Frey in front of grey wall at Central Embassy

Article written by Frey
@myhealthybangkok

The last couple of weeks the air has been pretty “good” here in Bangkok according to  aqicn.com and we have taken full advantage of it. But the months of December and January, while providing the coolest temperatures of the year in Bangkok, are also  known to be the worst in terms of air quality. 

Playing in Benjasiri park bangkok

Following ‘How to deal with Bangkok’s air pollution’, at My Healthy Bangkok, we’re still up to finding ways to purify the air we breathe, beyond what our meter says. Whilst we are now proactively sanitizing our air at home, when it comes to getting our noses out in the sois, what is the best to do? Wear pollution air masks. But how to chose which masks to wear? 

Checklist before shopping for my air pollution mask

The use of an anti pollution mask has become second nature to so many Bangkokians.  Have you too noticed an increase in the number of masked-up pedestrians around here? Not only do you see more people wearing masks, but they tend to look more creative day by day! A fun looking mask is great, but one that works well is even more important.

Eventhough I am not an expert per se on air pollution masks, I did get some practice over the years. So these are the things I look at when purchasing a new mask.

  • Finding the filter that works
    One of the most obvious criterion to look at when buying an air mask is efficiency. But how obvious is that to us, non-experts, with so many different standards and certifications?  I have done a little research, and to make my choice, I most importantly check if the mask can filter at least 95% of PM2.5. This kind of information should be available on the manufacturer’s website.
  • Getting the right fit
    Even if a mask could filter up to 100% of the pollution, it wouldn’t matter if it can’t seal properly. When a mask doesn’t fit well, we’re still inhaling unfiltered air, so to prevent that, I make sure I am getting the right size. How to know if a mask fits well? It has to cover the nose, mouth and chin completely without leaving any gaps.
  • Adapting to the surroundings
    In other words, the more polluted the road, the higher protection.
    On a regular basis, my itinerary within the city is more or less similar: trips to work, my kid’s school, the supermarket, etc. I could just follow it blindfolded, opting for the routes with less traffic.
    On other days, when I have not much choice but spending a lot of time in traffic, I make sure to wear a mask that has a filter with active carbon for more protection.
  • Going Green
    There are plenty of masks on the market, but I love to find those that can be reused to do our part to protect the planet. So instead of buying a disposable mask that makes an unnecessary burden on the environment, I prefer to buy a mask that I can use for a longer time.
  • Rocking that style!
    Long gone are the days that you can only wear the plain, white, surgical-looking masks. Regardless of their efficiency, how boring do they look?! I like to find a fun design for my mask, which helps me wear it more often! Plus, you could go matchy-matchy with your kids 🙂

Having of all that in mind, here is my selection for My Healthy Bangkok… 

Design, reusability and a touching life story with Vogmask

In-depth research led me to Vogmask Singapore and Southeast Asia.  Vogmask was created in 2011, combining efficient filtering face masks with design and reusability. Their mission has always been the same – to give the world a mask that makes you look great while providing the protection from airborne particles. Today Vogmask is sold in 41 countries. 

Pam (Vogmask Singapore) shared their brand’s story, since its launch in 2014. One of Singapore’s major air pollution issue is its reoccurring oppressive haze. In response, they searched for kid-sized N95 masks for their children. Many of their friends faced the same challenge as the only-option available then: the disposable masks were too big for the younger ones, those who actually needed it the most.

The driving force behind getting Vogmask to Singapore was Pam’s husband AJ. AJ was a successful businessman until he suffered a massive stroke in 2013. He was never expected to survive but he fought for his life. Partially paralyzed, AJ became  more prone to illnesses such as the haze, but also, so determined to fight it with something better than the disposable N95 masks.
Vogmask, beyond becoming AJ’s “rehab for the mind” project, was given a true vocation of helping people in Singapore and in the region, during critical episodes of haze and air pollution.

Falling under the “vulnerable, sensitive group” himself, AJ was a great advocate for Vogmask. Since he started wearing Vogmask, he never fell ill during a haze. In 2016, AJ passed away peacefully, but in those three years since his stroke, he truly was the inspiration behind the Vogmask brand in Singapore. So it’s not hard to imagine that this team and brand project are dedicated in honor of his memory.

