by Cris Merz:
Mask leaks can certainly make a dive uncomfortable as well as frustrating. Did you know that having a leaky mask is also a contributor to poor air consumption? Aside from the harder breathing that is required due to increased stress, air is constantly blown into the mask in order to blow out the water to clear the mask. Three topics will be covered that may assist a diver with mask leakage issues: hair, mask size, and mask quality. Being aware of how these three factors can contribute to mask leakage may decrease the issues underwater caused by a mask leaking, making for a much more pleasant experience.
#1 Your hair can cause your mask to leak
Hair is a culprit that affects mask leakage that often goes ignored. For both men and women, it is important to ensure that hair is pulled back away from the forehead so it does not interfere with the seal created by the skirt of the mask and the skin. Additionally, men must also be aware that facial hair may prevent the seal from being tight between the upper lip and the bottom of the nose. If shaving is not an option, one may try applying a dab of petroleum jelly or similar lubricant to act as a sealant, though it is not a guarantee either.
#2 Your mask may be too big or small
The size of the mask is usually one of the biggest factors to cause a leaky mask. Some divers believe that a tight strap around the back of the head is the best “fix” for this situation. It is not. A mask that doesn’t fit is a mask that doesn’t fit. Pulling it tighter may just cause further discomfort as well as stress. A mask that does not properly fit may leak with the most minimal movement or even facial expression regardless of how tight the mask strap may be. It is important that when fitting for a mask, the diver finds a mask that is not only their size, but fits the shape of their face. The best way to test this before getting in the water is by putting the mask on the face and inhaling gently without pulling the strap on to the back of the head. The suction should hold the mask in place to the face indicating that the seal is intact.
#3 Don’t skimp on mask quality
Quality of a mask, as well as other gear and equipment, is what can potentially make a huge difference in the quality of our dives. A cheap mask is likely to have a cheap skirt around the frame. High quality silicone will be a lot more flexible and adjust to the curves of the face better than say, rubber. It will also be a lot softer preventing discomfort that may cause unwanted facial movements underwater. Divers unfortunately sometimes go for something cheaper failing to realize the importance of a good mask and what it brings to the table as far as diving comfort.
Removing hair from under the skirt, a proper fitting mask and a good quality product will go a long way to improve air consumption and assist in leaky masks issues. Although following all these tips will enhance the dives it is important to note that the job to ensure little mask leakage is not complete. Once the mask has been selected and hair removed, it is important to make the final adjustments once the diver enters the water. First, ensure the mask is centered on the face. It may also help to pull the mask a bit allowing some air to enter before pushing the mask against the face to push that excess air back out creating a tighter seal. Finally, check the back strap’s position to ensure it is not too high or not too low. Once we start our descent, equalize to your comfort level and you are good to go.