Trying to enjoy some tropical snorkeling but your Lumberjack beard getting in the way? I don’t have this problem so much, as it takes a good few weeks for me to grow “facial hair”. However, it still gets in the way of snorkeling. Whether you feature a full beard or a mustache, snorkeling with a beard brings its own challenges.
There isn’t one solution to suit everyone. Over the years, I taught students with a variety of beards. These are my tips.
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Snorkeling with a Beard
The following tips also work for scuba diving. But, first and foremost, let’s focus on snorkeling with a beard.
Most of the time, the beard is not the problem. The mustache is the culprit. Most beards don’t grow up far enough on the cheek to prevent a proper seal with a snorkel mask. The mustache, however, often pushes the mask skirt away from the lips and allows for water to leak into the mask. A very bushy mustache will definitely leak.
Now there isn’t a best snorkel mask that will simply solve the problem. The best snorkel gear for snorkeling with a beard will really depend on the individual.
Let’s look at how to handle different gear.
Traditional Snorkel Gear
This is the most common choice as it is widely available and allows you to dive down as well. A simple mask & snorkel combination. This is also the equipment I recommend to use. In scuba diving, we don’t have much choice and need to make this gear work with a beard.
Here are my tips to help create a seal with a traditional mask and prevent leaking.
A properly fitted mask
Many shops will just try to sell you an expensive mask. Some masks are perfect for one person and useless for the next. It is important that an experienced professional helps you fit a mask. Some of my students found a mask that worked perfectly with their beard and mustache. As a general recommendation, a mask with an ample high-grade silicone skirt can seal very well with a beard.
Trim the top of your mustache
I need to emphasize here that the top is enough. As a joke, I told a student with a full beard to just shave the mustache off and he did. Now a full beard with no mustache is a unique look! By design, masks sit close to your nose. Shaving the top of your mustache is often enough to let the mask create a seal. This is how to snorkel with a mustache.
Applying a small amount of petroleum jelly to the top of your mustache, helps the mask create a seal over the top. While this works quite well, it has a limited duration. The jelly will wash off over time and end up in the ocean. A good solution if you are worried about leaking the first time you snorkel. With practice you will learn to deal with it, which brings me to..
Get comfortable clearing a mask
My mask fits well and still, my mustache (due to laziness of regularly shaving) allows water in. I have gotten used to clearing my mask regularly. Pressing the top of the frame while exhaling through your nose and looking up clears the water from your mask. This works on the surface as well as underwater.
Depending on how attached you are to your beard, you can always shave it off. This allows the mask to seal properly. If you are snorkeling a lot and getting into scuba diving, this might be a good option. It will grow back!
Full Face Masks
Full face masks flip the problem. They do not seal well over a beard, however, a mustache does not interfere as much. A special full face mask for beards doesn’t exist. The problem with full face masks is that their silicone skirt attempts to seal your whole face in over your cheeks and chin. This is where your beard may be the fullest and the mask won’t be able to seal over the top. Applying petroleum jelly to such a large area won’t work very well either.
Cheap full face masks that you might rent on vacation also carry safety concerns with them. They often do not feature a proper ventilation system, meaning you breathe in a lot of the dead air space around you as opposed to fresh air. This means more CO2 in your breath, which can cause hypercapnia.
Read more: Is Snorkeling Dangerous?
Because full face masks do not allow equalising, you are also not able to dive down.
Read more: Learn How to Snorkel Underwater
As the name suggests, they are designed for swimming not snorkeling, and may not be the most appropriate choice. You have a very limited field of view and attaching a snorkel does not work well. Furthermore, you cannot duck dive with swimming goggles as they do not allow you to equalise the airspace. The goggles would press into your eyes, which is very uncomfortable.
They do seal perfectly as their skirt seals around your eye sockets, not your cheeks, chin or lips.
So, there you have it. No need to shave it all off just to enjoy the reefs on your holiday. Just remember these simple tips, next time you’re snorkeling with a beard or mustache. Make sure you take all appropriate gear when you go snorkeling. Some of it may not be as obvious as you think..
Read more: What Do You Need To Go Snorkeling?
I hope this guide was helpful. Feel free to share your experiences in the comments below.