“Why is it so hard to find a mask that actually fits me?”
As girls who work and play in the water every day, we hear this comment time after time. Therefore, a number of SDGs gathered together to dig into the mask mystery by trying out a variety of masks in different shapes, colors and materials. Our process took us on a journey that taught us many mask fitting lessons.
We all agree how important the mask is to the dive. Be it shallow, deep, great visibility, low visibility…a comfortable, non-leaky, non-foggy,well-fitting mask allows us to enjoy our dives.
So we asked, “How do we want our mask to fit?”
Our answer?, “Like my favorite pair of jeans!”
But jeans come in many sizes; masks typically come in “one size fits most faces size”. The 3 or 4 masks sitting in our dive bags told us that perhaps that the concept of one size fits all or most faces leaves a bit to be desired.
Are we most faces????
The following manufacturers were eager to see what results this endeavor would produce.
They offered us a surprising variety of masks. Different styles, colors and shapes, 26 in all. We were certain that this sample would help us better understand how to find the best fit for any individual or any face.
We knew that face shape had to be extremely important to getting the right fit. So armed with the masks, some enthusiastic helpers, and our theory, we set out to get some answers.
As we began this process, we were pleasantly surprised by the number of women divers that were very excited to help us. Each one of them had been frustrated with trying to find the right mask for them at one time or another in their dive life.
After nearly half a dozen pool sessions, we quickly discovered there were many more questions to ask in order to figure out what mask is best for me. Field of vision, type of straps and releases, quality of materials, look and color of the mask, skirt size and texture, and last but not least, how does it look on me, were some of the things we continued to assess and analyze.
Many of our girl divers were surprised and excited when they found a mask that truly fit. The surprise came in that it might not have been the brand or mask they expected. There were comments on how valuable this process was to each of them individually. The interesting thing that happened was that even after trying on the masks dry, like one would do in a scuba shop, they ended up selecting a completely different mask after trying it in the pool. It proves that the dry test when purchasing works to a degree, but is by no means the best way to find the perfect mask.
Just as we suspected, we were able to make a distinction about women’s faces that make a difference in not only fit but comfort as well. As women with similar shaped faces began to gravitate toward the same masks, we were somewhat relieved to discover that we were on the right track. Whether your face is small, thin, full, long, round, narrow etc. we were able to break down sizing mystery into a few simple guidelines to help any diver find a mask that fits.
But before you use this guide…remember…to have fun! This is something that is just for you. Take your time, you don’t want to rush. Hopefully you and your mask will be together for a long time. Picking a mask does not and should not have to be stressful.
- Determine your face shape…this will give your sales person a place to start. Some masks do come in different sizes. Point out to your sales rep your face shape so they can help you get started.
- Dry Seal Test…does the mask stay in place when you suck in? Ready go…ok…breath (but not for at least 10 seconds).
- Smile Test…this is the dry seal test but you have to smile. Does it still stick? Warning: this may take a couple tries and a little humor from your sales rep…say, “make me laugh”.
- Wrinkle the eyebrow test: Now turn to whomever, and give ANGRY eyebrows. Does it still stick? OH…then tell them, “I am not really mad”.
- Snorkel/Regulator test AKA smooch face test. Either use a snorkel or regulator when doing the dry seal test or if you don’t have one available, make smoochy with your mouth…if when making smoochy face or using a snorkel/reg you can feel the mask skirt going over your upper lip or feels uncomfortable, then you need something with a shorter skirt…because some people have a small smooch and some have a BIG smooch and it does make a difference!
- How do I look test…if you don’t have someone there that will tell the truth, ask for a mirror. There is nothing worse than buying a mask to later find out you look like a frog.
- The bathtub test…find out your dive shops return policy…many will allow you to take it into a pool or fresh water and still let you exchange it. And yes…there is always the bathtub!
Other important considerations…
- Mask straps: Some are more stretchy than others. Stretchy is nice for hoods but might tangle in your hair more. Some have multiple straps in back. How easy is that for you to handle with gloves? Some are softer and some are more rigid. Consider what your preference is while trying on masks.
- Field of Vision: Masks are engineered with better “field of vision” than ever before. However, when we use this term, we mean the perception of how much you can see. A mask is a very personal preference. Affected by things like clear or black skirt, frame color or not, clear lenses or tint. Do you like a high profile or low profile mask? Frameless or not. Wide frame or small. These were all things we asked the girls to consider when scoring field of vision.
