Sizing a Mask: How to Choose the Right Fit

The fit of your snorkel mask makes a huge impact on the quality of your snorkeling experience. While finding the right mask can be tricky, there are some specific things you can do to find the perfect fit for your face shape. 

Use a sizing guide to figure out general sizing. Try masks on when you can. If you are in between sizes, go down a size. Your mask should be able to stick to your face when you hold your breath without inhaling first.

If you feel discouraged by your unique needs in a mask, do not worry. Snorkel masks come in a huge variety; they have also significantly increased in quality due to design developments in the past decade, so there is certainly a mask out there for you!

Choosing a Snorkel Mask that Fits

Finding a snorkel mask that fits well is important if you want to have a relaxing snorkeling experience. An ill-fitting mask can hurt your face and nose if you need to tighten it to create a watertight seal. Here are some ways you can figure out what size mask is right for you.

Look at the sizing guides and take your face’s measurements. Measure starting from the bridge of your nose down to the tip of your chin. Compare those measurements to a sizing guide for a specific brand of the mask you want. 

To check if this mask will have a watertight seal, hold your breath and put the mask over your face without using the straps to tighten it. If it can stick to your face without you needing to inhale, congratulations! You have found the right mask for you.

Some people are going to need to do a bit more searching to find the right mask for them. While sizing guides are useful for figuring out some aspects of which mask will work for you because it is based on face length people with wider, rounder faces and larger noses are going to have a harder time finding a mask.

While manufacturers design their masks for the average face shape, people who have more unique features can still find the right mask for them. If you have a unique face shape, consider experimenting with sizes and brands until you have a mask that can give you a quality diving experience.

Your snorkel mask has a pretty big impact on your snorkeling experience, so it makes sense to put some time into finding the right one. Learn more about finding a well-fitting snorkel mask by reading on.

Why it is Important to Find the Right Snorkel Mask

There are many different kinds of snorkels and masks on the market right now. These range from the newer full-face masks to the more traditional dual and single lens masks plus snorkel combo. If you decide on a full face mask, be sure to read our cautionary article.

Full face masks are designed so that you breathe in and out in different parts of the mask, which prevents the user from breathing in the same air twice. As you probably expect, this makes finding a properly fitting mask more important.

What the Right Snorkel Mask Can Provide

Have you ever gone snorkeling and see the dreaded leak of water creep its way into your mask? Ever take off your mask to wipe away the fog on the inside, knowing that the more you have to take your mask on and off, the more moisture you will get behind the mask? 

And then as you try to press on, you realize you have spent more time fidgeting with your mask than actually snorkeling? Stop this vicious cycle in its tracks by nailing your mask’s fit and only putting it on once through the duration of your snorkeling experience. 

If you have got the right fitting snorkeling mask, you will spend less time taking your mask on and off during your dive. Not only is the right fitting snorkel mask more convenient for its wearer, but it provides all kinds of other benefits ranging from safety to comfort.

A quality mask is not going to achieve a good fit just because it is properly sized but also because it is well made and is composed of quality materials. Here are a few benefits of finding the right mask for you.

Comfort

The right sized snorkel mask is going to be more comfortable to use than an ill-fitting one. A well-fitting mask should be so comfortable you will not even remember that you are wearing it. 

A few reasons why someone might feel uncomfortable in a mask is because they need to over-tighten the mask’s straps in order to create a watertight seal or because the bridge of their nose is pressed up against the mask. Or maybe the mask itself is made of a stiff, uncomfortable material that digs into your face. These are all signs that your mask does not properly fit.

If you feel like you have to tighten your mask a lot, that could be a sign that your mask is too big for your face. Because a good mask will naturally have suction on your face even if you do not inhale, you should not have to rely on tightening the straps to enforce the mask’s seal. 

Moreover, you might need to experiment with different brands if you have a unique face shape or structure. Masks that are roomier in the nose area are going to be better for people with large noses. 

Longevity

The perfect mask is not only going to be more comfortable, but it will last you far more dives than an ill-fitting, poorly constructed mask. This actually does not have to do with the fit of the mask itself but with what kinds of masks tend to have consistently good fit.

