A mask is quite helpful in a pool where chlorine tends to sting the eyes. The nose plugs (or the full mask) are helpful anywhere when trying to learn to roll because water gets up your nose in a somewhat different - and for me significantly more bothersome - way when your head is upside down to the surface of the water. I find it bad enough in fresh water that I come up with a major headache unless I get the roll in really fast, salt water is much easier.
That said, I often have my eyes closed even with the mask. It is habit - aside from an intro scuba class I took with a first dive, my eyes just don't open under water. So my process was (and will be again, have to get my left side back) to use the mask to confirm a good initial position then actually do the roll completely on kinesthetic feel.
I might have gotten it faster if I had been able to keep looking thru the roll. Unfortunately my eyes have never cooperated. But then again, I was not discomforted the first time I had to roll in fading light or dark water like some either. For me it was no different.
Classic Freestanding Rack
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