5 Ways to Keep Your Hair Out of Your Face When Scuba Diving

Woman scuba diving in tropical water
Image Source RF/Justin Lewis / Getty Images

I have had nearly every hair style possible.  I changed my hairstyle from shoulder-length, to a buzz cut, to a long, layered style. As I was growing my hair out from the buzz-cut, I dove with almost every imaginable length of hair. The best was when my hair was boy-cut. The worst was when my hair reached a jaw-bone length bob (impossible to tie back, but too long to let free).

Controlling long hair when diving is important for two reasons.

(1) Long hair floats in front of a diver's field of vision (and gets horribly tangled in the process).
(2) Loose hair tends to slide around under the mask strap, which causes the mask to move during a dive. This may cause even a properly fitting mask to leak.

Here are some tricks to control long hair that I have learned after years of diving.

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photo of a ponytail
A ponytail in this position will interfere with a diver's mask strap. ©istockphoto.com

A ponytail will hold your hair back during a dive, but it is probably the worst of all solutions. There are two ways to wear a pony tail when diving:

(1) If your hair is long enough, position your ponytail on the top of your head.

(2) If your hair is short,  place the ponytail at the nape of your neck.

Either of these placements will avoiding disturbing the position of your mask strap.

I dislike ponytails when diving for two reasons. The first is that they tend to loosen during a dive, causing the diver's mask strap to slip around and lose position as the hair moves. If ponytail loosens to the point that it becomes undone, the elastic band is lost and turns into underwater trash. I find a lot of hair bands at dive sites.

The second reason I dislike ponytails for diving is that they allow your hair to tangle. The loose end of the ponytail becomes knotted (especially in sticky salt water) and the elastic band tends to get knotted into the hair. Wavy hair like mine becomes so tangled after diving in a ponytail, that I sometimes have to cut the elastic band out.

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French Braids

photo of a french braid when scuba diving
French braids keep a diver's hair from sliding around. ©istockphoto.com

A single French braid beginning at the crown of the head works well to hold hair in place during a dive. The hair strands are interwoven, and are less likely to come free during a dive than in a ponytail. A French braid also helps to keep the hair from sliding around and disturbing the position of the mask strap. French braids are great for divers with layered hair, or hair that is too short to efficiently pull back in a pony tail.

The only drawback of French braids is the post-dive tangle. I would strongly urge divers who have French braided their hair to leave it braided until showering. Salt water causes the interwoven strands of the braid to stick to each other, creating a tangled mess if the braid is undone before rinsing with fresh water. In a pinch, use a dollop of conditioner at the bottom tip of the braid, and then carefully brush or comb the braid out starting at the bottom and working inch by inch to the top. Spread the conditioner along the hair shafts as you go.

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Pigtails/ Two Braids

photo of a scuba diver wearing pigtails
Dividing hair into two equal braids (pigtails) works well for scuba diving. ©istockphoto.com

One hairstyle that works very well for diving is pigtails. Part your hair down the middle and braid it into two equal braids. Pigtails keep a diver's hair from sliding around but do not tangle it as much as a French braid does. Care must still be taken when combing out the hair post dive.

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Head Scarves

diver wearing a head scarf
Neither your hair nor your headscarf will look this good after diving. ©istockphoto.com

In many diving destinations, local shops sell head scarves made for scuba diving. These scarves are usually made of a bandana-type material, and look like modified headbands. They have a wide strip of fabric that runs over the top of a diver's head and down behind the nape of the neck, where the fabric is gathered with elastic to hold tension.

These head scarves seem like a great idea, but I have rarely seen them work. Most divers remove them after one dive because the scarves tend to slip around (or off) underwater.

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scuba diver wears a wetsuit against a white background.
Hoods are my favorite method of keeping hair under control when scuba diving. ©istockphoto.com

By far the most effective method I have discovered for hair control when scuba diving is to use a neoprene diving hood. A variety of hood styles are available, from beanie-style hoods that fasten underneath a diver's chin, to full hoods that cover the head and neck, to hooded vests (my favorite) that fit under a diver's wetsuit. (These not only keep hair under control, they minimize that nasty trickling water that leaks in from a wetsuit's neck.)

Hoods work with all lengths of hair. For divers with short or medium length hair, it may be easiest to first wet your hair to keep it back, and then to slide the hood over your head. An easy way to do this is to enter the water with the hood down around your neck, lean back in the water to wet your hair and slick it back, and then carefully slide the hood on.

For long hair (like mine), it works well to twist your hair tightly into a bun on the top of your head. Hold your hair in place and slide the hood over it. No hair elastic of other method of securing the hair is necessary! The hood will hold your hair in place.

A hood is my favorite way to keep my hair out of my face when scuba diving because a hood completely prevents hair from sliding around. Hair elastics and other accessories are not necessary when using a hood, so hair is less likely to get tangled.

More tips for easier diving:
• 13 Tips for Good Boat Diving Etiquette
• How and When to Use Trim Weights
6 Steps to an Easier, More Controlled Descent