Nasal Pillow Vs Nasal Mask: CPAP Mask Comparison

It's All About Mask Fit

Whether you are new to CPAP or well versed in the many styles and features of CPAP masks, this brief summary will give you an idea about two different CPAP mask styles and which might be best for you.

What Is a Nasal Mask?

Traditionally, CPAP nasal masks have been the most common type of mask used in the home. In general, a nasal mask consists of a plastic frame with a triangle or pear-shaped silicone cushion. This cushion surrounds the nose from the nose bridge to the lip. Some manufactures implement gel and foam along with the silicon to help minimize leaks and allow a more customized feel.

Since these silicone and gel cushions come in constant contact with your face, they have a limited effective life. Masks typically need to be replaced every six to eight months because oils from the skin break down the silicone. Many models now allow these parts to be replaced, which helps customers save money from buying a complete new mask.

Many masks that have additional replacement parts are also available such as head straps and forehead pads. SOME BENEFITS of this mask:

Benefits of Nasal Mask

Nasal masks benefits include:

  • Secure seating for a better seal
  • Less claustrophobic than full face masks
  • Best for high pressure settings
  • For comfortable for unique face shapes and sizes

Who Is a Nasal Mask Best For?

  • If you are an active sleeper, nasal masks offer a more secure seal while changing sleeping positions
  • If you find the full face masks too claustrophobic, nasal masks have less facial contact
  • If you have been prescribed a high pressure setting a nasal mask may be preferred over a full face mask
  • If you had difficulty fitting a full face mask, nasal masks are easier to conform to unique face shapes and sizes

What Is a Nasal Pillow Mask?

Another mask style is a CPAP nasal pillow mask. Instead of a cushion surrounding your nose, nasal pillows fit comfortably at the base of your nose and slightly into the nostril. These nasal pillows are made out of a very soft silicone and typically have an oval shape to help match your nasal opening.

Once on, the nasal pillows expand slightly as pressure from the CPAP machine is introduced into the mask. The nasal pillows then hug the inner nasal wall and create a superior seal. A simple head strap design is used to hold the nasal pillow mask to your face.

There are many benefits to this type of mask. Most nasal pillow masks are extremely lightweight, some as light as only a few ounces. They offer a clear field of vision, so watching TV or wearing glasses will not interfere with its use.

Side sleepers tend to prefer nasal pillow masks because there is less pressure on the cheeks and reduced impressions on the skin because of reduced headgear. The nasal pillow masks come with different size pillows, eliminating the chance of an improper fit. People with a mustache or beard tend to prefer these masks because of limited facial contact.

The most notable drawback to the nasal pillow mask is the irritation some people experience inside their nose. A heated humidifier can usually relieve this irritation. Another downside is felt on higher CPAP pressures. Many people feel discomfort on pressures exceeding 15cm h20.

Who Is a Nasal Pillows Mask Best For?

Choose a nasal pillow mask if:

  • You breathe through your nose
  • Other masks do not fit comfortably over your beard or mustache
  • You like to watch TV, or read during PAP therapy
  • You are an active sleeper

Remember that finding that perfect fitting mask often involves trying many different masks. This can become frustrating and is one of the top reasons why people discontinue using their sleep apnea machines. When ordering a mask don’t be afraid to ask questions, try all the fitting tools available on our website and inquire about customer feedback.

Feel free to give us a call at 866-414-9700 or email

This post was updated from its original version on June 9, 2021.

Chris Vasta


Chris Vasta

Over a 10+ year career at PHH Mortgage managing a $100 million portfolio, Chris Vasta learned the ins and outs of the business world. He learned how to establish business relationships, lead a multi-prong team, and implement strategies for long-term growth. In 2007, Vasta used that experience to transition his role into president of The CPAP Shop. Over his tenure, Vasta has been involved in everything from website design to warehouse layout. His hands-on approach with customers has evolved into an in-depth understanding of the challenges of beginning and adhering to sleep therapy. He often provides his insights on product…

2 Comments Leave new

  • Penny Pera

    I use a full CPAP mask (covering my nose and mouth) but I’m a side sleeper and very restless. The tubing is always getting in the way, when I toss and turn. Are there any alternative masks that would make using it less cumbersome?

    • Chris Vasta

      Hi Penny, The CPAP Shop offers a selection of sleek full face masks that do not get in the way of restful sleep. We recommend using the Philips DreamWear Full Face CPAP Mask, Fisher and Paykel Vitera Full Face CPAP Mask, or ResMed AirFit F30 Full Face CPAP Mask. Watch this video to learn more: or call us at 866-414-9700.

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