There are a bunch of things to consider when you’re getting new snorkel gear; size, seal, comfort, color and durability. The most important thing that you’re looking for out of those factors is fit. Without a proper fit the mask will leak, the seal will be bad, and/or you’ll be uncomfortable. The best way to ensure a proper fit and seal on a snorkeling mask is with a silicone skirt.
The skirt of the mask is the part that of the mask that outlines the frames and the lenses. It feels like a soft plastic when, in fact, it is actually silicone in 90% of the cases. There are still some department stores and cheap snorkel gear sellers that are selling masks with plastic skirts and that is not what you’re looking for.
Why is Silicone the Best Material For Snorkel Mask Skirts?
Silicone is formed by chains of silicon and oxygen atoms and organic groups attached to the atoms that are silicon. For this reason, that makes silicone completely versatile. It is chemical resistant so that it holds up against the harsh salt of the ocean, it is tough against temperature changes so that it doesn’t melt in the backseat of the car in tropical climates, and it is malleable and soft so that it fits comfortable around the face and ensures a great seal of the mask.
Years ago, snorkel mask skirts were made of black or dark plastic. This has a more claustrophobic feel and keeps a lot of the sunlight out of the mask for easier vision. Silicone, when first introduced to the snorkeling and SCUBA mask world was cloudy but still allowed more light than plastic. Over time, the silicone got “cleaner” and less cloudy.
These days there are things called “crystal silicone” or “liquid silicone”. These are the purest forms of silicone and are near clear which allows for optimal peripheral vision and light. There is some added advantage to the crystal and liquid silicone mask skirts but not so much that you would need to replace a snorkel mask that has a regular silicone skirt.