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Why do we wear swimming caps?

Lycra, Latex, Silicone, Neoprene, rubber, spandex all types of swimming caps... Why do we use them?

As I'm sure everyone who's ever worn a swimming cap will know- swimming caps do not keep your hair dry or keep water out your ears. So, this then begs the question... Why do we wear swimming caps at all? The main function of a swimming cap is to keep hair out the water. By doing so, it performs many other functions such as keeping your hair out your face while swimming, protecting your hair from the chlorine, keeping your head warm and it also helps you to swim faster! Keeping hair out the pool... The most gross thing that pool maintenance people have to deal with, is other people's hair. Or even as a swimmer, having someone else's hair stick to you when swimming - gross gross gross. Hair gets stuck in the pool filters, drains and collects at the bottom of the pool making cleaning difficult and just plain nasty. Everybody's hair falls out, it's human nature. But the least we can do for the pool maintenance team, who put in many hours keeping the pool sparkling clean for us, is to keep our hair out the pool. If not for them, then your fellow swimmers.

Keeping your hair in place... For people with shorthair- lucky you, but for those of us who have long hair - it gets in the way. While swimming, when breathing or stroking, our hair gets stuck on our backs, shoulders, arms and face. This makes swimming a challenge. Not only can you not breathe when your hair is coving your face, you can't see either, allowing for the perfect opportunity for a head bump into the wall or lane rope. Wearing a swimming cap allows you to keep your hair nicely tied back without it getting in your face or sticking to you, resulting in more time actually swimming than moving your hair out the way. Chlorine protection... Swimming caps don't keep your hair completely dry. Some areas, like the top of your head- yes, others, like the bottom of your head - not so much. Chlorine and other chemicals are necessary in keeping the water clean to swim in, you can, however, protect your hair a bit. By wetting your hair beforehand with non-pool water and then putting on your cap, your hair will not be able to absorb chlorinated water from the pool. This option is better than applying hair treatments as they can often be oily or soapy and make the cap difficult to keep on your head and they make the pool water dirty.

Keeping your head warm... For people swimming in a heated pool, keeping your head warm isn't exactly a problem, keeping it cool is. As we exercise and move around, our body increases in temperature. For a swimmer, this heat gets trapped inside your cap. When swim training, it isn't uncommon to get hot even though you are in an unheated pool. For swimmers who don't usually warm up much, a silicone cap is best. For swimmers who get hot easily, a latex cap is better.

For prolonged swims in cold water, a neoprene cap will work best as they are the same material that wetsuits are made of.

Open water swimmer smiling wearing her wetsuit and swimming cap

When open water swimming, being visible to others on shore, on boats or even other swimmers is absolutely vital. Bright coloured swim caps make it easier to spot you as you stand out against the water colour. Safety swimmers (swimming buoy) provide the same function without causing drag and can act as a flotation device when tired or injured, some can even store valuables in them while you swim.

Swimming caps can prevent water from entering the ears but only to a certain extent. For complete prevention of water entering the ear canal, earplugs are the best option. Caps can also assist with keeping the ear plugs in place by pulling it over your ears.

Wearing a swim cap can help you swim a little faster!? Swim caps can make you feel like your head is slicing through the water, which is actually correct. Long haired swimmers who wear a cap, will notice an increase in speed as their hair doesn't soak up water and drag behind them. Caps generally compress the swimmer's hair and head and the wrinkles produced create a more cutting effect, this being latex or silicone caps. Lycra caps however are more used for leisure swimming than competitions as they are porous and allow for water to absorb.

swimmer swimming in streamline wearing costume and swimming cap.

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