This is Why Snorkel Masks Cover your Nose

Snorkeling is a great way to explore the beauty of coral reefs and underwater life. It requires minimum equipment, and it is relatively easy to learn. It is a very relaxing experience. One minor adjustment new snorkelers have to make at the start is learning to breathe only through their mouth. Snorkel masks cover the nose, and some people may normally inhale and exhale through their nose.

Snorkel masks cover the nose to prevent you from inhaling through it when underwater. Including the nose inside the mask also allows you equalize the air pressure in the mask when you descend below the surface and gives you a larger field of view.

Exhaling through your nose while submerging will add a slight amount of air inside the mask to offset external pressure. In addition, snorkelers will get a much larger field of view with a mask that covers the eyes and nose, as the lens will be bigger. Full face masks take this concept even further (read more in my post.)

Why Do Snorkel Masks Cover The Nose?

A snorkel mask has to cover the nose to equalize pressure in the mask while swimming underwater. A snorkeling mask that covers the nose not only provides a fun and easier snorkeling experience, but it also enhances safety when diving underwater.

Benefits of a Snorkeling Mask

Pressure equalization prevents breathing problems when diving. Air bubbles that escape through the snorkel mask can affect the pressure balance. 

A snorkeling mask that covers the nose enhances visibility underwater. The mask prevents water from getting into the mask from outside, even under high water pressure.  

Snorkeling masks have to cover the nose to prevent pressure from suctioning the face. Increased water pressure outside the mask can cause your face to feel tight when underwater. 

Snorkeling Masks vs. Swimming Goggles 

Goggles are marginally suitable for shallow snorkeling or swimming. They should be sufficient for use, provided you come up for air periodically.

If you are planning to dive deeper into the ocean, swimming goggles will only provide visibility but not breathing comfort. Snorkeling masks cover the nose creating an air pocket on your face.

Snorkeling masks are designed to allow you to breathe longer and spend more time underwater. You can read more on masks versus goggles here.

How to Choose the Best Snorkeling Masks

Consider several factors when buying snorkeling masks. The masks come in a wide range of shapes and sizes to suit the needs of different users.

When shopping for snorkeling masks, consider:

  • Size 
  • Material 
  • Peripheral visibility 
  • Low volume 
  • Snorkel attachments 

Size

The rule of thumb is to get a snorkeling mask that completely covers the edges of your face. This ensures no water seeps into the mask, which helps to maintain internal pressure. 

The skirt is the rubberized edge of the mask that rests on your face. It provides comfort when wearing the mask and protects your face from bruising.

The best snorkeling masks have wide skirts to cover the face fully and prevent water from seeping through.

How to Test the Fit of Your Mask

It is important to test the fit of a snorkeling mask before buying one. There are several steps for testing the fit of a snorkeling mask:

  • Hold your breath  
  • Place the snorkel mask on your face and press it gently 
  • Let go of the mask and see if it stays in place without falling
  • If it stays in place, it will be watertight enough when diving underwater

Material

Choose a snorkeling mask made of durable and comfortable materials. Think about the skirt and mask lens when considering the material. Consider choosing snorkeling masks made of silicone lenses instead of glass. Silicone is tough and holds better underwater. 

Choose a mask with a silicone skirt. Though rubber skirts can feel comfortable on the edges, they may become brittle with time. Silicon lasts longer and keeps your mask airtight at all times. However, if you go for a glass snorkeling mask, choose ones made of quality glass.

Peripheral Visibility

The best mask provides a wider peripheral view. A snorkeling mask that provides excellent peripheral vision helps you to remain aware of your surroundings and avoid impending dangers. 

When you find a snorkel mask that fits, roll your eyes to the sides to check visibility. Some masks have a tunnel-view while others feel like you are staring out a window. 

Always go for a mask that gives you a wider peripheral view. Read my snorkel mask sizing guide for more.

Low Volume

Low volume refers to the space inside the mask that covers your eyes. Choosing snorkeling masks with a lens that is closer to the face to provide low volume. 

The lower the air volume inside the mask, the lower the need to breathe into the mask to stabilize pressure. This reduces breathing fatigue by allowing you to keep more air in your lungs. 

Single Pane Vs. Dual-Pane Masks

Snorkeling masks can be either single pane or double pane. Single pane masks are frameless, while dual pane masks have a frame diving the lens into two.  

Single pane masks are excellent options if you do not want a middle frame blocking your vision. However, single pane snorkeling masks are prone to leaking with prolonged use. 

Dual-pane snorkeling masks provide a more snug grip on the face, especially around the eyes. This makes them incredibly effective in minimizing fogging.

The only downside of dual pane dive masks is the visible frame in the middle. However, divers often get used to this feature with continued use. Choose a snorkeling mask that allows you to see underwater in any diving condition. Modern snorkeling masks have a coating on the lens to enhance clarity underwater.

The tinted glass reduces glare when underwater, which can be incredibly useful on sunny days. 

How to Prevent Snorkel Mask Fogging

Lens fogging is one of the most common problems of snorkeling masks. It is advisable not to remove your snorkeling masks when underwater. Masks with a lower volume have fewer fogging issues. However, be sure to keep your mask on to stop moisture from getting into the mask. 

In addition, fogging can occur when you exhale too much into the lens. Choose a mask that fits your face snugly. The skirts of the snorkeling mask should gently press onto the edges of your face to prevent leaks, fogging, and breathing fatigue. Consider using defog products to clean your lens. 

The defog agents add a layer of protective coating on the lens to ensure visibility. Some windshield cleaners can add a defog layer on your snorkeling mask. Use the windshield cleaners only when you cannot access defog products for snorkeling masks. 

Snorkeling masks should cover your nose to maintain constant pressure inside your mask. The ones with low volume reduce breathing fatigue and prevent lens fogging when diving.

Be sure to consider various factors when shopping for snorkeling masks, including size, material, peripheral visibility, and volume. In addition, avoid removing snorkeling masks when diving unless when necessary.

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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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