Full face snorkel mask dangerous? Concerns, hazards and facts

Questions raised about the safety of full face masks after news hit the media regarding full face mask drowning in Hawaii. Since Easybreath type masks are extremely popular nowadays, authorities and also manufacturers started to investigate if using full face snorkel mask dangerous – we share the latest information now with you.

Why can be a full face snorkel mask dangerous?

While breathing we produce carbon dioxide. While any activity, your body needs more oxygen and you breathe faster and shallower. If this happens in a closed space like with a full face mask on your head, you don’t exhale deeply enough to push the used air out of the snorkel mask/tube and start breathing in the bad air that contains more carbon dioxide. If you breathe in used air full of CO2 leads to headache, dizziness, and unconsciousness. CO2 can build up in wrong-designed normal snorkel tubes too… This problem can occur not only with full face masks, having the wrong equipment can always lead to dangerous situations.



This sounds scary, but don’t start worrying. If your snorkel equipment is well-designed and tested, it is safe to use. Therefore we always recommend buying high-quality snorkel gear from well-known trusted brands. Luckily also manufacturers of full-face snorkel masks have taken this into account and designed the masks accordingly: they are divided into a breathing and a looking part. Breathing part seals the mouth and nose off from the viewing part. On the top of this part, you find little valves which only let in fresh air, so if the design is correct and silicone seals perfectly, bad air that contains carbon dioxide is forced to flow out of the snorkel on the side channels of the mask. In order to get perfect air circulation and no leakage, it is important to know how choose the right full face snorkel mask size.Full face snorkel mask CO2

Full face mask manufacturer breathing test results

Since full face masks are new on market, little information available on them and it became an urgent matter to state if they are dangerous or safe to use. So far the 2 biggest manufacturers, Decathlon-Subea and HEAD/Mares commented the full face snorkel mask dangerous question and made information public on standards and tests. The inventor of full face masks, Decathlon provided us with information in e-mail, moreover their Subea safety statement is available on their website as well. HEAD/MARES joined Hawaii authorities and investigated various types of masks focusing on measurement of potential full face mask CO2 buildup.

HEAD Sea Vu Dry official announcement

“While there are no specific standards for testing of full-face snorkel masks, HEAD referenced two European Union Norms, the EN250, and EN14143, standards widely used in the scuba diving industry and also adopted by US authorities such as NASA for the testing of full-face scuba diving masks. CO2 buildup measured on the HEAD full face mask is at around 50% of the maximum allowed limits set by EN250 at a breathing rate of 10 liters per minute (slow and calm breathing). Around 20% of the maximum limit when breathing at a rate of 62.5 liters per minute (e.g. breathing heavily with still deep breaths in a panic situation). In other words, the higher the stress level, the higher the breathing rate, and the better the mask performs.”

Subea Easybreath test results

Being Easybreath is one of the most popular product of Decathlon, the company examine the mask and regularly carries out independent tests too. Brief statement of Subea Easybreath tests and standards (summary of official publication from subea.com)

  • Easybreath snorkel mask belongs to PPE Personal Protective Equipment (like other diving products)
  • Was designed with Sport Controle Medical Team who measured cardio-respiratory data (oxygen rate, CO2 intake, respiratory quotient) during exercise and found the mask safe while typical usage for snorkeling
  • Corresponds to European Parliament NF EN 16805 mask standard and NF EN 1972 snorkel standard 2016/425 regulation
  • It meets safety and quality standards according to the independent National Institute of Professional Diving France
  • Tested by DAN Diver Alert Network Europe in normal and stress situation as well and confirmed that Easybreath is safe to use
  • CO2 concentration recorded while using this full face mask is slightly above 2%. This does not exceed the max exposure limit 3% meaning there is no risk if used according to the instructions
  • Moreover, and Decathlon monitors customers’ feedbacks and reviews continuously and will remove the mask from sale in case the rating would fall under 3/5

SEAC Unica testing methods

With its new full-face snorkeling mask selection, SEAC aims to provide the lowest efforts while breathing together with the expulsion of CO2 build-up.
When designing its new snorkel mask line, the company’s main focus was to offer snorkelers effortless breathing like on land while keeping the CO2 level inside the mask well below the limits. SEAC designers and engineers developed specific tests using Ansti machines to measure the performance while dynamic breathing, the level of CO2 in the inhaled air
Moreover, SEAC Unica models meet the following EU regulations:

  • requirements for snorkel tube design (EN 1972:2015)
  • dive masks manufacturing requirements EN 16805:2015
  • full face protection masks manufacturing requirements including checking CO2 level (EN 136:2000)
  • compressed-air self-contained breathing apparatus regulations (EN 250:2014)

When is a full face snorkel mask dangerous?

