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Full Face Snorkel Masks: Are They Dangerous Like Everyone Says?

Full Face Snorkel Masks: Are They Dangerous Like Everyone Says?

Posted by David Morgan on May 25th 2022

Full face snorkel masks entered the industry several years ago with mixed reviews.

For some, full face masks are the best way to snorkel. They allow you to breathe normally, see more, and snorkel for a longer period of time while staying relaxed and comfortable in the water.

Others claim full face masks are a safety hazard and should not be used at all.

The truth is, full face snorkel masks that are tested and certified are just as safe as any other type of snorkeling equipment as long as they are used and fitted correctly.

Full Face Snorkel Mask Controversy

One of the main issues that brought up safety concerns regarding full face snorkel masks is a sudden increase of snorkel-related deaths in Hawaii in 2018.

For decades, there was an average of about 17 snorkeling-related deaths in the Aloha state each year.

In 2018, there were ten snorkeling-related deaths in the first three months alone.

In 2019, a 64-year-old man from Texas was found dead snorkeling in calm waters off Black Rock at Kaanapali Beach. He was found floating face down and wearing a full face mask.

In the last four years, Hawaii’s snorkeling-related deaths have doubled, causing several Hawaiian companies to ban full face snorkel masks completely. There are several theories as to why the full face snorkel may be dangerous:

1. CO2 Build Up - The main concern with full face masks is CO2 build-up. Because humans exhale carbon dioxide (CO2), concentrated CO2 can build up in the mask. If this happens, users may experience headaches, panic, dizziness, and ultimately unconsciousness, which is life-threatening when they are floating in water.

Ideally, having the correct size and fit of mask will ensure that your nose/mouth use a separate breathing apparatus. However, if the mask doesn’t fit properly, that will lead to you breathing from the whole mask volume which means more CO2 with every breath.

2. Clearing Water - A full face mask fits tightly around the entire face. It’s unlikely to get water inside the mask. However, if it happens, it’s extremely difficult to remove water from the mask while snorkeling.

3. No Guarantee – As with all snorkeling equipment, there is no guarantee of safety. All equipment, especially full face snorkeling masks must be properly cleaned and maintained. Poor maintenance could prove to heave deadly consequences.

4. Fogging – If your mask is fogging up, it’s important to stop using it and get it re-fitted or try a different size as soon as possible. The breathing part should fit neatly over your nose and as close to your face as possible. When in use, only the breathing part should fog up while the looking glass should stay clear.

5. Tighter Fitting - The tighter fitting head straps of full face snorkeling masks make them harder to pull off in an emergency.

Snorkel Mart Full Face Mask - How Are They Safe?

The game-changer in full face snorkel masks is the revolutionary purge valve system by Deep Blue Gear.

Two years after the original full face mask hit the market, Deep Blue Gear developed a full face mask with additional one-way purge valves near the temples of the mask frame.

This new design allows exhaled air to travel half of the distance to escape the mask compared to the original design while the top of the mask is completely dedicated to inhaling fresh air.

Deep Blue Gear Is Tested

To make sure these masks’ extra purge valves work as they intended, all Deep Blue Gear full face snorkeling masks have been tested at an independent US-based testing facility called Dive Lab in Florida.

The results of these tests confirm that our masks exceed the EN 250 safety standard, which is widely used in the scuba diving industry to set the maximum safe concentration of CO2 in SCUBA regulators.

How Does it Work?

With a snorkel mask, you have separate areas for breathing in and out preventing you from breathing in your own air again.

The full face mask has a tube that is compartmentalized into three sections. Fresh air comes into the middle, carbon dioxide leaves through the top and water is dispelled out the bottom. 

These valves keep oxygen steady and keep you safe and comfortable while providing a comfortable snorkeling experience. 

Benefits of Full Face Masks

Full face masks were developed to make the snorkeling experience better. They are easier to use than traditional snorkels, and give a wider range of view.

There are many additional benefits of full face masks which make them so popular.

  • Clear View – This is the biggest benefit of full face masks. Because the mask curves around your face, there is absolutely no obstruction to what you can see in the water. Your vision is not limited and your peripheral vision is not cut off. They don’t fog up like traditional face masks can, giving you the ultimate underwater viewing experience.
  • Water Purging – The bottom valve, near the chin, is designed to automatically push any water to the bottom of the mask. This gives an easy way to remove water that may sneak into your mask by simply opening this valve.
  • Easy Breathing – With a full face mask, you can breathe through your nose. For many snorkelers, this benefit changes the entire snorkeling experience. It makes breathing less of a focused effort because you won’t need to change your natural breathing through your nose.
  • Minimal Effort – A full face mask requires very little effort to use. You don’t need to have a mouthpiece in your mouth, no biting or jaw strain, no mouth breathing and no need to strain your neck by constantly turning to see everything around you. It’s simply easy and comfortable for unlimited snorkeling. 

When Shouldn’t You Use a Mask and Snorkel?

Breathing through a snorkel is only appropriate for relaxed surface swimming.

Anytime you are exerting yourself, you shouldn’t be using any type of mask.

If you are swimming hard for exercise, or find yourself paddling hard against a current, take the mask off and breathe air directly by lifting your face out of the water.

FAQ About Full Face Masks

What should I do if my full face snorkel mask fogs?

Typically, fogging only occurs in cold water. You can treat your mask with a defog solution or wash with baby shampoo. If you find that your mask is fogging in warm water, it is likely due to sweat, dirt, and sunscreen on the inside of the mask. Wash the mask thoroughly with a mild soap such as dish soap and a soft cloth to prevent fog.

Will a mustache be a problem while using a full face mask?

A mustache is not a problem with full face masks as long as the seal sits on the jawline and chin. However, beards and goatees can cause leaking.

Can I go free-diving with a full face mask?

No. Diving down deep with a full face mask is not recommended. A quick dive to a shallow depth may be possible, but a deep free-dive causes more pressure that is difficult to equalize in a full face mask, causing injuries to your ears and sinuses.

Are You Ready For a Full Face Snorkeling Mask?

Clearly, there is no question that full face snorkel masks have some advantages over a regular mask.

To ensure you’re using a safe, certified face mask snorkel, ensure you’re using a mask that has been tested and certified.

Full face snorkel masks ensure you are safe and comfortable throughout your next snorkeling adventure.