How to snorkel with a beard the easy way
Every bearded snorkeler knows that even a mustache gets in the way of a tight mask seal. What’s less known is that you don’t have to shave to save your snorkeling holiday.
Anyone knows how quickly an ill-fitted mask drowns the fun of snorkeling. Water gushes in and before you know it your snorkeling holiday is spent draining your mask. Every bearded snorkeler knows that even a mustache gets in the way of a tight mask seal. What’s less known is that you don’t have to shave to save your snorkeling holiday. So what can you do to enjoy snorkeling without having to shave?
- Grease: You can create a good seal by greasing your beard or mustache and the skirt of your snorkel mask. Avoid certain products. They can destroy your mask.
- Shave: You can avoid a leakage if you know where to shave.
- Buy a dive hood: You can cover your full beard with a dive hood to prevent your facial hair from getting in the way of your mask seal.
- Buy the right kind of snorkel gear: Your facial hair determines if you should buy a snorkeling mask, swimming goggles, or a full face mask.
- Buy quality snorkel gear: You can overcome leakage and get a good seal if you buy a mask that properly fits on your face. There are a few things you need to remember when buying a mask.
Avoid vaseline and use these products instead
Vaseline is perhaps the most common product that people use to create an effective seal. Just rub your beard and the skirt of your snorkel mask and the problem is solved! But vaseline is only a short-term solution.
In the long run vaseline damages your mask. This is because vaseline is a petroleum jelly which erodes the mask skirt.1 Consider greasing your facial hair instead to avoid expensive repairs. Here is a list of greasing products you can use instead of vaseline:
- Silicone grease
- Wax hair products
Silicone grease creates an effective seal without damaging your mask because it is silicone oil mixed with a thickener and not a petroleum jelly. Avoid perfumed greasing products. Perfume can damage the silicone skirt and cause fogging.
Grease can only get you so far. Buying high quality snorkel gear is important, so what type of mask should you buy on Amazon?
What kind of snorkel gear should you buy?
The kind of snorkeling mask you should buy depends on whether you have a full beard or a mustache. Swimming goggles work well for snorkelers regardless of facial hair. In contrast, a full beard is the least compatible with a full face snorkeling mask whereas a mustache gets in the way of a traditional snorkeling mask.
Swimming goggles is the easiest way for bearded snorkelers to avoid leakage. Not even the bushiest beard or a mustache will get in the way of your snorkeling.
Remember, diving isn’t possible with swimming goggles. The pressure from diving creates a vacuum in your goggles. This can seriously damage your eyes. You cannot pinch your nose to exhale and clear your ears when you wear swimming goggles. Clearing your ears is important otherwise you might blow your eardrums.2
If you’re a keen diver you should try the Aqua Sphere 2.0 at Amazon. This model comes without the nose part which makes it possible to clear your ears. You may also want to invest in a nose clip as many easily forget not to breathe through the nose when they wear swimming goggles.
Full face snorkeling masks
A full face snorkeling mask works well with mustaches but not with beards. There are of course ways for bearded snorkelers to avoid leakage:
- Buy a dive hood: Covering your beard with a dive hood ensures that your facial hair does not prevent a tight mask seal.
- Grease: You can get a tight seal if you grease the areas of your skin where the mask skirt touches your face. This is not ideal if you have a lot of hair.
- Shave where the mask skirt touches your face: If you shave the areas of your skin where the mask skirt touches you then you should be able to get a mask seal that is tight enough to prevent leakage.
The appeal of a full face snorkel mask is that it covers your whole face which gives you an excellent field of view and lets you breathe through both your nose and your mouth.
However, beware of cheap copies! Of the snorkelers who died when snorkeling in Hawaii, full face masks were involved in almost 25% of all cases in 2018.3 Therefore make sure to invest in a high quality full face snorkel mask if you are keen to keep both your facial hair and your life.
Keep in mind that less serious advertisers show snorkelers diving among reefs. Diving deeper than 6-8 feet with a full face mask is dangerous since you cannot hold your nose and exhale to equalize the pressure in your ears.4
Traditional snorkeling masks
If you like to dive then a traditional snorkeling mask like this is the best choice for you, but it is also the least compatible if you have a mustache. There are a few things that you can do to create a tight mask seal:
- Grease: Buy some silicone grease, chapstick or hair wax from Amazon and apply under your nose.
- Buy a good mask: Snorkelers with a mustache can avoid leakage and create a tight mask seal by buying a traditional snorkeling mask that fits well on their face. Cressi is famous for its frameless models.
- Shave the top of your mustache: Shaving the top of your mustache ¼ of an inch from your nose should create a tight mask seal and ensure a leak-free experience without compromising your looks.
How to buy the best snorkel mask
The best snorkel mask is a high quality mask that properly fits on your face. Eager beginners often buy a good snorkel set but forget how important it is to buy the best snorkel mask. You don’t have a stiff upper lip and a degree in scuba diving to know how to buy a mask. You only need to remember two things when buying a mask: do the “sniff test” and always buy a high quality snorkel mask even if it is more expensive.
- The Sniff Test: Your mask should fit on your face without pressure. Yanking the straps does not improve the seal. Tight straps often make the seal worse by warping the seal skirt. The best way to see if your mask fits to your face is to inhale through your nose and listen for any air escaping the mask when you exhale. The mask is not properly fitted on your face and sealed if air escapes.
- Quality over lower price: Stay clear of cheap products even if the price on Amazon is incredible. They can be lethal. Cheap imports are often of inferior quality and come with design flaws relating to carbon dioxide build-up.5 This is especially true when it comes to full face snorkeling masks which are prone to the snorkel float blocking air by getting stuck in the tube.
Snorkeling with facial hair can be frustrating. This does not mean that you need to shave to save your snorkeling holiday. A shave in the right place or grease, and the right kind of high quality mask that fits on your face should do the trick. Hopefully this guide has shown you how to create a watertight seal as a bearded snorkeler.
“Parker O-Ring Handbook.” Parker Hannifin Corporation. parker.com (PDF). ↩
N. Roydhouse, “Ear drum rupture in scuba divers”: South Pacific Underwater Medicine Journal, 1998. worldcat.org. ↩
“Increasingly popular full-face snorkel masks raise safety concerns.” CBS News, 14 Mar. 2018, cbsnews.com. ↩
“Full Face Snorkel Mask Dangers.” The Scuba Doctor. scubadoctor.com.au. ↩
N. Eagle, “Hawaii Struggling To Find Out If Full-Face Snorkel Masks Are Dangerous.” Honolulu Civil Beat, 8 Oct. 2019, civilbeat.org. ↩
Last updated 29 June 2021