While you might go bargain hunting in your snorkel mask search, it is important that you consider how the fit and quality of the mask is affected by these manufacturing reductions. For example, some cheap masks which are produced in China are going to be made of weaker, more degradable material like rubber and can crack and improperly fit over time. 

Cheaper masks and masks made out of a cheaper material are going to have a much weaker seal and an overall shorter lifespan. Masks made of silicone rather than rubber are going to last significantly longer, and have a more flexible, comfortable, fit for the wearer. 

Safety

When you are considering purchasing something that creates a watertight seal around your face, safety should be a big concern. While snorkeling masks are considered to be as safe as a snorkel and mask set, that also factors in American manufacturing safety standards in place.

Because manufacturers in other countries do not need to adhere to US production standards, cheaper masks from other countries can actually be downright dangerous, so if you want a snorkel mask, it is just more sensible to invest in quality rather than go for a low price.

If you are looking for less expensive options that are still safe, consider buying mask models from previous years. They will still be built up to American safety standards, but since snorkeling masks often market the latest technology, older masks will be much more cost-effective.

If you are undecided or want to understand more on the differences between snorkel and scuba masks, we’ve got that covered, along with info on basic swim goggles.

Fitting Your Snorkel Mask

Finding a perfectly fitting mask is going to require a bit of thought. Identifying a snorkel mask that gives you the right fit is going to involve knowing how the characteristics of your face literally measure up against a snorkeling mask. It takes some effort to find it, but once you find the perfect mask, you will be able to snorkel with comfort and ease.

Finding the Right Mask for Your Face Shape

Do not assume that all masks are equal in size. Not only is there no uniform size for masks, but the length and width of your face, as well as your nose shape, can impact the fit of your mask.

While manufacturers are trying to create products that can work for as many consumers as possible, some face shapes and features are less conforming to the typical snorkel mask design.

For instance, mask wearers with wider face shapes tend to feel less secure in the average mask, even if the length of their face fits their size according to a size chart. So you might have to experiment with different brands in order to find the right one for you.

Another feature that can make it difficult to find the right mask is wearers with larger than normal-sized noses. Many snorkel masks will touch the bridge of your nose and feel uncomfortable. Try to find a mask that is roomier for your nose (Watch Yourselves).

Hair and How it Affects Snorkel Fit

Hair can affect the way a snorkel fits your face. If the user has long hair, it can sometimes get caught in the seal and make the mask more prone to leakage. For this reason, it is important to pull all of your hair back and out of your face before putting on a mask. The easiest way to do this is by wetting it. 

Facial hair can decrease the effectiveness of the seal of your mask in some cases. While mustaches interfere with traditional masks used for snorkeling, they do not affect the seal of a full face mask. Beards and long bangs, on the other hand, can get caught between the skirt of the mask and your skin and cause leaking. 

Read our full coverage on facial hair and masks in our scuba article on this topic.

When determining if your hair will interfere with your mask’s fit, the rule of thumb is that you should move hair so the skirt of the mask can make direct contact with your skin.

How to Know What Size Snorkel Mask You Need

Figuring out what size snorkel mask you need is going to be different for everyone. Snorkel Masks come in extra-small, small, medium, large and extra-large but are not uniformly made across different brands. This means that you are going to need to use sizing charts to see how size varies between brands.

Because brands do not design their masks with a consistently uniform shape in mind but instead guestimate who the average consumer is, your best fit for a mask might be available in specific brands if their sizing is a closer match for your needs. 

Using Size Charts for Snorkel Masks

In order to nail the perfect fit of your mask, you will need to learn how to use a size chart. Size charts are based on the measurement between the ball of the nose and chin, so it only accounts for length.

Compare your measurements to the size charts of multiple brands to see if one matches particularly well with your size. If you are eyeing a specific brand, but you are between measurements on their size chart, go a size down.

Since companies design for the average face, some people with more unique measurements might have a more difficult time getting a nice comfortable fit from a mask that is their size according to a size chart. 

