Lets talk face masks. Specifically, the AusAir which was on Kickstarter earlier this year. The good news is, it delivered, albeit a little delayed. In fact, I have it for a month now and have wore it every day I head out. You may want to read this review before you commit to this mask. Do note that this is in the perspective of an eyewear wearer.
[UPDATE] We have done a follow up review of the updated AusAir face mask design. If you are planning to get it, be sure to check out what’s new with the updated design.
First, the aesthetic. There’s no denying AusAir is one of the best looking face masks out there in the market. It makes people take a second look.
The sleek outer layer is made a soft foam material on an elastic band-like material, so the mask is a little stretchy. It is comfy as far as the lower face where the mask goes on, but it does come with a price: durability.
The outer layer has an unibody design. This means the ear loops and the mask itself is one continuous piece. Now, you may think it is a durable design, well, it is really not. A little under a month into using it, I have already seen a fairly serious tear on the foam material:
And this happened when removing one of the stainless steel valves when changing the filter. So, don’t let your finger nails grow too long!
As you can see, the right ear loop is literally hanging by the thread, or in this case, by the elastic (update: it is even worst at this point. Only the thin elastic fabric is holding it now).
This shouldn’t happen for something this pricey, like ever. Mind you, it is just normal wearing. No abuses like pulling it under the chin or whatsoever. The ear loop is perhaps the weakest link in both durability and design.
You see, unlike regular mask that has round ear loops, this one has flat ear loops which makes wearing kind of awkward. It has a rectangular cross-section which tends to “fall flat” on the back of the ears like so:
It’s still comfy somewhat, but because of the unusual loop cross-section and thickness, it is not the idea mask for people who wear glasses. The temples of the eyewear will either sit on top of the tall ear loop or expanded outwards to settle alongside it.
As far as comfort goes, it is not the best, TBH. Perhaps it has something to do with the size. The thing is, when we first received the survey for the size fit for Kickstarter backers, AusAir offers three sizes: Kids (2.9”-3.6”), Medium (3.6”-4”) and Large (4”-4.7”).
We regret not screen grabbing the survey. It was recommended choosing the size smaller if you are between sizes. However, today, we found out that it has changed. It now recommends choosing the larger size for such case on its website. And it was not just me. Two of us saw that and there was a discussion why the smaller size logic.
Anyways… as you may have imagine, I choose the smaller (Medium). It turns out to be a rather tight fit. Granted, over the weeks, as it did “seasoned”, it is actually quite comfy when not wearing eyewear.
However, I experience discomfort (read: sharp pain) on the back of the ear if I wear it for hours on end. Perhaps, this is not recommended if you wear glasses. Especially plastic frame types.
But the good news is, if wore probably, the eyewear never experience fogging. That means the mask is working? Right?
In the area of performance, we can’t really commend as do have the equipment to test the effectiveness of the filtration. But one thing I can say is, as far as seal is concerned, this thing seals like my 3M N95.
This brings us to the second layer, which is the filtration part. The filter is multi-layered filter, complete with an active carbon layer, botanical PM2.5 filter layer, a soft non-woven inner layer, a hidden aluminum nose clip for custom fit over the nose, a memory nose foam, and a pair of valves that fits perfectly through the outer mask’s pre-cut holes and the stainless steel valves.
Mind you, though. This is not the kind of puny filter you find on Amazon. This has a high-quality feel to it and it is huge. It is as big as the outer mask and stretches from cheek-to-cheek, and partway under the chin.
Heck, the filter itself could be a mask on its own if it has ear loops, and it could better than most reusable masks out there. Assembly is required to put the filter, mask and S/S valves. But its easy peasy.
When wearing, it completely engulfs the lower face and while I cannot see, I can feel the inner filter plastered to my lower face and it felt reassuring. After four weeks with it, it now felt snug on my face and I have no problem wearing for several hours. Though occasionally, I do feel pain on the back of the ear. When that happens, I have adjust the ear loops a little.
Sometimes, some efforts have to be made to adjust the orientation of the ear loops for a comfy wear. Breathing wise, it does not feel restrictive.
And I am saying as a person who have pretty serious nose allergy since like 20 years ago. I can climb 11 floors without any breathing difficulty. Though it is not recommended for exercising.
The outer mask is breathable, but it is fairly thick too. It is also kind of absorbent, so moisture may stay on for a bit if it gets wet. Speaking of moisture, comfort level in terms of heat is perfectly fine to me, even in outdoor with temperatures of 96.8 Fahrenheit (36 Celsius).
Attention to details to the design is commendable, right down to the very Apple-inspired packaging. Thoughtful design include a set of rubber stubs on either side of the mask for securing the filter to the mask. It even comes with a set of block out valves to keep your exhalation in to better protect others.
Not going to lie, I dig this mask. Like, a lot. But the questionable durability in relation with the price it commands result in a love/hate feeling. I mean, seriously, what’s up with the premature tearing of the Magic Fit ear loops?
It is worthy to note that I use it daily, but rest assure I did not abuse it. It has been just normal wearing and removing. That said, I am not sure if I can recommend it. Perhaps, yes, if you have the money to drop and you are prepared that it will be out of commissioned sooner than it should. Also, I don’t quite recommend this if you wear eyewear.
Image credit: Mikeshouts.com.