Face masks. Our favorite topic for 2020 and I suspect, for 2021 too. Today we are revisiting the AusAir Pollution and Viral Filtration Mask which we have reviewed last November. I felt like it would be a crime not to do a follow up review because, damn, this is one company that take their product VERY seriously.
Credit Where Credit’s Due
The first iteration have had its problems. AusAir did not turn a blind eye to the issues. Not only did the company acknowledged the issues, but they were quick to act and follow up with appropriate mitigations. Now, if that isn’t a committed company, I don’t know what is.
Recap of issues from my last review
• Durability issue • Weak ear loop design • Fit and sizing issue • Not eyewear-friendly
So did AusAir did really address all those issues? Well, in essence, mostly. I would think, by virtue of the design, a couple of “issues” I experience as an individual may not have been fully resolved.
There is definitely an improvement here. What I see is the same material, but now with an added layer of elastic band-like material. In other words, the soft foam material is now sandwiched between two elastic band-like materials. The added layer helps to protect the otherwise delicate foam material and from what I experience so far, it is less likely to be dirtied.
Ear loop design
Well, the outer mask is exactly the same design as before and so, the same issue with the ear loop, unfortunately. However, there’s a saving grace; it now a tad narrower and thinner over the first iteration. Plus, it now comes a pair of ear loop adjusters. The narrower and lower profile skin, along with the ear loop adjusters made a world of difference in wear comfort.
With the ear loop adjusters, you can actually can pick up a size larger and be confident that it will fit your face and ears. I dig that a lot. The ear loop adjusters need simple installation and once you done that, you will be able to tweak the ear loop size which is very much welcomed. So far, I have not experience any discomfort… yet.
However, because of the unibody design and the fact that the ear loop is not round but flat, it still make wearing kind of awkward. The rectangular cross-section tends to fall flat on the back of the ears like before.
But as mentioned, the slightly narrower ear loop and the overall thinner profile of the skin, along with the ear loop adjusters, somehow alleviate this issue a little.
I would say the issue should be considered ’resolved’ for non eyewear-wearing users, but because of the rectangular ear loop, they still make people who wear glasses – especially plastic frame glasses – feel a little awkward at times and painful at times.
I can’t deny the improved design does make wearing a little more comfortable. However, like I have said, it is still not eyewear-friendly. The ear loop is one aspect, the nose bridge is another.
With the flexible broad span nose wire and memory nose form, it tend to push the glasses up a little and I must say, this can be rather uncomfortable for plastic frame spectacles. I would imagine that this could affect progressive lens users. I could be wrong.
As a boon, though, the tight seal offered by the flexible broad span nose wire and memory nose foam virtually eliminates fogging of glasses.
For the record, I tested two sizes: medium and large. There was some goof up with the sizing recommendation. It was recommended that we take the smaller size for people with in-between sizes, but it was subsequently changed.
I have to say, my decision to reorder the larger size was a good decision. Coupled with the ear loop adjusters, I have better fit than the just-fitting medium size example. And you know what, I actually enjoy wearing the mask more now. Though it will be great if it could be redesigned to accommodate the temple and nose bridge of a pair of glasses.
Well, what can I say? The AusAir definitely have improved on the design and kudos for including the matching ear loop adjusters to make fit more customized.
As far as performance go, I can’t commend as I do not have the equipment to verify the effectiveness (of the filtration). One thing for sure is, it seals like my 3M N95. I have used enough masks at this point to say it does provide reasonable good seal.
Also, not fogging up my glasses is a major bonus for a person who wear glasses. And it does so while not hindering breathability. As for the filter, it is the same as before. You know, multi-layer filtration and made-for-valves, which is perfect for what it is.
Here are my take of the improved AusAir mask:
• Good seal
• Adjustable ear loop
• Beautiful minimal design
• Comfortable wear (without eyewear, that is)
• Multi-layer filter with good coverage
• Highly breathable
• Not eyewear-friendly
• Dedicated, specialized filter
If anyone’s interested, you can find the AusAir AirFlex Mask (as it is called now) on shopausair.com selling for US$79. And no. We are NOT affiliated. I am just after a good mask that does a the job of protecting myself and others around me – all without suffocating me.
All images by Mikeshouts.com.