Comparing Latex and Silicone Swim Caps

Latex is cheaper, but silicone caps work better and last longer

swim cap
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A swim cap can help you go a little faster, stay a little warmer, and protect your hair from pool chemicals and the sun, whether it's cloth, latex, or silicone. Here's a look at the latex and silicone options:

Latex Swim Caps

Latex caps are made of a thin layer of latex. They are easy to order customized, are very stretchable, and are probably the most popular type of swim cap.

Durability
Latex swim caps can last a long time with proper care.

They tend toward ripping if a swimmer leaves in a metal hair clip, has a metal part of a hair band, snags an earring, or has sharp fingernails and pokes one through the cap. Latex caps can still be in good condition after two years.

Comfort
Latex caps are stretchy, so they fit most head sizes. They can "grab" long hair when being put on or removed, and having your hair pulled is not comfortable. Once a swimmer is experienced at donning a swim cap, this is usually not a big problem. Latex swim caps are nonporous, so if they are used in a warm environment they can increase a swimmer's body temperature. They trap a layer of warm water between the scalp and the cap, which insulates the swimmer's head from the cooling water of the swimming pool. One caution: Some swimmers have allergic reactions to latex.

Care
Proper care for a latex cap is about the same as for other types of caps. Rinse in cool water, air dry, and store out of the sun in a place that won't get too hot (heat can break down latex into a sticky mess).

Stuffing a small, dry towel inside the cap can help it dry better and prevent the inside surfaces from adhering to each other. Some swimmers powder their caps with talc or baby powder; while this gives the cap a longer life, it also makes a mess and keeps the cap from adhering to the head, so it tends to slip off more often.

Cost
They're cheap compared to other materials.

Popularity/Use
Latex caps are the most versatile and most used. They are relatively inexpensive, smooth, and conforming enough to work well for racing and training.

Silicone Swim Caps

Silicone caps are the top of the line. They are super-stretchy, hypoallergenic, and tend to be more durable than other types of caps.

Durability
Silicone caps will last a long, long time with proper care. Some caps can be used regularly for over three years. Like latex caps, silicone swim caps are subject to puncturing by sharp objects, but they are more puncture resistant than latex caps.

Comfort
Swimmers like silicone caps. They are very conforming, but not in a tight, restrictive way, They don't pull hair the same way a latex cap can, and they are easier to put on.

Care
Rinse, air dry, and store out of the sun, like any other type of swim cap. Putting a small towel inside can help the cap dry faster.

Cost
Silicone swim cap prices are usually higher than those for latex caps. As with other caps, you can usually find discounts for bulk purchases. 

Popularity/Use
Silicone swim caps increase in popularity as the level of competitions increases. At Summer Olympic Games, probably every swimmer wears a silicone swim cap or a latex cap under a silicone cap.

Since silicone tends to be very stretchy but also tends to hold its shape, it conforms and smooths, making a swimmer's head more hydrodynamic. Some silicone caps have special features to make them even more hydrodynamic.