…if it is fake, does not have patented design
…people don’t use it correctly

How do I mean fake full face snorkel mask dangerous?

The original manufacturer spent ages on designing, testing full face snorkel masks involving the best engineers and designers. Unfortunately most products nowadays just cheap copycats without any technical background and knowledge. We heard about sellers who just buy a few thousand masks from (usually) Chinese wholesale sites, put their logo on them and start selling as their own product. Yeah, they are those sellers who enter the market with attractive prices, make a good profit than disappear. No, don’t get me wrong, the problem is not that the product is made in China. High-quality product made in China can be as good or even better than a product made in Europe, Australia, USA or anywhere in the world. I just use China as an example. The problem is when manufacturers don’t own a patented, tested design, well-established process how to produce safe products. Instead just copy the outside design of a successful item and flood the market. Of course, customers get caught by lower prices, everybody loves to save money, right? Me too! But please collect information and think before the purchase, especially if it comes to our own or family’s safety.

How to use your full face snorkeling mask correctly?

Full face snorkel masks can be used for easy surface snorkeling only! Easy surface snorkeling means you are rather just floating on surface than swimming. If you need to swim against waves, currents, or intensively for any reason, better use normal snorkel gear. If you experience any difficulty, find your breathing heavy, remove the mask immediately. Never dive with full face masks! I know, you often see on photos people dive with them. Worse, that even the companies that want to sell the masks use these type of pictures… But this is a BIG NO, they can be used on surface only. If you ever felt claustrophobic, go for a regular snorkel mask with tube. In order to have pleasant, safe experience, follow the basic rules of safe snorkeling!

What is our opinion?

It is not a secret, we are getting requests regularly from full face mask distributors to promote their products but we refuse these. The reason is simple: although we tested the original Easybreath Full Face mask and shared our review on the blog with you, we stick to our classic snorkel mask + tube combo. We use to dive deep to be able to observe marine life better, take photos, so using a full face snorkel mask is not an option for us. We don’t participate in promoting products we don’t know and use. Although you can see we included some full face snorkel masks in our Snorkeling Shop and also mention some in our articles. Based on feedback and tests, these masks are safe and reliable if you use them as you should, made by trusted manufacturers.Full face snorkel mask opinion

Most reliable full face snorkel masks

  1. Easybreath Tribord/Subea
    Decathlon was the pioneer on the full face mask market inventing their patented design with engineers and watersport experts. They invested a lot of money and time to develop their products and they still do. They come up with product upgrades, providing warranty, replacement parts, and great customer service.
    Sale
    SUBEA Easybreath Snorkeling Mask

    • Original Easybreath mask with patented design
    • 180degree Panoramic Field of view
    • Shatterproof lens
    • Fresh airflow system with double air chamber
    • Natural breathing through mouth/nose

  2. Head Sea Vu Dry
    Head is a leading global manufacturer and marketer of premium sports equipment and apparel. Although Head Sea Vu Dry is more expensive than other versions, you are buying products from a company with history and experience if it comes to sports including swimming and diving.
    Sale
    Head Sea Vu Dry Full Face Mask

    • innovative mask from leading manufacturer
    • easy, natural breathing experience
    • no-fog circulation system
    • extra wide field of view
    • available in different colors and 2 sizes

  3. SEAC Unica full-face snorkel mask
    A reputable Italian company that focuses on design and evolution. They entered the US market in 2012 now present worldwide as a leader in the diving sector. The company is offering a whole line of snorkel masks to provide a safe and comfortable underwater experience for everybody. SEAC Unica is their first full face model on the market that ensures a truly natural breathing experience.
    SEAC Unica Full-Face Mask

    • Natural breathing with lowest efforts
    • Separate air channels for inhalation and exhalation
    • Dry-top snorkel to prevent water intake
    • Anti-fog 180 degree lens
    • Comfortable retaining straps

Best rated full face snorkeling masks on Amazon

Based on product tests, customer feedback and reviews these versions can be a good choice:

Conclusion – Is full face snorkel mask dangerous or not?

