Can Uniqlo’s new version of the light-weight summer mask beat its disappointing forebear?

With many places around the world seeing a resurgence in COVID-19 infection cases, the push for wearing masks when out in public or in close proximity to others is stronger than ever before. The problem, especially in countries like Japan that turn into humid saunas during the summer months, is that masks can feel cumbersome the longer you wear them, and especially so once they’re drenched through with sweat.

Uniqlo, everyone’s favorite affordable fashion outlet, quickly came up with an answer…or so it seemed. Their Airism sub-brand is immensely popular during the summer months; the breathable, rapidly-drying fabric is used for workout clothes and even bedsheets to help people stay as dry and cool as possible in the sweatiest time of the year. So whipping up an Airism mask was a no-brainer! Right? Those who got their hands on the masks, though, were unhappy with how rapidly they became unbearably warm and moist.

So Uniqlo engineered a brand new type of mask to counter the criticism, and our Japanese-language reporter Yuichiro Wasai leaped at the chance to compare it with the old version.

▼ New version on the left, old on the right.

First, Yuichiro would like to stress that anyone expecting a mask as thin as a pair of Airism underwear is bound to be disappointed. The masks are made with defense against aerosols in mind as well as comfort and the ability to wash and reuse them, so they’re stitched with three layers to that end.

▼ Look at all those layers!

Yuichiro suggests wearing a regular disposable mask if comfort is your main concern. A regular mask will beat even the new Airism mask hands down due to its light fabric and lack of stitching.

▼ Yuichiro gets comfy in his disposable mask.

The new Airism, however, is a marked improvement on the old version. If the previous version was like wrapping your head in four T-shirts at once, the new one is a comparatively cool two T-shirts. So a win, then!

▼ Yuichiro rocks the new mask…

▼ And here he is in the old one, just for comparison.

So how did Uniqlo achieve this new level of relative comfort? It seems to all be in the product materials. The old mask was a 75-percent polyester, 13-percent polyurethane, and 12-percent cupro fabric blend for the mask, while its inner lining consisted of 59 percent nylon, 31 percent cupro fabric, and 10 percent polyurethane. The new version tips the scales: the primary fabric of the mask is 90-percent nylon and 10-percent polyurethane, with threading made from a blend of 75 percent polyester, 13 percent polyurethane, and 12 percent cupro fabric. The filter of both masks remains the same: pure polypropylene.

Yuichiro noted that the newer mask seemed easier to breathe in, too, but is just as effective as the old one in terms of bacterial and pollen filtration efficiency— 99 percent! The price also remains unchanged: three masks for 990 yen (US$9.35). Yuichiro couldn’t help but wonder how they managed to improve the mask so much without adding a single yen to the price.

Then he decided not to look a gift horse in the mouth. No matter how sweaty he might get in the upgraded Airism mask, it certainly beats spraying masks with cooling aerosols or sticking icy adhesive sheets to his face.

Images © SoraNews24
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