What are Full face snorkel masks and how do they work? 

Full face snorkels first started making an appearance around 2015. Even so, they are still relatively new to many snorkelers. If you're an avid snorkeler or a parent thinking of buying these for your kids for the first time, you probably have a few questions.

Hopefully we have the answers to all your questions below. 

If, after reading through the information you don't find the answer to a question you have or something that concerns you, please send an email or leave your question in the Comments section below, and I'll make sure we can update you, and this article.  

Frequently asked questions

What is a full face snorkel mask?

A full face snorkel mask covers your entire face. It allows snorkelers to breath using both their nose and mouth which is a much more natural way of breathing for a lot of people. 

Ocean Reef Aria Full Face Snorkel Mask

How Does a Full Face Snorkel Mask Work?

The mask has two separate section; one section is for vision and the other is for breathing. There is a tube attached to the top of the mask. Inside the tube is a plastic float that stops water entering the tube when the mask is submerged. This is also known as a Dry Top Snorkel system. 

Wildhorn Outfitters V2 Full Face Snorkel Mask Air Flow

Seaview has a snorkel on the side

Air Circulation Full Face Snorkel Mask

Most full face masks have a central snorkel

Who Invented Full Face Masks?

This might seem like an irrelevant question but it will help to understand the safety aspect of the masks. Tribord and Ocean Reef collaborated and came up with the full face masks. These were first shown a the DEMA (Diving Equipment & Marketing Association) Convention in 2014. 

Ocean Reef also make full face SCUBA Masks. These were what the US Navy use and were able to use to rescue the Thai soccer team that were trapped in the Cave in 2018. 

Can Children Use These Masks?

Children often take to these so much quicker than traditional masks and snorkels because they are able to breath naturally using both their nose and mouth. Also, there's no gagging on a snorkel mouth piece that's too large for them.

When selecting snorkel masks for kids, make sure you go with brands that have XS or S sizing. These brands should also have a good returns/exchange policy in case the size isn't quite right.

Subea Easybreath

Do These Fog Up Like Traditional Masks?

Full face snorkel masks have two distinct sections. They have an upper section for viewing, and a lower section that covers your mouth and nose. Only the breathing part should fog up. The upper viewing section should stay clear of any fog. 

How Deep Can I Go? Can I Equalize?

With most full face snorkel masks, you can swim to around 9 feet (or 3 metres). Any deeper and it becomes really uncomfortable. This depth is more than enough for most snorkelers.

Most full face masks don't have the option to equalize, but if f you want to dive deeper, there are now equalizing masks available

Tribord Mask

Can You Breathe Underwater with a Full Face Mask?

Just like with a traditional snorkel and tube, you can't breathe underwater with these. You need to take a breath and hold it as soon as the snorkel tube submerges. 

How Do I Clear The Tube Of Water After Submerging?

Unlike traditional snorkels, you don't need to 'purge' or clear your snorkel of water when resurfacing. These have a Dry Top system, so a plastic ball moves to close the tube when submerged. This stops water from entering the tube.

As soon as you resurface, the ball lowers and the tube is open to breathe air through again.

Dry Top Snorkel

What About Beards and Moustaches?

Whether it’s a traditional mask or a full face snorkel mask, water will get in if there’s any hair between the skirt of the mask and your face. This includes a long fringe.

Moustaches are completely enclosed within the mask, so are not a problem at all.

Beards create tiny spaces that will cause water to enter the mask. Trimming your beard will help, but not stop a slow leak of water into the mask. 

Full Face Masks and Glasses

Some full face snorkel masks have an accessory that is a frame that can be inserted and removed which allows the use of standard optical lenses inside the snorkel mask. These are only frames and optical lenses are not included. It's like buying glasses without the lens.

These need to be specifically tailored to you and something you need to organize with your optometrist. Ocean Reef and Tribord (also known as Subea) both have optical accessories available.  

What If I Have A Big Face And Nose?

Just be aware that if you have a larger than normal face or nose, you may find the bridge of your nose will rub against the snorkel mask. Sorry, but that's just the way it is. 

Are These Banned in Hawaii?

Full face snorkel masks are not banned in Hawaii, however, there are a number of tour operators that will not let you bring and use your full face snorkel masks on their tour.

We have compiled a list of Hawaii tour operators and their stance on this. Our list is clear and divided into 3 categories although it doesn't include all operators as many didn't reply to our enquiries. 

The list comprises of: 

  • Yes, bring your full face snorkel mask
  • We'd prefer you didn't but can if you want to
  • No way! 

Click here to see this list. We are adding to and updating this list all the time, so please let us know your experiences.

Which ones do you recommend? Which are the best?

The best full face masks are quality ones that fit properly.

Check out our recommendations for the best by clicking this link

Snorkeling Takes Effort

Sometimes we forget that snorkeling is an activity that takes some effort, especially when swimming in the ocean with tides and currents.

Before you enter the water, you need to adjust your breathing. Put the mask on, and adjust the straps. Make sure it feels comfortable then while standing, slowly lower your face into the water. Take a couple of breaths to get the feel for it. Once you're comfortable with your breathing, you can lower yourself into the water, and away you go. 

These are not for everyone

Full face snorkel masks aren't for everyone, just like a traditional mask and snorkel isn't for everyone. And that's okay. There's a multitude of reasons why these work for some people and not for others. Sometimes it just comes down to personal preference. 

My personal experience

Berry Springs, Northern Territory, Australia
Flynn using a Ninja mask

My family

My son has autism and couldn't stand water running down his face but he loved swimming. It was (and still is) his happy place.

He never adjusted to a mouth snorkel tube, and so before I bought him a full face mask, he would only ever wear goggles.

The full face mask kept the water away from his eyes and nose, so he spent hours just floating around on top of our pool. He now happily swims about in rivers and ponds with his mask. 

5/5 - (1 vote)

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About the Author

I'm Sharon McKenzie, and I’ve always loved spending time at the beach and in the water. I'm a very keen snorkeler, Scuba Diver, and Stand-up Paddle Boarder, and being lucky enough to live in the tropics means I get to do this for most of the year. 

Hopefully, you’ll find some really useful information so that your beach and holiday adventures stay fun, safe and enjoyable.

You can read read more about Sharon on the About Us page.

Sharon McKenzie - Stand Up Paddle Boarding, Snorkeling