Reading through some articles about recent full-face snorkel drowning deaths in Hawaii, so far nobody stated clearly that these deaths occurred due to wearing these masks. The question “full face snorkel mask dangerous” is still open for now. Locals and tour operators say that more and more tourists decide to visit Hawaii that are inexperienced swimmers, not familiar with the fast-changing weather and water conditions. They see these factors higher risks than snorkeling in full face masks. Dive center and shop owners think that the latest deaths can be related to the individual, their anxiety and such rather than the exact design of the mask itself. Beginner snorkelers are more prone to panic or hyperventilate in the water. They also mentioned that carbon dioxide can build up in normal snorkel tubes too, and remembered people to buy quality, trusted snorkel gear only.
To cut it short, snorkeling is a sport and you need to be physically prepared for it. Of course, if we get/find news related to the topic Full face snorkel mask dangerous, we will update you. We do our best and monitor the products/reviews we recommend on our channels.

If you still have concerns and have doubts if full face snorkel mask dangerous or not, go back to roots and get a classic mask + snorkel combo (Read how to choose snorkel mask)! Check the weather/water conditions prior snorkeling, and listen to your body; if you are not feeling well, don’t go snorkeling. Don’t snorkel alone. Despite all risks, snorkeling is a safe, easy and wonderful way of discovering our oceans if you follow some safety rules.

If you have any thoughts you’d like to share related to full face masks, leave a comment! We wish you safe snorkeling adventures!

Anett Szaszi

Anett fell in love with the ocean immediately when she put her head underwater in the Red Sea back in 2010. Discovering megacities is not her style but getting lost in tiny coastal villages, capturing the beauty of the sea while snorkeling. Wherever she goes, she takes her mask, fins and underwater camera with her. She has a big interest in exploring the world’s last hidden underwater paradises and marine conservation. She hopes to inspire people to protect our oceans by sharing her underwater stories. Find her photos on @anett.szaszi Instagram too!

33 thoughts on “Full face snorkel mask dangerous? Concerns, hazards and facts

  • 2018-03-03 at 21:18
    Permalink

    Thank You Guys. This post was very helpful. I have full face mask already. I just bought it 2 years ago and I am very satisfied with it. I bought the original Tribord and I had no problem with it. I am really sorry for the people who has issue with the mask, but that’s true be sure you buy the good one not a cheap fake.

    Thx

    Reply
    • 2018-03-05 at 12:31
      Permalink

      Hey Sarah,

      We are happy that you found our post helpful and using your Tribord mask without any issue!

      We wish you unforgettable snorkeling adventures!

      Snorkel Around The World

      Reply
  • 2018-03-12 at 21:18
    Permalink

    Having snorkelled (only on the surface) for 40 years I was excited to discover the full face mask. I went and bought a breathe easy one and excitedly took it with me to the Maldives…. by the end of my first snorkel I was finding that my legs were tingling and I felt short of breath which made me feel quite panicky. I exited the water and then questioned if I was just getting too old…. day 2 I went out again and exactly the same thing happened and also effected my arms. Again I panicked and had a massive urge to rip the mask from my face. These symptoms made me wonder if I was suffering from lack of oxygen, so to test my theory I used my old faithful mask and snorkel the next day and I was fine with no problems at all. I really do believe that I was suffering from lack of oxygen due to the air exchange not being fast enough and I was continually breathing in stale air which built up in my system. I would not recommend this mask…. I threw mine away and it was brand new

    Reply
    • 2018-03-12 at 21:55
      Permalink

      Hi Cathy,

      Thank you very much for sharing your experience. We are sorry to hear this, but good that nothing serious happened and you could snorkel with your old gear.
      Our main purpose with this article was to draw attention to the potential hazards, so people can make a sound decision to use or not to use this masks.

