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I'm having what seems to be an unusual problem. After equalizing, it seems like my mask is filling with air and starts to pull away from my face and fill with water. I can press it back on my face and clear it, but this happens for about 5 breaths after equalizing. Eventually it normalizes and sticks again.

I've had this problem with two different masks, so I think it's something about the way I'm breathing. I've tried to pay attention and I don't seem to be breathing out through my nose, but it's possible.

Does anyone else have this problem, and do you know how to stop it from happening?

  • Is the Valsalva the only way you equalize or have you tried other techniques? Does this happen at every depth? It might be related to the way you perform the maneuver rather than the breathing in itself. I see you used two masks but were they properly fitting? the strap properly tensioned? I suppose both without purge valve? completely different models? I went through quite a few masks before finding the perfect one. You should also equalize the mask so breathing through the nose into the mask shouldnt be a disaster as strap and pressure should keep it in place. – Erik vanDoren Jun 27 '16 at 20:40
  • Quick question - can you hold the mask on your face without the strap simply by breathing in through your nose? Not in the water I mean, but just standing up with it on your face? – Aravona Jun 28 '16 at 7:59
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    @ErikvanDoren I've only really tried Valsalva. I'm pretty new to this and have only done pool sessions so far - open water isn't until next week. The two masks which I had a problem with are both brand new - the other one is about 20 years old (and the silicone edge is starting to crumble). Two different models - neither has a purge valve. The mask I ended up with seems otherwise very comfortable, and I had it fitted at a very reputable dive shop. – fields Jun 28 '16 at 16:10
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    Yes - I absolutely intend to discuss it with my instructor when I get there. I'm not freaking about it - it's just that the pool instructor had never seen that problem before so I thought I'd see if I could find someone else who'd experienced it before I went in again. – fields Jun 28 '16 at 18:08
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    Tell them beforehand in case they will bring a couple other demos to let you try on – Erik vanDoren Jun 28 '16 at 19:43
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Its a bit hard to give a proper answer as you are at the beginning so the reasons it happens might be a few different ones

Since from other information in the comments you say that this happened during the pool sessions of your course and you are not certified yet, I don't think is ok giving you too many tips about what to do, or suggest you to use one technique instead of the other. Its your instructor the one that has the responsibility for you and (for the moment) you should follow their methods and refer to them for resolving those things. Other suggestions might conflict with what/how they are teaching and that would be annoying for them and for sure not good for you. Masks problems are very annoying and frustrating, the instructors are there to help and will take the time to solve it for you, don't be afraid of asking them.
The important thing is that if the problem persists when the open water part of the course comes, you don't freak out, you will be fine. Ask your instructor if they can keep an eye on you and if they can stay right beside following you during the descent and correct you if necessary. (Don't feel weird about it, that's the reason you are required to take a course to get certified and they are there to fix these things).

That said: from the comments you said you tried only the Valsalva. As it might be related to the way you perform the maneuver rather than the breathing in itself, be aware that there are other equalization techniques and you might prefer one of those. Given your situation I wont list them, they are described in scuba articles all over the net and you can discuss them with your instructors (don't use them without having talked with your instructors first). However don't be lazy and change technique just because one doesn't come out right, its a good thing to try to perfect all of them, even if one works better than the other now things might change in the future, and your instructor might want you to stick with the Valsalva.

You should also have learned to equalize the mask so, in itself, breathing through the nose into the mask shouldn't be a disaster like you describe. Strap and pressure should keep it in place.

This brings to the mask fitting:

You said in the comments that you had the two masks you tried fitted at a "reputable shop". Be aware that its not if the shop is reputable or not, the fact is that fitting dry just goes so far. Some masks simply don't fit well some faces (although a leak is different than a mask just leaving your face). Even the strap should be properly regulated and positioned.

Like many divers I went through quite a few masks before finding the perfect one, they might feel and look all similar but a small detail can make a big difference.

I would suggest trying all the different models you can, and I mean different shapes, amount of coverage of the face, with and without purge valve, different volumes etc. (Lower profile masks have less volume, some like them some don't). Your dive shop could have some demos, tell your instructors you want to try all you can beforehand so they can bring the demos at the open water sessions (this means buying the good one from that diveshop too if they go to all the trouble to help you, some are very expensive but don't go look for the best price online).

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I've found that just pressing my mask at the bridge of my nose after clearing or otherwise fiddling with it helps push out excess air and reseat it. But I do it immediately, instead of after 5 breaths.

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    Maybe I'm not making myself clear - I'm able to push air out and re-seat it, but then when I take another breath, it breaks away again. I have to do this whole thing a few times before it settles. – fields Jun 27 '16 at 18:48
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You should be able to breathe out through your nose and have no effect on the seating of the mask -- that's what rebreather divers do all the time.

If you can't do this, it has to be a problem of fit. Masks are extremely personal bits of kit that need to be tried on before you buy. Typically the test is to take the strap off (or put it around the front of the mask), press it to your face and slightly breathe in through your nose. It should stay in place.

If it doesn't stay in place, use another mask, one that fits your face shape better.

The strap is there to lightly hold the mask in place; if it's too tight it can distort the mask surround and make it harder to seat.

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