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Scrub Cap 101: How To Find the Best Scrub Caps

While scrub caps are a common sight in the medical profession, you might be surprised to learn that these uniform essentials were traditionally worn to promote bonding in the profession, identify nursing expertise, and symbolize the noble nature of the healthcare profession. Today, the shift in nursing attire is more focused on functionality and hygiene. 

The American Society of Anesthesiologists includes surgical scrub hats in their clinical guidelines, stating that covering the hair and scalp with head gear is required in “restricted or semi-restricted procedural areas.” The guidelines also state when choosing a head covering to consider three primary factors: containment of particles, comfort, and fit.

While scrub caps (sometimes called nurses hats) aren't always a required piece of your daily workwear, they are important accessories you'll likely need to wear at one point or another. Just like choosing the best scrub set is a must for getting through your shift, so too is choosing the right scrub cap.

In this article, you’ll learn some of the common features of scrub caps when it comes to these three main guideline factors and how to pick out your next scrub cap. 

Bouffant vs. Skull Scrub Hat

When you hear the word “bouffant,” you probably think of the popular 1960s puffy hairstyle. Now, apply that puffy style to a scrub cap and you have the bouffant scrub hat. With a look that’s similar to a shower cap, bouffant scrub caps have more room in them and typically loosely fit on the head to easily cover long hair.

Conversely, skull cap-style scrub hats tend to be tighter fitting with less fabric than a bouffant-style topper. Skull caps are a popular option for those with short hair or bald heads, as the extra room is unnecessary.

Back in 2014, there was a big uproar in the surgical community after the Association of periOperative Registered Nurses (AORN) published guidelines stating bouffant hats were better at minimizing skin and hair shedding than skull caps.

This led to hospital management basically banning skull caps overnight. What came next were several additional task forces and studies that illustrated both styles were equally as effective at minimizing hair shedding, thus preventing potential bacterial infection. Today, most hospitals and healthcare facilities allow skull caps, and the AORN clarified their recommendation to include both fashions.

Bouffant and skull cap styles serve the same purpose, so it really comes down to personal preference. If you have long, unruly hair, or you don’t like feeling like you’re wearing a ballcap, the bouffant style like this Butter-Soft Scrub Cap might be your best bet.

On the other hand, if you’d rather have a closer-fitting cap that won’t get caught on your jacket or potentially brush against your face, a style like Dickies EDS Essentials Unisex Scrub Hat could be a great option for you.

The Adjustability of Your Scrub Cap

Most scrub caps come in one size, which makes the ability to adjust the size for fit and comfort especially important. Many scrub caps have a simple tie-back that can be adjusted like a drawstring to fit snugly on your head.

The adjustable ties can include only adjusting the fit in the back or it may have a drawstring along the entire hem of the scrub cap. Being able to adjust the hem can help create a more secure fit if you don’t mind losing the smooth appearance of a front band.

Cherokee has a scrub cap that has adjustable ties and also an elastic back. The elastic back provides extra movement to the cap so it fits well but is also comfortable to wear all shift long.

In addition to ties and elastic bands, some scrub caps have adjustable bungee ties on the back for easy adjusting. If you’d rather not deal with strings or ties at all, consider this Koi bouffant scrub hat that only has an elasticated back for comfort and fit.

Helpful Scrub Cap Details

scrub caps: nurse looking straight at the camera

If you have a lot of hair, finding a scrub cap with a pouch in the back can help you contain your mane without having to figure out how to wrap up your hair on your head. With an elasticated pouch, you can pull your hair back in a low ponytail and slip the scrub cap on without feeling constricted. Uniform Advantage has a three-piece scrub hat with drawcord ties and a pouch that comes in a cute scrub hat pattern.

If you work in a setting like the OR, ICU, or as a dental hygienist, you probably have to wear a face mask at some point during your day. This creates a functional issue with scrub caps because most scrub caps are designed to fit over your ears for extra coverage. Brands like Healing Hands have found a solution to the cap-and-mask conundrum by placing well-appointed buttons on the outside of the cap to attach your mask ear loops to the cap.

Another feature many scrub hats have is moisture-wicking material around the headband. Standing under hot OR lights or running around the ER can make you work up a sweat, so having a built-in sweatband can come in handy. This can also keep you from having to replace a damp surgical scrub cap in the middle of the day (and cut down on laundry).

Pick Your Scrub Cap Color or Pattern

When picking out your next scrub cap, you want to make sure it will match the rest of your uniform. From your scrub set and compression socks to nursing shoes and scrub jackets, there are plenty of ways to incorporate color and patterns in your workwear, and your scrub cap is no different.

Some facilities may require specific colors or have strict uniform guidelines, but if you have the option to pick your colors or patterns, take a look through your work wardrobe first. Do you tend to gravitate towards solid colors in a certain color scheme? If your wardrobe consists mostly of navy, black, or other dark hues, rocking a bright pink or unicorn patterned scrub hat might be a stretch. Or it might be the pop of color you need to round out your look. It really depends on your personality and personal style.

No matter what color or pattern cap you choose, you can always count on Keswi’s premium scrubs to have a set to match. With five timeless solid shades – black, pewter, navy, royal blue, and wine – there’s a color for every cap.

On the flip side, if your closet is full of color and patterns, sticking to a solid scrub cap can help balance out the vibrant hues and keep your look from becoming too busy or overwhelming. 

Top Off Your Medical Attire With a High-Quality Scrub Cap

Like many medical professionals, you may need to wear a scrub cap during your workday. As such, a scrub hat is an essential part of your uniform. To cut down on laundry every day, you probably want to invest in a few caps to cover your shifts for the week.

If you’re starting a new role that requires scrub caps or simply want to see if wearing one helps save time on your hairstyling efforts (hey, nothing fixes a bad hair day like a hat!), your best bet is to try a few different hat styles. Since they’re all relatively affordable, try both the bouffant or skull cap style to find your personal fave to match with your favorite pair of Keswi medical scrubs.

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