      We wish you carefree snorkeling adventures in the future.

      Reply
  • 2018-04-01 at 18:14
    Permalink

    Well sometime if you use a good full face snorkel mask it can be useful.

    Reply
  • 2018-04-11 at 10:07
    Permalink

    Hi guys,
    Thanks for sharing this post.
    Always buy full face snorkel mask of branded quality not the fake one. So that you wont find any dangerous adventures.

    Wish you a happy and safe snorkeling in the near by future .

    Reply
  • 2018-05-06 at 19:14
    Permalink

    I plan on buying new snorkeling equipment and I am very interested in a full face mask and like the quality and fit of the Head VIEV Ocean Reef. I want to be assured that by simply diving to 6 to 8 feet will this be a problem. Does this mask not have a check valve to stop water entry. I like my existing face mask but it no longer has a good seal.

    Reply
    • 2018-05-13 at 16:12
      Permalink

      Hi Chuck,

      Thanks for your message!

      We do not recommend to dive with this type of mask even if just 6-8 feet. As we wrote in the article these mask was designed for easy surface snorkeling.

      We wish you a good snorkeling!

      Regards
      AG

      Reply
  • 2018-07-17 at 20:57
    Permalink

    I’m wondering if these are safe to use at around 10 feet of depth in a swimming pool? My son really wants one and he wouldn’t be using it for extended periods of time like you would if you were surface snorkeling. It would be just for playing in the pool so I’m sure the mask would be off and on quite often, but he does like to dive to the bottom of the deep end of the pool to retrieve sinking pool toys.

    Reply
    • 2018-07-20 at 10:09
      Permalink

      Read the article and the previous response!

      Reply
    • 2018-07-22 at 09:37
      Permalink

      Dear Chad,

      Thank you for your message. Responsible manufacturers always draw attention to full face mask’s restricted use which means not suitable for freediving or intensive swimming.

      If you decide to buy any brand for your son, we highly recommend to try it together and make sure he can breathe easily.

      Let us know if you have more question!

      Have fun and be safe!

      Reply
    • 2018-08-06 at 15:58
      Permalink

      Please DO NOT let your son wear one of these to dive to the bottom of your pool! They’re not designed for this, they’re designed for surface snorkeling. I’ve tested mine at the bottom of my (10ft) pool and the “mask squeeze” (pressure) is greater than with a typical dive mask – because of the greater surface area. That pressure can contort the mask/face seal and allow water to breach the seal (not something you’d want your kid to deal with 10ft deep). Also, the additional physical exertion of holding ones breath and diving down to 10ft CAN lead to increased CO2 buildup. First-hand experience.

      Reply
  • 2018-08-01 at 01:22
    Permalink

    Hello

    What about the new nose equalizer mask out by RKD. Douro. They have a rubber part that allows you to reduce ear pressure without taking mask off. There is another make called Aquaegis that shows same design

    Any testing on these?

    Reply
    • 2018-08-03 at 06:54
      Permalink

      Hello Jim,

      We have seen these new ‘Equalizer’ full face masks but don’t have any personal experience yet. The equalizing function is a plus that might allow you to dive a few meters deep.
      The problem of CO2 build-up comes from an inappropriate air circulation system that does not provide enough fresh air to breathe. If this air system designed and tested properly, the mask is considered safe to use no matter it has a soft nose area or the normal one. Of course if we will have personal experience we will share it! Hope this helps!

      Reply
    • 2018-08-08 at 09:37
      Permalink

      This type of equipment can be just for surface snorkeling, why do you need to equalize the ear pressure? RKD, DOURO are the same products, just one piece plastic part, and then put them on high temperature silicone tool, molding the silicone on the plastic part. It means the plastic parts have been heat treated, so this way will make the plastic very fragile, easy to break underwater pressure. By all what I said, this type masks are just for fun in the beach for one minute snorkeling, It is dangerous for the real diving.

      Reply
  • 2018-08-05 at 11:28
    Permalink

    Article on respiration from Indiana University Lab#11:
    Inspiratory Reserve Volume (IRV). The inspiratory reserve volume is the volume of air that can be maximally inspired above the volume inspired tidally.
    Average IRV measurements at rest for men and women are approximately 3100 ml and 2400 ml, respectively. IRV decreases with exercise.
    Expiratory Reserve Volume (ERV). The expiratory reserve volume is the maximum volume of air that can
    forcibly expired beyond a normal tidal expiration. Average ERV at rest is approximately 1200 ml for men and 900 ml for women at rest. Like IRV, the ERV decreases when exercising.

    Note: IRV and ERV decreases with exercise.

    In layman’s terms; the volume of air/gas in the facemask around the mouth and nose is greater than a standard snorkel. As you work harder, the volume you exhale PER BREATH gets less (note: more breaths give greater volume per minute). The reduced volume does not clear the breathing space/tube and CO2 builds up.

    Reply
    • 2018-08-09 at 21:30
      Permalink

      Hi John,
      Thanks for this useful comment! On Subea’s website (who was the inventor of full face masks) one can find an explanation on the air circulation which says if the system is designed well, the valves on the inner side of the mask will let only fresh air in and the used air is forced to flow out on the side channel and this should prevent CO2 buildup. We’ve added an update today to the post, a summary of Subea’s standards and test results and there is a link to their official site with the documentation of the testing process and certification uploaded.

      Reply
  • 2018-08-08 at 21:00
    Permalink

    Crap, I have the 180 Seaview already, so should I buy a different one? Did you guys review that one?

    Reply
    • 2018-08-09 at 21:16
      Permalink

      Hi Nikki,
      We’ve tested the Tribord/Subea Easybreath only. It is difficult to decide if a full face mask is safe or not without having test results on it. So far we know only Subea and Head who commented the safety issues and published test results, please see Subea’s test results above (post update added today). If you mean Seaview 180 from Wildhorn Outfitters, we didn’t see tests on their mask, but they have nearly 2500 reviews an Amazon, maybe that helps a bit. We’ll contact them if they have any certification or test available.

      Reply
  • 2018-08-09 at 13:59
    Permalink

    Whatever the qualities good or not, the theory is same as gas mask. But the gas mask works in the air, the snorkeling mash works in the water. This is totally different environment to use it. There have the big pressure under water, and many things you cannot imagine during snorkeling. Natural breathing doesn’t have enough force to expel the exhaled air from the mask, so It is no way to avoid the CO2 buildup. You have to know snorkeling is kind of sport, you 100% need more fresh air…..With all being said, this type mask needs more….research before putting them on the market. I don’t know who allow this mask to be sold.

    Reply
    • 2018-08-09 at 21:38
      Permalink

      Hi Stevens,
      We’ve contacted Subea and asked if any safety test is available on their Easybreath full face mask and added a summary to this post as an update which includes the names of independent institutes examined the mask, the standards they meet and also test results. You also find a link with a detailed explanation of the testing process and certification. So far we know only Decathlon and Head-Mares who published test results on their products.

      Reply
  • 2018-08-24 at 21:21
    Permalink

    hi ive had mine 3 yrs now never had a prooblem with my triboard mask used many times and other people have tried it to

    Reply
    • 2018-08-24 at 23:09
      Permalink

      Hi Tony,

      Good to hear this! Although we only used Easybreath for a short testing period only, we have many friends using it and haven’t said any negative comment.

      Reply
  • 2018-09-01 at 13:39
    Permalink

    I got a Deep Vain Trombosis, plus Pulmonary Embolism possibly from FullFace Mask.. ( at this time I am not 100% sure it was the Mask, but I better warm people.. !! This is no joke and not a fake, had to go to the ER, Auxiliar Vein and Subclavian clogged up. I am 55 and healthy. never had any problems, jog 30kms a week.
    I bought a Full Face Snorkel Mask from Amazon/Asmeten July 20th. went to swim in the Pool, 3 days in a row ( breast stroke ) about 15-20 min each. August 7th in the Hospital ER. I will send this information also to Consumer Protection, hoping they investigate it further. Maybe there is CO2 Buildup and that causes Blood Cloths to form. I do not know.. But it better gets investigated, before more people die.