Use the fact that brands do not uniformly size their masks to your advantage. For rounder, wider faces or larger noses, consider comparing reviews of different snorkel mask brands in order to figure out which one might be the most accommodating to your beautiful, unique features.

Snorkel Mask Sizing for Children

If you are looking for a snorkel mask for your child, you might find that sizing can be strange. Here are a few ways you can make mask sizing for children easier.

While you might think your child is too old or young for a particular size of the mask, you will be surprised to know that age is not a very good indicator of what mask size your child will use. Children grow at different rates and are going to need different sizes based on how big their heads are, not how old they are. 

And do not be tempted to buy a mask a size larger so your child can grow into it. Snorkel masks can still be effective even if they are on the smaller size. It is a good rule of thumb to always buy a size down if you or your child is between sizes. 

It might be the case that your child’s head is too small to fit in any standard mask size. In that case, consider some other device like this underwater snorkeling viewing bucket so your child can still experience the joy of snorkeling. You can check price and read reviews on Amazon by clicking the image below.

Mask Design Factors that Affect Fit

The designs of snorkeling masks in recent years are more technologically advanced than their predecessors. With these advancements, there are more things to consider when looking to get a comfortable mask than just shape and sizing. 

A mask can be more comfortable for its wearer by enhancing the quality of their diving experience by improving the quality and comfort of the user’s visibility through specialty lenses and even by allowing for users to easily add commonly used accessories to their mask without taking away from the fit. 

With an improvement in the quality of mask skirts and amazing customization options that allow for the wearer to have an improved user experience without affecting fit, you can find a mask that not only feels comfortable to wear on your face but enhances your diving experience by improving eye comfort.

What to Look for in a Mask Skirt

There are many factors that affect how well your mask fits, from the exact shape of your face to the materials the mask is made out of, figuring out the unique needs of a mask can help you figure out what to look for in a mask skirt.

While we’ve briefly mentioned that it is important to make sure the skirt of your mask can achieve a seal on your face, you might be wondering what makes a mask skirt so important. A mask skirt is what gives your mask the suction power to create a quality seal that is going to stop water from leaking in.

Mask skirts are not uniformly made at all, and different brands design their masks differently. Some masks have better skirt designs than others, which can dramatically improve the wearer’s experience.

Since the skirt of your mask is responsible for forming that watertight seal, masks that have a wider skirt tend to be able to make closer contact with your skin, allowing for a more flexible face-forming fit.

A wider skirt will also be able to accommodate more face shapes by improving contact with your skin even if the mask is not intended to perfectly form to your face shape. Wider faces are going to have better luck with wider skirts for this reason.

Choose a mask with a skirt that is made from long-lasting material. Some skirts are made of rubber, which not only tends to be uncomfortable and stiff against the wearers face but becomes brittle and breaks down over time after repeated wear, which can cause cracks to form in the seal, allowing for water to leak in. 

Silicone masks are going to be softer and more flexible and comfortable on the wearer’s face. They will also resist cracking and will not break down or alter over time. Silicone is a more versatile material to work with than rubber, so masks made of silicone are going to be available in a wider variety of designs than masks made of rubber.

Lenses and Accessories to Enhance Performance and Fit

One component of mask design that we might forget about when we talk about comfort and fit is the lens and accessory customization and modification. People are going to snorkel in a variety of different environments and are going to want to achieve different goals in their snorkeling experience.

One way you can personalize your mask to best suit your intended purposes with it is to consider exploring lens design and customization options as well as accessory customization options.

Lens Design and Comfort 

The way the lens of your mask is designed is going to increase the comfort and usability of your mask. For example, masks vary in peripheral visibility. Some masks tend to cut off part of your peripheral vision, which can be annoying and make you feel a bit claustrophobic, while others allow for a few as clear as looking through a window.

It probably goes without saying that mask wearers prefer a wider field of vision in their mask. You are probably going to have to try on masks to see if the mask cuts off part of your vision with your face. Unfortunately, if you have a unique face shape, you are going to have fewer options to work with when it comes to choosing the perfect lens design.

