There are a few key reasons why most divers, whether recreational or professional, choose to shave or buzz their hair very short or even completely bald before a dive. While not always a requirement, having short hair is considered best practice in the diving community for safety and comfort when wearing diving masks and equipment. In this article, we’ll explore the top reasons behind this common practice.
Prevents Hair Entanglement in Equipment
One of the main reasons divers shave is to prevent their hair from getting caught in diving equipment. Long hair could tangle in the straps and fittings of masks, helmets, and breathing apparatuses. This could cause a diver to lose their gear completely or have their movements restricted, which could be extremely dangerous underwater. Having no or very short hair eliminates this hazard. Even a basic snorkeling mask can catch and pull long hair when put on or taken off, so most seasoned divers keep their hair cropped short.
Allows Proper Sealing of Masks and Helmets
Another key reason behind the common clean-shaven or bald look among divers is that it allows masks and helmets to seal properly against the head/face. Gaskets work optimally against smooth skin versus hair. If masks and helmets don’t seal fully due to hair interfering, water can leak inside.
For scuba divers, a leaky mask means you could miss important visual information about your dive environment, gear, and fellow divers. It also ruins visibility and requires more clearing and equalizing. In more extreme cases, mask flooding could cause panic or the inhalation of water.
For helmeted commercial divers, leaky seals could be catastrophic. The breathing environment and visibility inside the helmet would be compromised, risking injury or death at working depths. Keeping the head shaved or freshly buzzed right before helmeted diving is standard practice.
Increased Comfort and Usability of Hoods/Caps
Most divers wear thick neoprene hoods or caps to insulate their heads from cold water temperatures. Having short hair makes wearing and adjusting these more comfortable. No long hair will be caught, pulled, and pressed against the scalp under the tight material. Neoprene hoods also tend to provide a better insulated seal around a bare scalp.
If wearing a full drysuit, the neck seal can press down on long hair as well, causing discomfort. Keeping hair short beneath hoods, caps, and suit seals allows divers to focus on their dives rather than being distracted.
Better Hygiene and Cleanliness
Keeping hair closely cropped or shaved before diving has hygienic benefits as well. Sweat, grease, and grime easily build up on the scalp and in lengthy hairstyles. This could negatively affect the seals of masks and helmets.
Immersed in water for prolonged periods, dirty hair can also become a floating contaminant. Between such close proximity to gear and other divers, short hair keeps things more sanitary. A freshly shaved head starting each dive ensures cleanliness.
After completing dives, especially in salt water, shampooing out and drying long thick hair can be a lengthy hassle too. A quick rinse or wipe down of a short buzzcut is much simpler for dive cleanup.
Decreased “Dead Air Space”
For scuba diving, having less hair helps reduce the amount of “dead air space” between your scalp and mask. This refers to air trapped inside the mask by your head that isn’t moved by breathing. The more dead air space inside a mask, the faster CO2 builds up with each breath. This requires more frequent mask venting and clearing.
By keeping hair very short, the mask can seal down onto the scalp more tightly. This minimizes trapped motionless air, improving ventilation and comfort on longer or deeper dives.
Better Visibility and Communication
Having short or no hair can also help improve visibility and communication in diving teams. Masks, caps, and hoods fit more snugly and uniformly on bare heads. This provides better sightlines and visual range in the diving environment. Features, landmarks, and fellow divers remain in view. Hand signals and underwater slates for communication can be read more clearly as well.
For helmeted divers, with exterior com systems, speaking into the mic picks up better when it’s positioned right against a bare scalp. No hair padding means verbal communication stays loud and clear between divers, topside crews, and inside the helmet.
Adherence to Safety Standards
In commercial and military diving fields, shaved heads are often mandatory right before suiting up. While not all recreational dive leaders enforce it, many request that divers come with freshly cut or buzzed hair. Adhering to such standards sets a professional tone and shows sound judgment.
It signals that divers understand the fundamental safety reasons for eliminating long hairstyles around hazardous equipment and underwater operations. Even if not enforced, coming prepared is a sign of experience, training, and priorities in order.
On shared dives, having a shaved head demonstrates courtesy towards other divers as well. It eliminates loose hairs floating around a dive site or drifting onto gear that could affect visibility or get trapped in equipment. Keeping hair cropped short essentially keeps it contained, a consideration for all divers sharing an underwater space.
After completing dives, long thick hair can take a very long time to thoroughly dry out. Damp hair in cool environments can cause discomfort, chilling, and potential health issues. This is another reason many divers maintain short hairstyles.
Coming out of the water with a freshly shorn head, drying off is quicker and more complete.Changing back into warm clothes with no wet mop of hair speeds the post-dive process. Remaining comfortable and avoiding cold-related symptoms allows for more dives each day.
Fewer Styling Requirements
Maintaining intricate longer hairstyles simply isn’t practical around the tight schedules, frequent gear changes, and exposures to water and elements that diving entails. Elaborate braided, locked, treated, or lengthened hairstyles also pose potential snagging and hygiene issues.
The no-fuss nature of buzzed or shaved heads works better with the diving lifestyle. Minimal or no daily styling also saves precious minutes prepping for each dive. Keeping things simple maximizes time in the water.
While not every recreational diver goes for the “chrome dome” look, keeping hair neatly trimmed or shaved before diving remains a broadly followed best practice. For professional divers, eliminating longer hairstyles is essentially a mandatory safety rule. The reasons behind this shared tradition primarily stem from avoiding entanglement hazards and sealing issues that long locks could cause. But comfort, hygiene, visibility, compliance, and pragmatism also factor in. Ultimately, the common sense benefits of cycling between short cuts or smooth shaves are why this resilient tradition continues among generations of divers.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do all divers need to shave their heads completely bald?
No, most divers keep their hair closely cropped or buzzed short, but shaving entirely bald is not necessary. As long as hair is short enough not to catch on equipment or compromise the seal of masks and helmets, some minimal length is acceptable. Many recreational divers maintain basic short hairstyles.
Can women divers have long hair?
Women divers need to follow the same safety guidelines and also keep their hair short or tucked tightly inside their hoods/caps. Some may choose to shave their heads entirely for convenience and comfort. But as long as hair is secured neatly, women don’t necessarily need to cut their hair very short. However, lengthy styles pose more risks.
Can you dive with dreadlocks or braids?
Dreadlocks, braids, weaves, and hair extensions are strongly discouraged for diving. The snagging and sealing risks outweigh the benefits of maintaining these difficult hairstyles in a diving context. Keeping hair secured as close to the scalp as possible is recommended.
Is shaving waivers ever an option?
For professional diving operations, shaving policies are set for safety and liability reasons. Recreational dives may be more flexible, but instructors will likely request short hair. If a diver refuses to cut long hair, they may need to sit out dives or get approval to participate at their own risk. Waivers absolving staff of any hair-related mishaps may be required.
Doesn’t shaving increase risk of cuts, scrapes, and infection?
When performed properly with an adequate razor or electric trimmer, shaving barely poses any increased risks. Minor nicks may occur but are avoidable. A smooth shave actually protects against cuts and pulls compared to uneven buzzing. Standard diving exposure protection applies equally to a bare scalp. Practicing good hygiene and disinfection eliminates infection risks as well.
Can I just wear a swim cap over long hair?
Swim caps are intended for water flow dynamics, not security. They do not reliably contain long loose hair from potential tangling risks. Caps may hold hair in place temporarily, but can dislodge. Hair could then leak out and get caught on something. For these reasons, caps are not recommended as a substitute for proper short hairstyles among divers.