- Releases: Releases are very different depending on the mask. Consider if you wear gloves that you may want bigger buttons to make adjusting the mask simpler. Play with the releases and be sure they are easy to tighten and release because when under water you do not want to be fighting with your mask.
- Look of the mask: This is very personal. Consider things like color, shape of the lenses, what is the frame like…some divers really love the frameless style.
- Quality of materials: Many of the masks now have similar quality of materials, however, be sure to examine the masks you like to ensure you are selecting high quality. Once you find a mask you love…you will not want it to break easily.
- How does it look on me: Most of the girls in our trial said, “Even if all of the above are great…and it looks bad, I don’t want it.” Basically…if we look silly…high probability we won’t wear it.
We thank all the girls who participated in clearing up the way we view the underwater world. Here is a sampling of girls with very different face shapes and their favorite mask picks based on all factors outlined above.
Scuba Diver Girl Karma Jewel’s Choice: Aqua Lung Favola
“I picked the Aqua Lung Favola as my favorite mask. It is a great fit for my long full shaped face and stays sealed even when all the Scuba Diver Girls are making me laugh! I really like what they did with the colors. Unlike most clear mask I do not get a peripheral glare. Field of vision is awesome! The buckles are very easy for me to adjust, this comes in handy for me on tropical trips because some dives I use a hood and some not.”
Scuba Diver Girl Margo’s Choice: Atomic Aquatics Frameless
“I have a long, narrow face and have been through numerous masks trying to find one that will seal on me. It always surprised me when I would try on a mask that seemed to fit perfectly in the shop but once I got it in the water…leak … leak… leak. If I move around or look to the side, my masks will leak. So for me, it is a matter of finding a mask that leaks the least! My pick is the Atomic Aquatics Frameless in a medium fit. This mask has a skirt that is soft and hugs my bony face. I love the low profile of the frame as it gives me great vision under water.”
Scuba Diver Girl Lesley’s Choice: Tusa Visio Pro
“My face is round and short which leads to some unique mask challenges. My biggest challenge is finding a mask with the perfect skirt that will fit below my nose. I have very little space between my nose and my lip so once I have a regulator or snorkel in my mouth, there is not much room for a wide skirt. The best mask for my shape face is the rugged Tusa Visio Pro.”
Scuba Diver Girl Wendy’s Choice: Atomic Aquatics Frameless
“I have a small face which can lead to many issues in selecting a mask. Most skirts are too wide to create a seal. Sometimes I find that masks created for the purposes of free diving tend to fit me a bit better. I choose the Atomic Aquatics Frameless in medium fit as my favorite mask. The fit is perfect and the skirt is soft creating a great seal. I love the low profile of this mask because it allows me a great field of vision.”
Scuba Diver Girl Mary’s Choice: Aqua Lung Teknika
“I have a round face and so sometimes have a difficult time finding a mask that properly seals all the way around including at my cheeks and under my nose. I selected the Aqua Lung Teknika as my favorite mask. It sealed great and fit my shape face the best!”
Scuba Diver Girls Overall Favs…
These are SDGs overall favorites in each category we discussed above with some reasons why. If you are looking for technical details…we provided links to the manufacturers website where you can find those details… After all…we wear wetsuits…not a lab coats…
Comfort and Fit (girls followed guidelines above trying in and out of the water): Tusa Visio Pro with black skirt: This mask overwhelmingly won the category for best fit and comfort. All the girls agreed that the skirt hugged their face nicely and was very comfortable. Across all face shapes, this was the most popular mask for comfort.
Field of Vision (ability to see left, right, top, bottom): Aqua Lung Teknika Clear Skirt This mask was first pick of almost every girl for the best overall field of vision. Everyone popped up and commented that the peripheral vision was amazing!
Straps: Mares LiquidSkin Line Overall Mares straps were considered the best in class. The girls liked the back strap and found the material and weight of the strap to be their favorite.
Releases: Atomic Aquatics Frameless The releases on this mask are big and very easy to use while wearing even thick gloves. All of our sample agreed that these releases were great when it comes to helping others adjust their masks as well.
