Don’t Wear Your Dive Mask on Your Forehead

mask on forehead

As the years pass by, I find it harder to keep up with new trends, particularly in the world of fashion. The last time I did some research for my own amusement, it was oversized, baggy clothes, sagging pants, ripped jeans, then “dad” shoes made a triumphant return, and now the trend is… wearing your dive mask on your forehead when scuba diving or snorkeling? Maybe I’m just too old school, but I don’t understand why someone would do that.

If you are someone that likes to “temporarily” leave your mask sitting on your forehead, or you see someone else doing it, do yourself (and them) a favor and break this bad habit immediately! This is an extremely risky thing to do because a strong wave can easily knock the mask right off your head if it’s not worn properly. Unless you have a backup dive mask, you’re hosed. Also, it communicates that you’re in trouble, sort of like a scuba diver’s way of saying SOS; you will make people think you are in distress when you’re not.

Leaving the mask on your forehead is a common mistake that beginners make which is likely a bad habit carried over from leaving swimming goggles on your forehead, but it’s a big mistake even in that context. The same major downside applies but at least in the context of swimming, you can always retrieve your goggles from the bottom of the pool; that’s not always the case for scuba diving.

In this article, we’ll go into all of the reasons why you shouldn’t wear your dive mask on your forehead, and the proper way you should wear your dive mask other than on your face.

Why you shouldn’t wear your dive mask on your forehead

It’s a distress signal

If you saw someone waving frantically at you with both arms, flailing around in the water, or if you see the letters “SOS”, you know that they require emergency rescue. Now, if you were to approach them only for them to look at you funny and ask you what you want with them, you would be justifiably angry that they communicated the wrong thing to you.

That’s sort of what wearing a dive mask on your forehead is like. Any divemasters (DMs) who are keeping an eye on their group of divers will be on the lookout for signs of distress, and a dive mask on the forehead is basically saying, “Hey, I need some help!”

How exactly does wearing a dive mask on your forehead communicate that you need help? For starters, why is the mask off your face? Even if the mask is fogging up or water has leaked inside you can easily clear your mask without ever shifting it up to your forehead. You generally don’t want to take your mask off your face if you can help it, which is why when it’s sitting on your forehead, someone is going to assume you need help.

You might think this is silly or that people are overreacting, but for better or for worse that’s just how it is. If you want to integrate into this community, it’s best to know the conventions so that everyone is on the same page. Otherwise, you run the risk of miscommunication and your fellow divers may get irritated with you.

It can easily get knocked off

mask in water

Another reason that you shouldn’t wear a dive mask on your forehead is because the chances of it slipping off or getting knocked off your head is extremely high. All it takes is a strong wave to hit your face and off the mask goes. Depending on where you’re diving, that mask might be gone for good. Hope you had a backup, otherwise you won’t be able to dive anymore.

Story time. I’ve seen my fair share of people losing their masks this way. The most cringe-inducing one was someone who had a mask with prescription lenses who left it sitting on his forehead. Those things aren’t cheap, and if you need vision correcting lenses, then having to resort to a backup mask without them is bad enough. I think you know where I’m going with this story.

During the brief wait period when he was waiting for the boat to come pick him up, he was buffeted by a strong current. He reached his hand up to check for his mask after recovering, and to his horror, it was gone. Oh, did I mention he didn’t bring a spare mask? And that we were only on the first day of a week-long liveaboard, and he also brought his expensive underwater photography equipment with him? Yeah, I don’t think he quite got his money’s worth out of that trip.

The fact that you can lose your dive mask in all kinds of ways, whether at the surface or underwater, is why you should always bring a backup dive mask as well.

It makes people think you’re a beginner

Lastly, and this isn’t a real point I’m trying to make but it’s something you might want to avoid anyways, is that wearing your dive mask on your forehead makes people think you’re a beginner. After reading the first two points above, hopefully you are beginning to understand why.

That might not be the case; you might have dozens of dives under your belt. However, in the same way that people treat new drivers with disdain or disrespect whenever they see the “New Driver” sign on a car, they might treat someone wearing a dive mask on their forehead the same way; it’s like a mark of shame. You might have a few reservations about this perception, but I’m just telling you how it’s perceived by the scuba diving community; this will be how it’s interpreted by veteran divers.

There might be a few people who won’t make such assumptions about you; those will be few and far between. The vast majority will wonder why you would do something so unusual knowing that it either means you’re in distress when you’re not (and they’ll get mad at you for a false alarm) and that you might not have a mask for much longer.

Where should you wear your dive mask?

mask around neck

If you can, don’t ever fully remove your mask if you don’t need to. Just keep it on for as long as you can and if it starts fogging or leaking then break the seal only to clear the mask and reseal it on your face right away.

For those situations where you’re at the surface and you absolutely need to take off your mask, at least leave the strap around your neck or arm. That way, even if you get hit by a wave while you’re fiddling with it, the strap should hopefully keep it on your person.

Another option is to clip it on yourself. Keep a carabiner clip on your BCD so that you can hook miscellaneous items on it. One such item could be your mask. Simply use the carabiner clip to secure your mask strap, and now you can do whatever it is you need to do with your mask with the peace of mind that it is firmly attached to something.

Can I really not wear my dive mask on my forehead?

It depends on your DM. Some are really uptight and some are more laid-back. Some DMs are understanding and may even defer to more experienced divers.

However, if and when the situation calls for it, such as a beach entry with rough surface, a choppy surface, night diving, etc., then even a relaxed DM will probably speak up about someone wearing a dive mask on their forehead.

Despite that, you are, of course, free to do whatever you want. It’s not illegal to keep the mask on your forehead but, again, it sends the wrong signal. Heck, most divers do this when they’re still on the boat. However, once they’re in the water, most of them abide by the unwritten rule of not keeping the dive mask on their forehead. They will keep it in the places discussed in the previous section.

Let’s be honest, the issue is not necessarily anything to do with keeping a dive mask on your forehead; the issue is more about environmental awareness or lack of it. If you are very careful about checking your surroundings and you know that it’s safe, then of course it’s technically fine to temporarily put your mask on your forehead because what could possibly knock it off at that moment? (To be fair, you could have missed something).

The issue is that weather conditions can change unexpectedly, people can have temporary lapses in judgment or awareness, and next thing you know, your mask is sinking to the bottom of the ocean. That’s why this “rule” exists – you’ll never lose your mask if you keep it in one of the places described above. You’ll also never confuse your fellow divers who may think you need assistance.

Parting words

Have you been berated by a fellow diver or a DM for wearing your mask on your forehead? Do you believe this is a non-issue that’s blown out of proportion? Or have our arguments made it quite clear that it’s not a good idea to wear your mask on your forehead because there are other places you can keep it?

Whether you feel you are justified (because it’s not illegal) or not, by keeping your mask on your forehead, you are communicating that you are in distress. People will come to you to check on you if they see it.

It doesn’t even matter if you have perfect situational awareness and know that your mask won’t get knocked off. If another diver sees a mask on your forehead while you’re in the water, it either means: a) you’re a beginner who’s about to lose your mask, or b) you’re actually in distress. When they find out it’s actually c) you just like to keep it on your forehead, they can be justifiably angry. You’ve been warned!