Wear glasses? We checked out dozens of SA-made masks, and found the one that works best
- Spectacle wearers have a grim choice with most face masks, between pushing their glasses down their noses or watching them fog up with every breath.
- We've checked out a lot of face masks from a suddenly booming industry in South Africa.
- One stands out for wearers of glasses: the eMoyo "Be Safe SA" mask.
- It's not cheap, it's not perfect, and it isn't always entirely fog-free, but it is a great improvement on everything else we've seen so far.
- For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.
In theory, washing your glasses with soap or special sprays can help keep them from fogging up when wearing a face mask. But between special coatings intended to keep them clean and SA's generally cooling weather, the reality is more often a choice between foggy glasses and pushing them so far down your nose they're liable to fall off.
Thinner masks generally make less trouble; a barely-there one-layer mask is legal under South Africa's rules (which require only some form of covering for the mouth and nose, no matter its thickness or composition), and even SA's official mask guidelines call only for two layers.
Really thin masks, though, are not exactly in the spirit of preventing the spread of Covid-19, and lack the sense of security that a decent mask can provide – and aren't always that comfortable anyway, in our experience.
The good news is that South Africa has seen an explosion in mask manufacturing, with both newcomers and companies that previously made different kinds of gear which have pivoted to making face masks. The options are increasing by the day.
From what we've seen, most mask makers are sticking to simple fabric-only masks, which are cheap and quick to make, easy to maintain, and very suitable to many uses – for people without glasses.
Face-hugging masks, which prevent exhaled breath escaping upwards towards spectacles, tend to be found on the professional end of the spectrum. But medical-grade masks are not recommended for the general public (they're in short supply and reserved for medical workers), and industrial masks for use in noxious environments have a look about them that is a bit hardcore for a trip to the grocery store, plus they need modification to protect others from your exhaled breath.
The eMoyo "Be Safe SA" washable, reusable droplet mask falls between those two groups. It is made by a Johannesburg-based medical technology company better known for audiometric and lung-function testing hardware, but aimed at the consumer market.
The mask is made out of "2-way horizontal stretch Quadrotex microfibre polyester", which cause no issues with moisture build up, dries quickly, and feels good against the skin.
But it is the combination of a couple of design features that makes it better than anything else we've seen for wearers of glasses.
Here's why we rate the eMoyo "Be Safe SA" mask best for use with spectacles, after 10 days of testing – plus some caveats about it.
It's all in the (not quite long enough) nosepiece – once you get it right...
eMoyo's mask comes with a removable aluminium strip that slips into a pocket at the top of the mask via a little hole that is helpfully marked on the back.
It is so light you don't notice it in use, except by how well it works.
Getting that strip moulded just right around your face can take some lengthy trial and error, we found. You need to find just the right spot on your nose, then mould around without blocking your nostrils, then mould over your cheeks without getting too close to your eyes – and then start all over again because you aimed too high or too low.
Eventually, though, you get a decent seal around the top end of the mask, all the way over your cheeks, hitting the places where air escapes through every other mask.
The nosepiece doesn't run the entire length of the mask, which means it is easy (and frustrating) to get it a little off centre. On the plus side, it is easy to remove for washing.
Unless you tie the mask back with nose-splitting force, the result is not entirely airtight – and so not entire fog-free. Heavy enough exertion on a cold enough morning will still see things get a little misty, just far less so than we've seen with any other mask.
... and, allegedly, the two nose valves cut into the inside.
Once the mask is on it is impossible to tell whether the nose valves do anything at all. But the manufacturer says these "bicuspid, peri-lateral nose valves" are an important innovation to protect against fogging.
The neat chin-section adjustment makes the seal even better.
The mask really does, at claims, just slide to adjust, pulling tight around the chin even after you strap the top around the nose, making for a better fit all around.
One design caveat: the extra filter, which goes into a pouch in the middle, tends to scrunch up on repeated use.
Turn eMoyo's mask inside out and you find a pouch, which will fit an optional extra filter, "if your aim is to protect yourself also, not only those around you," according to its makers.
That works well enough until you repeatedly grab your mask for quick trips to the curb to accept deliveries, as is mandatory. Eventually the filter will bunch up badly, and we've found no solution other than treating the mask with an unrealistic amount of care on every use.
And it is not cheap.
At R84.90 per mask the eMoyo is literally three times more expensive than other reusable face masks – but it is the company's policy on shipping that really bites: eMoyo charges a R150 flat fee, regardless of the volume you buy or where in SA you need it delivered.
So one mask will actually cost you R234.90, and even if you are buying four at a time, your effective cost per unit is R122.40.
If it lasts the advertised 10 months though, that's a pretty cheap price to pay for ten months of far less foggy glasses.
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