A diving mask (also half mask, dive mask or scuba mask) is an item of diving equipment that allows underwater divers, including scuba divers, free-divers, and snorkelers, to see clearly underwater. Surface supplied divers usually use a full face mask or diving helmet, but in some systems the half mask may be used. When the human eye is in direct contact with water as opposed to air, its normal environment, light entering the eye is refracted by a different angle and the eye is unable to focus the light on the retina. By providing an air space in front of the eyes, the eye is able to focus nearly normally. The shape of the air space in the mask slightly affects the ability to focus. Corrective lenses can be fitted to the inside surface of the viewport or contact lenses may be worn inside the mask to allow normal vision for people with focusing defects.
When the diver descends, the ambient pressure rises, and it becomes necessary to equalise the pressure inside the mask with the external ambient pressure to avoid the barotrauma known as mask squeeze, This is done by allowing sufficient air to flow out through the nose into the mask to relieve the pressure difference. This requires the nose to be included in the airspace of the mask. Equalisation during ascent is automatic as excess air inside the mask easily leaks out past the seal.
A wide range of viewport shapes and internal volumes are available, and each design will generally fit some shapes of face better than others. A good comfortable fit and a reliable seal around the edges of the rubber skirt is important to the correct function of the mask.