If you’re reading this, you’re probably sporting a beard, or a mustache, or both (or know someone who is). Let me first say congratulations on that radiant facial hair (or on knowing someone with radiant facial hair).
You’re also probably interested in scuba diving or snorkeling (awesome), and entirely disinterested in having to shave to do so (understandable). If so, and if you want to figure out if it’s possible to snorkel with a beard or mustache, you’ve come to the right place.
Let’s get right down to brass tacks: can you snorkel with a beard? Yes, you can snorkel with a beard or mustache by choosing a snorkel mask that fits well, by applying food-grade silicone to the rim of your mask before getting in the water, and by making sure that your facial hair fits the profile of your mask.
So, that’s excellent news. Now let’s briefly walk through the possible issues with snorkeling with a beard or mustache, and also the specific ways to correct those problems so you can have an awesome, bearded or mustachioed time in the water.
Snorkel and scuba masks are all about creating a seal. If you have a good, clean, tight seal between your mask and your face, there’s little chance that water is going to leak in. If there’s facial hair in the way, that seal can easily be compromised and you’ll end up with salt water in your face. Less than ideal.
So, the idea is to figure out how to fix the seal between your mask and your face regardless of what facial hair you have going. That can bring up a bunch of questions. What type of mask should I use? Can I put something on my mask to increase the seal? Does it matter if I have a beard, mustache, or both?
Fortunately, the answers to these questions are pretty straightforward. But, as is always the case with something like snorkeling, you want to make sure that you understand what the answers and options are to make sure you have a safe and awesome time exploring the underwater universe while snorkeling with a beard or mustache.
Choosing the right mask is paramount in snorkeling, no matter if you have facial hair or not. But, in the case of our strapping lads with beards and mustaches, it’s especially important because there’s less room for error with facial hair since the seal is already a bit compromised.
The first decision you need to make is whether or not to pick a traditional snorkel mask (one that covers only your eyes and nose area), or a full-face snorkel mask that covers everything from your forehead to your chin.
In the case of those with a mustache, chances are that traditional snorkel masks will present more of a challenge. With traditional masks, the majority of the time your main point of contact — and potential point of failure — between your facial hair and the mask seal will be at the top of your ‘stache right under your nose, while the rest of the seal rests on your upper cheeks and around your eyes (relatively little facial hair).
So, with a mustache, you have two options. The first is to slide down to Tip #2 and use a food-grade silicone to seal up the bond between your mask and your upper mustache, which can work well if done properly. The other is to look into a full-face snorkel mask (if you’re comfortable with that option) whose seal travels around the outside of your face, leaving your mustache safe and dry inside.
However, if you do consider a full-face mask, it’s imperative that you buy (or verify that you are renting) a quality mask from a reputable manufacturer (like the Tribord Subea Easybreath [Amazon] or Head by Mares Seaview [Amazon]) where the general experience among snorkelers is that the valve at the top of the mask works well to keeps water out, allows you to breathe in fresh air from above the water, and lets you exhale used air out the top of the mask does indeed let you exhale that used air out. Some knock-off full-face snorkel masks are thought to potentially have sub-par valves that keep too much CO2 inside the mask and may have caused injury or worse for some snorkelers using them.
(For more info on full-face snorkel masks, check out Are Full-Face Snorkel Masks Safe? 5 Big Truths & Lies.)
For the lumberjacks among us with full beards, you may have the opposite issue with full-face masks unless your beard is very closely trimmed (in which case you’ll still want to follow Tip #2 below). That being, the mask seal around the outside of your face will be hampered by your beard and it’ll be pretty tough to create a solid enough bond. Instead, stick to a traditional snorkel mask and follow the rest of the tips below.
Finally, no matter what mask format you choose, make sure it fits your face well. Every face and every mask is different, and if you choose a mask that just doesn’t fit your face, nothing is going to save that seal. So, try a few on if you have time before your trip, or work through what options your dive shop or tour operator has on hand if you’re renting a mask. A few extra minutes finding a well-fitting mask can really make a big difference.
(For our picks on the best snorkel masks for every skill level, head over to The 3 Best Snorkel Masks for All Levels: Beginners, Intermediates & Advanced.)
If you have a relatively minimal amount of facial hair contacting the seal of your mask (like just below your nose), or keep your beard trimmed fairly tight, a great option is to use a food-grade silicone to bolster that mask seal. (I keep qualifying the silicone as “food-grade” because that’s an important distinction. With food-grade silicone, if you happen to get some in your mouth while swimming, it shouldn’t cause you any problems.)
The process is pretty easy. Put on your mask and note where your facial hair contacts the snorkel mask. Then spread some of that food-grade silicone onto the mask seal at those points (or all around the perimeter if you have any doubt) before you get in the water. Put the mask on without a ton of movement to keep the best seal possible.
You may have heard of others doing this with Vaseline or similar, but that’s a bad idea. The petroleum products found in Vaseline and other petroleum jellies will eventually eat away at the silicone skirt around your mask, and then you’ll have a seal problem whether or not you’re clean shaven.
In a pinch, other products can work, too. For example, mustache or beard wax, especially those made with beeswax (what can’t bees do?) Some chapsticks or lip balms, again preferably with beeswax, have been known to make an impact as well without a better option on hand.