As for the masks itself, in the Vogmask Singapore shop you can find the Microfiber Vogmask and the Organic Cotton Vogmask. Both work equally well and make use of the same middle layers of particle and carbon filter. The only difference is the texture on the outer and inner layer. If you’re sensitive to synthetic textiles, the organic cotton will be more comfortable on your skin. The sizing from masks start at 3 years old, however using a mask for kids below 8 years old needs supervision at all times. All information on this can be easily found on the website.

The icing on the cake? All the different designs: Vogmasks are never boring! It’s also the one and only time I go for  a “mommy and me” look with my daughter (and now a “daddy and me” for my husband and son too!). Not just for fun, but it does encourage the kids to wear their masks. So if you see a lady with her mini-me walking around with panda bears on their face, please wave as you’re probably looking at me 😉

Wearing the Rainbow valved Microviber vogmask
Wearing the tapestry valved Microviber Vogmask

The full selection of Vogmask can be purchased at the SE Asian Online store, or if you’re ever in Singapore you can find selected, but popular, designs at Robinsons Heeren and JEM.

Stylish Air Protection with StyleSeal 

A little while back, I met up with Jim Schumacher, the managing director and master mind behind StyleSEAL. Jim started StyleSeal after living in Bangkok for a while. Quite commonly, but nonetheless alarmingly, he developed a bad cough for which he consulted a doctor. The medicine he was given didn’t help him much, but do you know what did? A week-end gateway to Hua Hin. That is when it stroke him: the polluted air from the city was the reason for his illness. As moving to the beach was not the plan, Jim started to look into the face masks options. 

His first focus was to find a mask with a good seal and that could fit him well. As he concluded his research empty-handed, Jim started on designing his ideal mask himself and that is how StyleSEAL was born. 

Jim and his team are constantly learning and working on bringing their thoroughly crafted masks to the next level, including for the most sensitive group: kids.

The team behind StyleSEAL is also very involved in educating people so they can make healthy choices for themselves and protect themselves from invisible hazardous particles and germs.

One of the great examples Jim shared with me (and I am sharing with you now!) is:
“- Would drink a glass of dirty water…?
– Obviously, NO
– So why would you breath air that is dirty?”
That made me think. A big reason for this is that air pollution is something we can’t see. We know it’s there, and the Air Quality Apps definitely do their job in keeping me in check. But sometimes you just forget to check it. With sunshine and hot temperatures I then totally forget to mask up. Something that is so important, especially for a person with lung issues!

05_StyleSEAL_01
06_StyleSEAL_02

StyleSEAL has several types of masks, to pick and choose according to the level of pollution and environment you are in. They also have head masks with UV protection, and even bandana’s that are so comfortable on motorbikes for instance. The filters in the mask are replaceable, and can be used for about 2 weeks. There are different types of filters that protect you on light and heavily polluted days, and you can even chose for the option to have a carbon filter included for when you are constantly in traffic.

Here you can find great designs as well! From flamingos to fire trucks, to flowers and animal prints! Check out their website to find the perfect mask for you!

More air masks alternatives in Bangkok!

We love the two brands that we’ve writing about above, they are environmental friendly (as you can use them for a long time), stylish and easy to wear. But the most important is that you make sure that when you get outside you breath air that is at least in the yellow figures (thanks for that tip Jim).

But there are always alternatives, so here are a couple of different masks you could give a try too:

  • Airinum which can be found in Bangkok at SuperSports (thanks for the tip @simple_life_bangkok)
  • K Mask can be found at Alliance Française’s bookshop Carnet d’Asie, this is a facemask that comes with a separate filter.
  • And last but not least the 3M Masks. Altho not as great for the environment, these masks do not need to be thrown out after each use. You would be able to use it for a week or two. You can buy them at plenty of supermarkets and other places. Just makes sure you buy the N95 – or equivalent – to make sure you’re well protected.

Last but not least

Let’s be honest – wearing a mask is not always fun. But not wearing one can put you in danger of breathing in environmental pollutants every single day. While you might not see or feel it right away, these masks provide immediate protection of your health. So in our opinion these masks are a great way to protect yourself and your loved ones. So let’s all mask up!

Other posts you may like …. 

Photography by Ploy PHUTPHENG

Coming up: Essential oils to diffuse at home for a cleaner air to breathe

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