for a large). What you got in the store is probably "Classic" size.
posted by Feantari at 2:52 PM on November 2, 2009

Lycra caps are good for wearing under latex caps, to prevent the latex cap from your hair out. Neither silicone nor latex, I've found, keep my hair particularly dry, but I have a LOT of hair, and the point of a cap isn't so much to be watertight as it is to keep you streamlined in the water. I preferred silicone caps because I found that it pulled less hair out anyway, negating the need for my lycra cap.

I'm also seconding bitdamaged's method for putting on a cap, but with one other step. After you wet your hair in the shower, run a handful of conditioner into your hair. It doesn't (and shouldn't) be great conditioner - VO5 or whatever is cheap at the drug store. It is hair-protective - one more thing for the chlorine to get through on the way to your hair. Rinse it out when you take your cap out and shampoo with a chlorine removing shampoo (L'oreal Kids makes a great 2-in-1 post-swim shampoo) and comb through your hair to get any residual tangles out. After years of swimming competitively and teaching lessons year-round this was what kept my difficult, very curly hair looking really, really good.
posted by honeybee413 at 2:58 PM on November 2, 2009 [2 favorites]

seconding honeybee's remark. A swimmer for many years here, with long thick hair. A handful of cheap conditioner, mine is White Rain, because I don't mind the smell. I twist my hair in two braids across the top of my hair and stuff it under a lycra cap. Follow post swim with good quality shampoo and leave in conditioner. Remarks from many different hairdressers about no hair damage.
posted by effluvia at 3:24 PM on November 2, 2009 [2 favorites]

The conditioner-under-the-cap trick sounds good, and I'm guessing would help keep the silicone cap from pulling my hair. Given that the silicone cap won't keep my hair completely dry, will the conditioner wash into the pool?

Also, I am almost positive that I tried to put the silicone cap on while my hair was dry, which I am now recognizing as a mistake.

Thanks for all of the great answers!
posted by jennyb at 3:43 PM on November 2, 2009

The conditioner-under-the-cap trick will turn into a conditioner-is-so-slippery-cap-comes-off trick if the cap isn't ridiculously tight (in my experience, as someone with a large head like yourself). Also, if all you're doing is water aerobics and not swimming laps, why are you putting your head underwater to begin with? If you're able to keep your head above water a lycra swim cap (mentioned earlier) is by far your best alternative.
posted by kthxbi at 4:15 PM on November 2, 2009

I just like putting my head underwater sometimes. It's fun!
posted by jennyb at 7:42 PM on November 2, 2009

This is how I put on my swimming cap when I am already in the pool: Turn the swim cap inside out. Fill it with water. Rest the cap (with water) on top of your head. Then gently pull down the cap so that the weight of the water molds the cap right onto your head! I hope I explain it well enough - I am not good enough to draw diagrams.
posted by serunding at 11:14 PM on November 2, 2009

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