Best Looking Mask: Oceanways/Seadive Eyemax Black Skirt and Lavender Lenses. Before starting to try masks on, we asked each girl to pick their favorite just by how the mask looked. This mask was selected the most as the best looking mask.
Quality: Atomic Aquatics Frameless. It was neck and neck with this one but Atomic Aquatics came in by a nose. The girls loved the quality of the materials and how the pieces were put together. They felt it seemed solid and that it would not break easily.
Best Color Combination: Sherwood Scuba Allure Azure with Clear Skirt. This mask has a tri-tone blue color on the frame that every single girl absolutely loved.
Frame: Atomic Aquatics Frameless…yes frameless was the preferable type of frame.
Skirt: Oceanways/Seadive Monarch TruVu RayBlocker-HD Anti-Fog Mask. The skirt on this mask is so soft and comfortable. If feels silky against your face and the girls really loved the way it sealed against the skin.
But…stop the presses…What is the perfect mask?
We noticed throughout this process that different masks had features that the girls liked. Many commented that they wished they could combine features from different masks…so we did!! We decided to BUILD the perfect mask from all the 26 samples we had in front of us.
So all of you manufacturers out there…PAY ATTENTION…here is the perfect mask:
- Atomic Aquatics Frame from their frameless low profile mask.
- Add the pretty tri-tone blues that Sherwood Scuba so brilliantly put on their Allure mask.
- Oceanways/Seadive skirt used on the Monarch TruVu RayBlocker.
- Mares straps found on the Liquid Vision mask.
- Atomic Aquatics releases BUT with one exception…we want the Aqua Lung Cardanic joint.
There were several masks in our test bed of 26 that make up the perfect mask.
The first thing we did was look at color. Although not an important functional feature, it is definitely a consideration when purchasing. The hands down winner every time we asked was the Sherwood Scuba Allure Azure mask. With a clear skirt, the blues on the front of this mask stand out and compliment the girl’s eyes. Sherwood Scuba used several blue tones and did a transition from light to dark which is very attractive without being too flashy. There was definitely a split between the girls who would have preferred a black frame and skirt to a clear one. So the perfect mask would need to come in both colors.
Next, we examined the frames on each mask. In this case we actually had a tie between Atomic Aquatics Frameless and Oceanways/Seadive Eyemax. Upon further polling of SDGs between these two masks, the Atomic Aquatics Frameless emerged the winner. Everyone liked the wide lens and the openness across the eyes. The girls also commented on the construction of the frame and that it felt durable and solid. Since it is low profile, the girls felt they could see more. Finally, there were comments about how great the girls look in it when having a photo taken.
So now we have an Atomic Aquatics frame with Sherwood Scuba blues. The next thing we picked was the skirt. This seemed to be one of the most important features next to the frame. The girls carefully poked and prodded and tried on each mask. There was a lot of dialog about soft skirts and the size of the skirt. In the end, the clear winner was the Oceanways/Seadive Monarch Ray Blocker. The comment was that the skirt was the perfect softness and felt like second skin against the face. Oceanways/Seadive masks in general were well liked for the skirt.
Now we almost had our mask done. The last parts we needed to decide on were straps and releases. For straps, the girls made comments about some straps being easy to break while others seemed more durable. They also had preferences for a strap that felt secure on the back of the head but did not like when there was too much going on back there. Since most manufacturers don’t vary the strap from mask to mask, we picked this winner by picking a manufacturer. Mares was the winner of the perfect strap.
Releases are similar in that they are manufacturer specific and not mask specific. The girls commented that it is important for releases to be very easy to find and adjust under water wearing thick gloves. They also were concerned at some of the releases because they thought they looked like they would easily break. This is perhaps the most important part of the mask to focus on in the area of quality. Once the release breaks, you have to buy a new mask. Something interesting happened when the girls had to make a decision on the perfect release. Every girl agreed that the Atomic Aquatics release was best with the big buttons and easy to manage adjustment. They also loved how Atomic Aquatics’ release attached to the mask in a very secure way. But they all decided that Aqua Lung’s Cardanic joint combined with Atomic Aquatics’ release was by far the perfect release.
Are we done? NO! This is a continual process. As new masks come onto the market, we will have new leaders and winners who emerge. We want to know what you think…what is your favorite and why. We hope to have helped you in your quest for the perfect mask by making the process a little more fun and little simpler…
Now get out there and dive!