Even with a COVID vaccine on the horizon, it’s safe to say masks and other protective face coverings will be a part of our culture and fashion for some length of the foreseeable future.   Out of an abundance of caution to protect my own health and the health of others, I did some research, hoping to purchase something more effective than regular cloth masks or disposable masks. My research led me to try the “HALOmask” mask, and the “är” mask.    I purchased both masks and have since tried them. Below, you will find my review of the HALOmask and the “är” mask.

The HALOmask from HALOLIFE

The HALOLIFE website explains that the HALOmask was created years before the current pandemic.  The mask was created for people traveling to “less pristine” atmospheres.   On the about page, HALOLIFE states that the mask has been used by people to protect themselves from Volcanic eruption debris in Indonesia, air pollution in California, Australia, and South Korea. 

HALOLIFE touts its masks for being uniquely protective due to “superior nano-filtration.” According to the about page, “HALOmask filters have been laboratory tested to capture 99.99% of all airborne pollutants and contaminants at PM2.5 microns, and 97.9% at 0.3 microns…” HALOLIFE asserts that the HALOmask is superior to the medical-grade N95 masks in both respects. 

Because many new HALOLIFE customers are looking for masks to protect them during the current pandemic, it’s worth noting that SARS-CoV-2 clocks in at about 0.12 microns. According to Dr. Gregory Poland in an April 2020 interview published on the Mayo Clinic website, N95 masks are 95% effective against the virus.

Picture of the protective HALOmask from HALOLIFE, part of Victor V. Gurbo's HALOmask review.
Photo of the HALOmask taken by Victor V. Gurbo.

Initial Impressions of the HALOmask

I ordered the HALOmask from the HALOLIFE website. It arrived quickly in the time promised through U.S. Postal Service.

I will admit that I was a bit perplexed when I first handled the mask, thinking that it felt very similar to an ordinary cloth mask. (Then again, what was I expecting?) Upon further inspection, however, I noted that the quality of the HALOmask was a cut above regular cloth mask.

The article that had directed me to the HALOmask warned that the filter for the mask can be difficult to install. After struggling for 10 minutes to install the filter, I came to the conclusion that the article understated the difficulty. After slinging obscenities at the mask and filter and worrying that I had broken it, for the filter felt thin and fragile, I was ultimately able to install it without causing any damage.

HALOmask Review

The mask has a small lip at the bottom that hugs below your face, and the adjustment at the top hugs tight to your noise. The loops used for adjustments by the ears are easy to use, and stay in place after a quick tug.    One of my biggest inconveniences as a mask wearer is foggy glasses – so a tight connection at the top is important to me. I’d like to both survive the pandemic and not wander blindly into traffic (there is, after all, more than one way to die in 2020).

Whether my glasses fog when I am wearing the HALOmask is also an effective way to make sure that the mask is secure. After all, if my glasses are not fogging, that means that my breath is not escaping the mask, and by the same token, that there is less room for anything to come between my mask and my face.

I also noticed I could breath significantly easier than with everything else I’ve used thus far (save my N95s with vents that I have left over from a construction job). All in all, I’ve felt the most physically comfortable and safest with this mask to date.

The “är” Mask

The är mask, created by är, touted several features that piqued my interest. It sports “ViralOff” technology, which has “biocide, based on the reaction mass of titanium dioxide and silver chloride.”    It also has “Eco Acqua Zero,” which is a fluorine-free water repellent.    Lastly, their specialized replaceable filters features “three layers of nanotechnology” which “average thickness ranges between 100 nm – 500 nm.”

Picture of the är Mask, part of Victor V. Gurbo's är Mask review.
Photo of the är Mask taken by Victor V. Gurbo.

Initial Impressions of the är Mask

The är mask was shipped from the Czech Republic, and unsurprisingly took much longer to arrive after I ordered it than did the HALOmask. The är mask was also more expensive than the HALOmask, which was a deterrent only until I remembered my severe COVID paranoia. However, after purchasing the är mask, I realized that its price would be a problem over the long haul because replacement filters, like the mask itself, are expensive.

I was impressed with the build quality of the “är” Mask when I first handled it. It didn’t “feel” like a regular cloth mask – but instead felt very tightly-knit and had an almost plastic-quality. (Then again, what was I expecting?) The “är” Mask’s filter was much easier to install than was the HALOmask’s, requiring only three Velcro connections on the inside of the mask to attach. The mask was ready for me to use within seconds.

Overall är Mask Review

While the mask felt well-fortified for the outside world, I was immediately annoyed by the feeling of the filter directly on my face.    I also wonder if this design will make the filters last a shorter amount of time – as my nose runs constantly as there’s no barrier between my runny nose and the filter.    While the filter hugs my face, it feels like the actual mask itself does not – it’s almost as if I have two masks on, and I found it hard to position the product in a way that does not fog up my glasses.    I also found it more difficult to breathe than when I had the Halo Mask on.    Perhaps this would not have been the case if I had selected the valve feature, but since those are not acceptable for most pandemic-uses, I opted out.    It feels sturdy, and is much more suited for inclement weather than the HALOmask, but some of the features take some getting used to.

Concluding my Mask Reviews

I am keeping and wearing both masks, but when pressured by my family to order a set for them – I went with the HALOmask. I mostly wear the är when it rains, or for shorter periods of time because it feels a bit more constricting. The Halo is great for longer walks, and I find myself forgetting it’s there from time to time.