Specialty Lenses

While nothing is going to increase visibility more than keeping moisture out of your mask, some moisture will naturally find its way in through your skin, which can cause fogging to happen. Some masks make special low fog lenses to increase visibility as you snorkel, though you can never fully eliminate fog altogether. 

Always use defogger. I prefer spitting in my mask. I know how that sounds, but it works better than the premium brand defogger that my wife buys. I don’t rinse after, but defogger should be applied and then brief rinse to remove the excess. Just a quick dip in the mask bucket or ocean after applying.

You can also find glare-reducing lenses and even customize some lenses with your eyeglass prescription so that you do not need to wear contact lenses during your dive. 

Prescription Lenses

People who need eyeglasses in order to see clearly but either cannot or prefer not to wear eye contacts have a unique problem with their snorkeling mask even if they pick the perfect lens for their environment; they cannot wear their prescription glasses under their mask!

Perhaps this is obvious, but not only would putting eyeglasses underneath your snorkeling mask probably be very uncomfortable, but it can affect your mask’s seal. I wore prescription dual lens mask for diving and snorkeling for 20 years before I had LASIK. The most respected brand I’ve come across is Sea Elite. They work well, are highly reviewed and can be ordered directly from Amazon in numerous strengths and colors.

If this problem applies to you, consider looking into custom lense options for your mask. Different brands offer different custom services to infuse eyeglass prescriptions into a face mask.  

Some brands offer special masks with eyeglass adapters inside, while others have several custom lens replacement options that you can choose from. You can add reading glasses and bifocals to the lens of your mask.

Other Features and Accessories

Snorkeling mask designers are finding many other innovative ways to enhance the wearer’s experience. Ever see a cool GoPro video, but think it might be too inconvenient to find a place for your camera during your dive? Some masks have special designs that allow you to easily attach your GoPro so you can document those beautiful views from your snorkeling journey!

Another issue some snorkelers might have is equalizing ear pressures as they leave the surface to swim into deeper waters. This is just as in scuba diving, where water pressure increases with depth, causing unequal ear pressure. Divers equalize by pinching their nose and exhaling with mouth closed.

The snorkeler needs to do the same. I always take 3 deep breaths in and out, then inhale once more, equalize and then start down. I equalize my ears a little more on the surface than when I dive, because I don’t have an unlimited air supply, only enough for 10-30 seconds of swimming down to get a better view. I can save my lung volume for more underwater time.

The same phenomenon affects mask pressures, causing the mask to squeeze a little more. This usually isn’t a problem. When it occurs, you can exhale through your nose to add internal mask pressure (or mouth if using full face mask.)

Mask designs that help this problem are called low volume masks. These masks bring the lens closer to your face, which reduces air volume in your mask. This means that you will need to exhale less as you dive into deeper waters, reducing your chance of fogging up your lens and increasing the amount of air you can comfortably keep in your lungs.

Final thoughts

Once you find a well-fitting mask, you will realize why it was worth the effort. The time you take to find that perfect fit pays in dividends when you enter the water and spend more time sightseeing underwater and less time fidgeting with your mask above water.


References:

https://www.leisurepro.com/blog/scuba-gear/types-of-snorkels/

https://www.lucasdivestore.com/blog/how-does-a-snorkel-mask-work/

http://www.hawaiisnorkelingguide.com/snorkeling_masks.html

https://watchyourselves.com/full-face-snorkel-masks-correct-sizes/

https://watchyourselves.com/full-face-snorkel-mask-best-brands-children/

https://www.lucasdivestore.com/blog/diving-mask-prescription-lenses/


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Tim Conner, M.D.

Tim Conner, M.D. started boating in 1974. He has been involved in recreational boating continuously since then. Dr. Conner has been active in boating and watersports safety education for decades. He rode his first jet ski in 1997, and rejoined the personal watercraft arena in 2012 with a Sea-Doo GTX 155, followed by 2 supercharged SeaDoos. Scuba certification came in 1988, and he and the family have traveled the world snorkeling and scuba diving for decades. The family has recently taken up paddle boarding. Click the photo for a lot more.

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