But, with something as important as mask seal, I recommend leaving little to chance. Nothing can ruin your dive (or make it unsafe) quite like water where you don’t want water. To that end, pick up a specific food-grade silicone made in a format for snorkeling, like the Snorkeling and Scuba Diving Mask Sealer and Mustache Wax (Amazon) version made by the Trident diving company. When used correctly, lots of people have found it a huge help. It also comes in a spray version, but I prefer the stick format because I can be a lot more exact with where I apply it.
If you can’t get your hands on some food-grade silicone before your trip, or end up with a slightly ill-fitting rental mask, you may need to get creative.
That may mean looking to shape your facial hair a bit. Nothing too drastic, but often times trimming the very top of your mustache underneath your nose or cleaning up the top of your beard on the sides of your face can make all the difference in the world as far as a mask seal goes. If you end up here, look at it as a chance to clean up your edges just a touch. The ladies will love it.
Just put on your mask and take note of where the facial hair is messing with the seal of the mask. If the overlap is too big, there might be a different mask out there which fits differently that would be worth trying. If the beard or mustache overlap is slight, grab your edger and clean it up.
Avoiding wearing contact lenses while snorkeling with facial hair might seem a bit unrelated, but it’s something highly important to consider. The tips above will position you to have the very best snorkel mask seal that you can get with your beard or mustache, but it may not be 100% perfect. Chances are that it will reduce any water seeping into your mask to where it’s manageable enough to have a fun and safe time, but you may still get some leakage.
And, if you know that you have an increased possibility of water in your mask, avoid contacts (if you wear them). For one, while soft contacts rarely cause problems [source], hard or gas-permeable contacts can definitely cause problems while snorkeling [source], especially if diving underwater and having increased pressure put on them. And, for another, ocean water in your eye might allow something to stick to your contact lens and cause a gnarly eye infection [source].
Instead, read our article “Can You Snorkel With Glasses? 7 Great Ways to See Underwater” and learn about everything else you can do to see underwater aside from wearing contact lenses if you, like me, need prescriptive eyewear to see clearly.
If your beard is just too Paul Bunyan-esque and tips 1-4 haven’t worked for you, all is not lost. As a final resort, you can use normal swim goggles with a nose clip (important, since your nose will be open without a snorkel mask) with your snorkel tube and still have a good time in the water.
Since swim goggles only contact around your eyes, you shouldn’t have any seal problems from your facial hair. The main drawback, though, is that using swim goggles will prevent you from diving underwater much. If you dive more than a few feet down, the increased water pressure will start to create a pressure differential between it and the pressure inside your goggles, which can create a strong vacuum effect and cause injury to the eyes. When snorkeling, you can exhale out of your nose to equalize the pressure in your mask, but that’s not possible with swim goggles. So, stick to the surface.
That said, if this is your remaining option, using swim goggles, a nose clip and a snorkel tube while staying at the surface is still a fine way to enjoy a leisurely snorkel trip and take in plenty of underwater beauty.
Not all snorkel masks are created equal for beard and mustache growers, and we want to take special consideration of that fact to pick a mask that works best. Not only will we want to look for qualities that we would want in any snorkel mask like a wide field of vision and sturdy-yet-lightweight construction, we also want to make sure that the mask has silicone skirt edging (to match up with our food-grade silicone from Tip #2) and a purge valve to expel any pesky leaks that might be slightly more likely to show up with facial hair.
And, we want a high-value snorkel mask because we’re all about value at Coral Nomad. Who wants to pay an arm and a leg for something from which you can get the same performance as with something less expensive?
To those ends, our pick for the best snorkel mask for beards and mustaches is the TUSA M-32 Imprex 3D Hyperdry from TUSA, easy to pick up on Amazon.
The Imprex 3D meets all of our criteria with a more panoramic field of view (without extending too far down into facial hair territory) and a solid and lightweight frame along with a quality silicone skirt and a well-tuned purge valve. The purge valve is a little difficult to utilize if you’re using the mask for scuba diving, but with its minimal contact with facial hair areas, it works great for snorkeling. TUSA is a respected snorkel manufacturer, and the price is very reasonable for what you’re getting. So, high performance, high value. Win-win.
Additionally, you can pick up the matching TUSA Imprex II Hyperdry snorkel to accompany the mask on the same order.
Or, if you want to learn about the best snorkel masks in general (and not just for beards), read our helpful mask guide over at The 3 Best Snorkel Masks for All Levels: Beginners, Intermediates & Advanced.
The Best Snorkel Mask for Beards and Mustaches on a Budget
If you’re looking more for a simple mask to accompany you on once-in-a-while snorkel trips, the PROMATE Side-view Edgeless mask, also on Amazon, is a solid option. You might sacrifice a little in sleekness and silicone skirt technology, but it’s a very capable mask that has treated lots of bearded swimmers well.
Pair that PROMATE mask with the Cressi Supernova Dry Snorkel (Amazon) for a nicely-performing snorkel set-up that’s really easy on the wallet.
The Deep Dive
Having a beard or a mustache doesn’t usually cause much of an issue in everyday life, but snorkeling isn’t everyday life (in the best way possible). By making a few extra considerations like picking out the right mask format and fit for yourself, using food-grade silicone to shore up any facial-hair-to-mask seals, and making sure that your beard or mustache fits your mask correctly, you can have a beautiful and safe time snorkeling with a beard or mustache. Your facial hair will be proud.
Do you have other questions about what else is possible while snorkeling? Here are some of our most popular question-and-answer articles: