I have almost superhuman facial hair! Since I left the mainland, I have not ‘wolfed out’ so I figured, “Its time!”, and I thought that it would be a great opportunity to let my fellow man know how facial hair affects diving and what can be done to curtail the leakage.
This blog is for my fellow facially haired fellas out there. It was regularly updated over a six week period, like a journal. I tried as many types of leak management as I could find to see how I could decrease leakage and ultimately get a good mask seal. I have several ‘bearded buddies’ that claim that as soon as the hair gets long enough it will lay down and the mask will seal without the use of any “additives”. In addition, a lot of my introductory dive customers or anyone with vacation state of mind (not thinking about stuff) might forget about their “vacation growth”. In doing this experiment, I hoped to find something that could help with Facial Hair Mask Leakage (FHML) and offer some good options that would decrease leakage and increase enjoyment of their (and your) diving experience.
Up until this point, my experience is that I have gone diving with about 36 hours of stubble. At that point my mask leaks like crazy… I mean a CONSTANT stream of water. I have found that a great option at this stage of growth is a cordless electric shaver. It can keep my upper lip clean, and keep me happy while diving without having to do a full shave. I think that this is also a good option for dudes with sensitive skin.
The day before my experiment begins: My Full On Cue Ball feels fast and cold. My mask fits me perfectly and right now I am leak-proof! I am not looking forward to the next 7 days. The sacrifices I make for you guys.
Day 1, 24 hours growth: I decided to try a generic chapstick style lip balm and it worked okay. I just smeared it on my upper lip and by looking and the residue left on the skirt of my mask I got pretty good coverage. I seem to go through a lot of it on each application. A mirror might help me use it more efficiently.
Day 2, 48 hours growth: I was NOT looking forward to trying silicon grease. It is MESSY, hard to clean off my face, and I didn’t want to get any in my mouth. I have heard that it is worse (aka more messy) on a full on ‘stache, so I probably will not be trying this one again. It gets on everything, and I didn’t like the idea of any of it getting in the ocean. Thumbs down, who cares if it works!
Day 5: Today was really hard. I was getting water up to my eyeballs in 30 seconds with the generic chapstick. The FHML makes EVERYTHING more difficult and requires constant attention. Probably one of my hardest dives. For the second dive I tried nothing at all because I figured (and hoped) IT COULDN’T GET ANY WORSE!!!! I was right, it was not any worse. If you are just diving for fun, I would rate it as manageable; but as a working guide it was tough!
Day 6: I was really not looking forward to today. I found some Burt’s Bees lip balm in my medicine cabinet and it worked pretty well!! Instead of my mask clearing having to be every 30 seconds, I could go a whole minute! It did not seem to be as easily absorbed into my skin but its “cooling affect” (mint oil) was slightly off-putting. More importantly, I could enjoy my dives A LOT more!! It seemed that if I added a little pressure with my hand the FHML stopped. I do not recommend a tight mask strap BUT I did tighten my mask strap two clicks on one side because I usually run it VERY loose. That did help. I also found that if I ran my mask strap a little lower than normal it help put pressure on my upper lip and slowed leaking down a bit more. The side effect of this was that the mask slid up my face putting more pressure on the bottom of my nose, which is uncomfortable.
Nov 9: Today I did three dives: For the two scooter dives I did, I used the Burt’s Bees Lip Balm again. It seemed that the slightly increased pressure of the high speed forward movement helped lessen the FHML. The third dive was a night dive and as a control measure, I used nothing. The night dive was hard; not as bad as the 10th, but still a real challenge. My FHML was enough that it was even hard to look down at the reef. I was clearing so often that my mask was fogging which never happens. I just wanted to be done.
Day 11: I did two scooter dives with a group today. I used a new tube of Burt’s bees lip balm (chapstick style) Blueberry and Dark Chocolate!!! Way better smelling and I like it better than the Mint oil in the standard type. I am not sure why but it didn’t perform today like it has in the past. It was leaking more than I remember. I wish it was more like an ointment. I am going to find me some Burt’s Bees Cuticle cream!!! That is more spreadable!
Day 12: Today I did an 82 minute navigation dive and I tried Burt’s Bees Cuticle Cream. It is has the viscosity I was looking for and did a good job keeping the leaking to a minimum. I feel like I need to be really liberal with the application of anything that I use. It seems like I need to get the hair to lay down (IT’S NOT) and that makes sense. Going to try it again on my night dive. I am not going to experiment with anything new because I really want to enjoy this one. My tightening of my mask strap one additional click on either side also seemed to have helped.
Days 14-22: I did LOTS of diving. I usually would dive the first with nothing and the second with Burt’s cuticle cream. I also tried Vaseline, which was better than nothing but was almost as messy as the silicone grease. I have also heard that petroleum products are not good for my mask skirt. Leakage is down, now that my ‘stache is just starting to lay down a bit. The beeswax does help reduce leakage and is relatively easy to clean up but looks pretty bad when it is applied (Booger Central).
Day 28: I did a fun night dive that was NOT FUN. I didn’t apply anything and to look down meant looking through a layer of water within 15-20 seconds. To look up meant choking on water running into my nose in down the back of my throat. I was actually a worse diver with that much distraction.
Day 32: I worked on the boat yesterday and a fellow ‘stacher’, Michael was applying silicone grease and I told him about my experiment. He liked the idea of the more natural bee’s wax cuticle cream and tried it on the second dive. He found that he had more FHML than he was used to. He used his silicone grease sparingly, and I think if he has used more of my BB’s it would have worked better. At this point, I am continuing to alternate between some sort of “sealant” and nothing to see if different lengths of beard are helped by the sealant of the day. Today, I didn’t use anything on both dives and, while my definition of “tolerable FHML” has been altered, today was tolerable.
Day 35: I tried a different approach yesterday. I applied a generous bead of Vaseline on the lower third of the mask seal (cheek bone whiskers are getting bushy) and then smoothed the ‘stache down and put mask on. I did not have an obscene amount of FHML but it was still in the ‘not acceptable’ range.
Day 39: I have been diving without anything for the past several dives and I am just used to the continuous FHML. I had a worse than average night dive last night, so I went home and shaved off my Wolverine cheek bone hair. It did seem to improve the leaking I was getting when I turned my head. (Yes it got worse when things changed; like mask strap position, head position, moon phase).
Dec 44: I came SO SO close to shaving off my fur SO many times over the past 6 weeks. Today was the day I could stand it NO LONGER!!! Another less than enjoyable set of dives regardless of what I did. Since the start of this whole thing I can put my mask on and can easily inhale through my nose. I feel like maybe my extra bushiness prevented my ‘stache from laying down and made it really hard to get a good seal. I was able to get a perfect seal about five days ago without any additives and have been trying to replicate that since but have been unsuccessful.
If you can’t, you can use any of the products I have mentioned to get some improvement on your FHML. I like the Burt’s Bees cuticle cream the best, followed by their Lip Balm. In addition, a slightly tighter mask strap helped also. I must caution you to not dive with a strap that is too tight. It just so happens that mine is usually very loose to begin with.
While I had several people suggest to me that a mask with a soft enough silicon skirt will seal regardless of how much hair I have I found this to not be true for me. I am going to attribute it to the fact that my hair is extra bushy and does not lay down; at least not within my 6 weeks of experimenting.
I read some DIY websites about making your own lip balm and this really intrigues me. The recipe is really simple! Mana Foods on Maui has blocks of bee’s wax and coconut oil is easy to find. Here is a link.
p.s. I am looking back at my blog and I see a lot of exclamation points. They were ALL warranted!!