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By 29 June 2020 | Categories: news

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Exercising with a face mask is not exactly pleasant but it’s a necessary adjustment for all athletes and those trying to stay fit. Breathability is the main concern, since huffing and puffing with a wet cloth against your face is challenging, followed closely by problems with fit and comfort. Luckily Under Armour has now come up with a face mask designed specifically for sport.

The UA SPORTSMASK is a reusable, water-resistant performance face mask designed for maximum breathability by Under Armour's innovation team. This first-of-its-kind mask functions to reduce the spread of respiratory droplets by the wearer. The top of the mask features a mouldable nose-bridge to help secure it in place and mitigate airflow to the eyes, helping to prevent glasses from fogging.

According to Under Armour, the UA SPORTSMASK features a unique, three-layer model engineered for athletes during performance:

  • LAYER 1: SPACER FABRIC - It is light but has air pockets for structure, so it stays off the mouth and nose for better airflow.
  • LAYER 2: OPEN-CELL FOAM - The breathable middle layer lets air through but makes it hard for moisture and sweat to pass.
  • LAYER 3: UA ISO-CHILL - This fabric feels cool against the skin, stretches, and is treated with PROTX2, a non-metal anti-microbial technology which inhibits growth of bacteria on the mask.

PROTX2 has been shown in laboratory tests to destroy COVID-19 and is being reviewed by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to confirm the efficacy of the substance as it is applied to the UA SPORTSMASK. Under Armour also has a patent pending on its design and construction of the mask. Furthermore, the mask can also be washed and dried, making it more eco-friendly than many single-use, disposable options. 

The seeds for the UA SPORTSMASK were planted in mid-March, when Under Armour began manufacturing face masks designed by its innovation team and distributing millions of units of personal protective equipment (PPE) to health care and community organisations to help fight the spread of COVID-19. During this process, Under Armour founder, Kevin Plank recognised a need for performance solutions that would support athletes navigating the pandemic climate. He called on the innovation team in Baltimore, equipped with their recent mask-making experience, to join him in finding a way forward, and fast.

“As soon as we finalised the design of our face mask for PPE, we dove straight into the innovation process of optimising a mask for performance," said Kyle Blakely, VP of Materials Innovation at Under Armour. "We knew our athletes would need us to come through quickly with a solve to aid their return to training, one that would put health and safety first and adhere to current CDC guidelines.”

Because of social distancing restrictions, the company went back to its roots during the mask construction phase. Plank’s design and Blakely’s materials were sent to Ella Mae Holmes, an Under Armour seamstress and the company’s third employee who helped develop the brand’s original compression shirt. Holmes got to work sewing mask prototypes out of her Baltimore home. With input and testing from teammates across product development, Under Armour found success in the 13th iteration of the mask.

“Experience told us that fabric and performance had to be our first focus, so we set out to find a fabric combination that created structure to ensure the mask would stand off the face and offer maximum breathability,” added Blakely. “We applied learnings in fit, feel, and ease and speed of manufacturing from the face mask we created for PPE purposes. Throughout it all, the speed of the design process and a meticulous eye to quality and details were paramount.”

The UA Face Masks will be brought to South African shores by Apollo Brands in September 2020. Don’t expect to pay the same for this specially designed mask as for a home designed one – it comes with a R699 price tag if the exchange rate allows.

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