Wearing a facemask is common practice in Asia-Pacific, and has been for many years. What’s more, it is a seasonal behavior usually reserved for colder seasons, as people often find them uncomfortable in hotter weather.

However, as the Covid-19 outbreak is still far from its end, facemasks will be an essential item over the coming summer. This raises a new concern. Wearing a facemask in a hot climate could increase ones chance of suffering from heatstroke. The Japanese Government has warned the public to be careful when wearing a facemask, advising them to take it off from time to time so long as they are able to follow the appropriate social distance guidelines. In the meantime, manufacturers in Japan see this new summer facemask concern as a great opportunity to present their innovations.

Heatstroke risks of facemasks

Wearing a facemask can potentially cause heatstroke because it lowers breathability, whilst also trapping heat, limiting peoples’ access to cool air. Therefore, high breathability and cooling sensations are the two key features of new facemask innovation launches this summer.

For example, one of Japan’s leading disposal facemask makers, Iris Ohyama, has launched its new “Nano Air Mask” in which nanofiber has been used in one of the layers of the facemask to help improve breathability.

Facemask technology is improving

More interestingly, as demand for washable fabric masks continues to rise, many apparel and sports brands are tapping into the summer mask innovation war. Apparel company, Cox, within the AEON group (Japan’s largest supermarket group) is planning to release multiple facemasks: “Pita Mask” is made with synthetic fabric that has a cooling sensation, while the “Hiya Mask” uses a natural xylitol based ingredient called TASTEX ®COOL-EX in the fabric; the ingredient reacts with sweat to cool the fabric temperature down.

Mizuno, a well-known Japanese sports brand, also launched its original facemask named “Mouth Cover” using a unique fabric that is usually used for its swimming wear, offering high breathability as well as elasticity and a smooth texture.

Another unique example is that a bedclothes company has developed facemask that is worn whilst damp. The facemask is submerged in water before worn, and when the water in the fabric evaporates, it produces a cool feeling on the skin, according to the company.

Innovations will continue

This summer will see a facemask innovation boom in Japan. Covid-19 has created high levels of uncertainty and anxiety among consumers. However, seeing so many unique products emerge in the market can lift the negative mood surrounding consumers. Finding the right facemask to meet one’s individual needs could also provide a feeling of safety as well as enjoyment and comfort to consumers during a difficult time.

According to GlobalData Coronavirus (Covid-19) Tracker Consumer Survey – Week 10, published 3 June, 80% of consumers from 11 countries surveyed say that they are still extremely or quite concerned about the global outbreak of Covid-19.

As the level of consumers concern shows no signs of slowing, demand for facemask across the world will be the highest ever. Observing Japan’s example, investing in innovations can be a great opportunity for many businesses to ride out the crisis.

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