Full Face vs. Traditional Snorkel Mask – Which to Choose?

Last Updated: March 23, 2023

For a long time, only one type of snorkeling mask existed: the traditional one that covers only the nose and eyes. It is used with a snorkel which you hold in your mouth using a mouthpiece to help you breathe.

But with time, technology brought something more interesting to the snorkeling world – the full face snorkeling mask. Unlike the traditional one, it covers your whole face (from your forehead to your chin) and has a dry snorkel attached at the top.

With these two options, you may have wondered which one would be ideal for you. Let’s take a look at the full face versus traditional snorkel mask to help you make an informed choice.

Full Face vs Regular Snorkel Mask – The Differences

full-face snorkel mask or traditional

Even though both the full face and regular snorkel masks give you a good view underwater, they vary in several ways. Here are some differences that they have.


Both of them are generally safe to use. But, a traditional mask is generally considered safer due to the limited dead air space. On the other hand, the full face masks have larger dead air space, which could cause you to rebreathe exhaled air. They are yet to be officially deemed safe or unsafe, and some knock-offs may have valve problems.


Full face masks have a panoramic bubble-like frame surrounding your face, providing a wider angle of view. This makes a huge difference compared to the traditional mask that has a frame limited to the area around your eyes, restricting your area of vision.

Nonetheless, traditional masks provide a great view, just not panoramic.

Comfort Level

In traditional masks, you need to hold your snorkel using your mouth. You’ll need to ensure that the area around your mouthpiece is airtight all through so that no water gets into your mouth as you breathe in. Doing this over a while can get tiresome and uncomfortable.

But for the full face masks, there is no mouthpiece to hold in your mouth. The mask is integrated with its dry snorkel, so you don’t have to hold it manually. This makes it more comfortable over long periods.


Full face masks are pricier as compared to traditional masks. You can get a good traditional mask for $30 and a snorkel for $20. But for a full face mask, you’ll need around $80 to get a good one.


The full-face snorkeling mask is larger and bulkier than the regular one since it covers the entire face, from your chin to your forehead. The traditional snorkeling mask only covers the region around your eyes and nose, so it’s smaller.

Full-Face Snorkeling Masks

snorkeling in full face mask

The innovative full face mask combines a mask and a snorkel to create a device that provides a comfortable and convenient snorkeling experience. It allows users to breathe naturally through their noses and mouths during the activity.

In addition, it has a bubbly dome-shaped design that covers your entire face and gives you a panoramic view of your surroundings.

But the full-face mask experienced backlash and skepticism. Additionally, it has yet to be adopted by some veteran snorkelers for some reasons.

If you are looking for the ultimate comfort while snorkeling without learning the basic mask and snorkel skills, this option will give you that. Its unique design allows you to breathe naturally using your nose and mouth and gives you unbeatable panoramic views as you snorkel.

There is no mouthpiece to worry about, and no water touches your face.

On the flip side, though, when packing your bag, the mask will take up more room than the traditional one. Also, finding one that perfectly fits your face may be difficult. Due to the lower safety ratings, the mask is not ideal for active exercising.

So, what are some of its pros and cons?

  • Great for beginners
  • Uninterrupted 180-degree view
  • No mouthpiece
  • In-built dry-top snorkel
  • Compatible with prescription lenses
  • Water barrier
  • No learning curve for beginners
  • Not ideal for active snorkeling
  • Larger and bulkier
  • The plastic lens can get scratched
  • It may be hard to fit

Traditional Snorkel Masks

snorkeling in traditional mask

Traditional snorkeling masks date back to when ancient snorkelers and divers used hollow reeds to receive oxygen underwater and polished tortoise shells as goggles.

Over time, the masks have been improved to the modern sets, with features such as tempered glass lenses, silicon skirts, anti-fogging, and purge valves, making them more efficient and comfortable.

Additionally, the snorkels have undergone significant upgrades. This includes features such as dry snorkels replacing the classic wet ones, helping to keep water out of your snorkel when you dive.

This mask would serve you well during active exercising since it has higher safety ratings than its counterpart. You’ll continuously breathe in fresh air through your mouth, and in case you need to remove it, you can easily do that.

Despite having higher safety ratings, learning how to use this mask can be daunting since you’ll have to practice a unique breathing technique. You’ll also have to hold tightly to the mouthpiece, which can get extremely uncomfortable.

With the mask, you have an average of 20% less viewing area, so you’ll have to keep turning your head to see around you.

As you can see, traditional snorkel masks also have their upsides and downsides. To recap, here are some of their pros and cons.

  • Ideal for active exercising
  • Easy to remove
  • Compact and lightweight
  • Higher safety ratings
  • Easy to fit
  • Longer learning curve for beginners
  • Limited peripheral vision
  • Uncomfortable mouthpiece
  • Jaw fatigue

Are Full Face Snorkel Masks Safe?

Some snorkelers have raised valid concerns about the safety of the full face mask. They argue that the mask has a high potential for carbon dioxide build-up due to the large dead airspace within the tube and mask. This poses a risky situation that could lead to user disorientation, weakness, and even blackout.

As a result, some manufacturers warn against using their full-face snorkel masks during active exercise and recommend using their snorkeling masks for casual snorkeling only since they are designed for that.

In that regard, a traditional mask would be ideal for more serious and active snorkeling. This is because it has limited dead air space, thus minimizing the chances of CO2 build-up. And in case you need to breathe actively through your mouth, you’ll continuously breathe in the fresh air through the snorkel.

Full Face Snorkel Mask Dangers

One of the dangers of using a full-face snorkeling mask is significant buoyancy. The face dome traps extra air, making it highly buoyant, so countering the water pressure as you use it can be difficult.

Another danger is the large dead air space within the mask and the tube, which increases the potential for rebreathing exhaled air in case of active exercise.

There is also the availability of knock-off masks that have infiltrated the markets of late. Despite being abnormally cheap, these knock-offs usually have valve problems making them unsafe for use.

Some even have tight-fitting head straps that can make them difficult to remove in case of an emergency, such as CO2 build-up.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do Full Face Snorkel Masks Work with Beards?

A full face snorkel mask can work well with beards.

However, beards are not a good idea whether you use a full-face or traditional snorkeling mask. They get in the way of creating a solid, watertight seal which may result in the water sipping into your mask. This can ruin your experience and is unsafe.

Can You Go Fully Underwater with a Full Face Snorkel Mask?

No. A full face snorkel mask is not ideal for going underwater because it will be difficult to equalize the water pressure while putting it on. Additionally, the potential of rebreathing exhaled air within the mask is also very high if you go deeper underwater with it.

So, a traditional mask would be better for going entirely underwater.

Does CO2 Build Up in a Full Face Snorkel Mask?

The potential risk of CO2 build-up in the full face snorkel mask is high due to the larger dead air space in the mask and tube.

Can You Dive with a Full Face Snorkel Mask?

It is recommended that you don’t dive using a full face snorkel mask. They are designed to be used only on the water’s surface and not underwater. Diving with it is a risky affair.

So What Kind of Mask is Best for Snorkeling?

The snorkeling mask you choose can either make or break your experience in the water. But at this point, you know a little about each mask. You know their differences, pros, and cons, and it’s up to you to decide which to pick.

But for clarity…

A full face snorkeling mask will be ideal if you are a casual snorkeler who just wants to stay on the water’s surface and get panoramic views of the underwater world.

However, if you want to have a more active snorkeling experience, a traditional snorkeling mask would be ideal for you due to its extensive use and safety features.

Which one will you choose?

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