    Reply
    • 2018-09-03 at 21:19
      Permalink

      Hi Michael,
      Sorry to hear this and thanks for warning people to a possibly dangerous full face mask brand. I think the main problem is that there is no official standard or test if it comes to full face snorkel mask safety. So far, we only know about two manufacturers (Decathlon and Head) who carried out breathing tests on their products and those information we included in the post. Until there is no regulation we recommend buying products from reliable manufacturers and use these masks only for easy surface snorkeling. In case of any breathing difficulty it is important to remove it immediately. My personal advice is using traditional mask with snorkel tube over full face masks due to these safety concerns, but I understand the reasons why many people prefer Easybreath.
      Get well and feel free to share your updates on your case if you feel like,
      Regards, Anett

      Reply
  • 2018-09-03 at 17:51
    Permalink

    I am a 70yr old lady, and try to swim 1kilometer twice a week in the pool. Do you think the snorkel (PowerBreather) is worth the money. It is supposed to stop you rebreathing old air.
    Kind regards
    pauline

    Reply
    • 2018-09-03 at 21:01
      Permalink

      Hi Pauline,
      It’s nice to hear that you live such an active life! I think that PowerBreather works the best for competitive swimmers, although recreational swimmers who have difficulties with turning their head for example because of injury find it a game changer snorkel that allows them a more comfortable way of breathing. It is a very personal thing if it would work for you or not, but keep in mind it is more difficult to breathe through PowerBreather than through a traditional snorkel so it might take time to get use to it.
      Regards, Anett

      Reply
  • 2018-09-05 at 11:02
    Permalink

    Thank you for posting such great content.
    I was looking for something like this and I found it to be quite interesting. Hopefully, you will keep posting such blogs. Keep sharing…

    Reply
  • 2018-09-23 at 20:11
    Permalink

    I bought a cheap mask on Amazon before reading any of the reviews. I wanted to help me swim train. I put it on on dry land to try out, and within a couple of minutes I felt extremely faint and disoriented. I took it off but it took a good half hour for me to stop feeling nauseous. I am extremely grateful that this did not occur in the sea. It is going straight in the bin.

    Reply
    • 2018-09-24 at 11:57
      Permalink

      Hi Karen,
      Thanks for sharing your experience and glad that you figured out in time that your mask is inappropriate and it did not happen in the sea! This is why we are sharing all the information we have in this topic and hope that people who are planning to buy full face masks will read it so they will know what they should check before their purchase and what type of products to avoid.

      Reply
  • 2018-10-05 at 22:45
    Permalink

    I live in UK and many pool swimmers like myself use Easybreath snorkel masks as a swim aid. The “head down, bum up” attitude in the water is beneficial for those with neck or back problems, or those like myself who have problems with breathing properly while swimming. Decathlon specifically specify surface swimming only (including in swimming pools) and is not intended for use at any depth. With any form of sub-aqua kit it’s vital to first read the instructions before first use. My local authority only allows the Easybreath mask to be used in our three public pools as it complies with EU safety standards. Other makes aren’t allowed. For those who wish to use a snorkel mask in the open sea, get used to it in the safe confines of a warm, lifeguarded pool before venturing into open water.

    Reply
    • 2018-10-07 at 22:11
      Permalink

      Hi Pete,
      Thanks a lot for sharing this valuable feedback with us. We haven’t had information about these safety regulations in the UK but good to know that local authorities also think that Easybreath is a safe full face snorkel mask. Glad you find a mask that helps you with your swim trainings!
      Anett

      Reply
  • 2018-11-13 at 14:44
    Permalink

    In September 2018 I went to the Maldives. I have been snorkelling for about 10 years and do not panic or hyperventilate. I was snorkelling in calm, shallow water and saw something of interest so stopped still for a short while to observe. Without any build-up or warning the mask suddenly had no oxygen in it and I could not breathe at all. I took the mask off immediately and was OK. I have not used these masks much yet so cannot say if this would recur or what caused it.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *