Over the years, many of us have become accustomed to ‘standard’ respirators. Whether you regularly wear a 3M Aura, Powercom KN95, or a Kleenex KF94, nearly all of the key features across these masks are identical – they all feature elastic earloops (or headbands), are made from similar materials, and have wire nosepieces.
While there is some innovation in these masks – for one, the change of some masks from melt-blown filters to nanofibre – the core fundamentals remain the same. However, one company has set out to disrupt the industry and change our perception of what masks are.
ReadiMask (licensed to Alliant Biotech) has created one of the few truly innovative masks on the market. The mask, a strapless N95 which seals with a skin-friendly adhesive, has made me rethink what masks are. I’m not the only one who thinks this, as, alongside Airgami, ReadiMask recently won BARDA’s DRIVe Mask Innovation Challenge.
The challenge was run in collaboration with NIOSH and sought new and innovative designs to advance the most fundamental form of respiratory protection – masks and respirators. In first place, Airgami and ReadiMask jointly won. In second place, Flo Mask and Levi Strauss found success.
With this award under its belt, I was intrigued by the concept of a strapless N95. Of course, I wanted to try it! Thankfully, Alliant Biotech was happy to provide me with one sample pack (including all three sizes) to try. After using the respirators for about a month, I feel comfortable sharing my thoughts.
I want to clarify that Alliant Biotech is an authorised distributor of ReadiMask made by Avery Dennison Medical for Global Safety First. This is somewhat confusing (and definitely confused me!), but the masks from these three companies are all the same as long as they have the approval number TC-84A-8133.
With that clarified, let’s dive into the review! Is the Strapless N95 as innovative as it’s made out to be, or is a more standard mask or respirator still the best choice for respiratory protection?
This post contains affiliate links. For more information, please refer to my affiliate disclaimer. I was sent a product for review, but the article is not sponsored. All opinions expressed in this post are my honest thoughts. I only recommend products that I genuinely believe in.
Information on this blog is for informational purposes only. Readers are encouraged to confirm the information herein with other sources. Furthermore, this information is not intended to replace medical advice from professionals. This website assumes no responsibility for the accuracy of the information, and information is subject to change without notice. Devices mentioned on this website are not medical devices and do not guarantee protection.
Filtration & Certifications
The Strapless N95 is, as the name suggests, an N95-approved filtering facepiece respirator. You can confirm this by checking the approval number (TC-84A-8133) on the NIOSH database. It’s best to confirm this number yourself, but below is a screenshot of the Strapless N95’s entry on the database.
Alliant Biotech is also very transparent regarding the performance of the Strapless N95. If you visit its resources page, you will be able to find the NIOSH testing report and the NIOSH approval letter alongside some other resources. Generally, these reports aren’t provided for NIOSH devices, and I appreciate this transparency from Alliant Biotech.
Being N95, the respirator had to have ≥ 95% filtration per the NIOSH particle filtration efficiency standard (TEB-APR-STP-0059). This is one of the most challenging PFE (particle filtration efficiency) testing standards and shows the respirator can provide a high level of filtration.
It’s worth noting two things at this point – first, although N95s are only required to have ≥ 95% filtration efficiency, most N95 respirators offer significantly higher filtration. When NIOSH tested the Strapless N95, the maximum leakage percentage witnessed was 0.549%, indicating a > 99.4% filtration efficiency. This was the worst-case result across 20 samples.
Although the NIOSH testing is both the most thorough and most important, other third-party testing can help support the performance claims of a mask or respirator. When Lloyd Armbrust tested ReadiMask, it provided 97.42% filtration. While not as high as the NIOSH results, this is still a substantial improvement over the required 95%.
Accumed and Aaron Collins (Mask Nerd) also did filtration testing – Accumed on the filter media alone, and Aaron with the Strapless N95 being worn. Both results showed > 98% filtration. These results show the Strapless N95 is more than capable regarding filtration.
At this point, some people may compare the Strapless N95 to other masks that seemingly provide similar or higher filtration. For example, some masks, such as Cambridge Mask, claim to provide > 99% PFE. While this isn’t wrong, they use an entirely different testing methodology (ASTM F2299) which is far less stringent.
It’s been shown in multiple studies that NIOSH respirators tested as per ASTM F2299 (instead of TEB-APR-STP-0059) display significantly higher filtration results. For this reason, filtration results from these two standards (and others) shouldn’t be directly compared. At the end of the day, I trust the NIOSH standard more because it’s a more challenging standard with more conservative results.
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Before discussing the fit of the Strapless N95, I have to make a disclaimer: this mask will fit everyone differently, and the thoughts shared in this section are based purely on my experiences with the mask. Unfortunately, I can’t know if the mask will or will not fit you.
According to the NIOSH Bivariate Panel, I am a cell 5 (face length 11cm and width 15cm). This is considered a ‘medium’ cell and includes around 7% of the American population. I found the large and extra large Strapless N95 to be significantly too large for me, and I settled on the smallest size available – as I will discuss soon, it fits me very well.
NIOSH Bivariate Panel for conformity assessment. Source.
If you fit into one of the first five cells, you will likely want to get the small masks too. If you are 6-8, a large size will likely fit you best, with 9s, 10s, and above moving to an extra large Strapless N95. Thankfully, to ensure you don’t invest in the wrong size, Alliant Biotech offers a sample pack with a few respirators in each size.
It’s worth noting that ReadiMask states the small size can also fit children along with adults with smaller faces. For most adults, the large size (which is really a medium) is likely to be the best fit, with the extra large tailored for those with larger faces and facial features.
With the small Strapless N95s, I experienced the best fit I’ve found with a disposable respirator. As with most people, the 3M Aura is my usual go-to N95, and previously I found it to be the best-fitting mask. This was closely followed by the Honeywell DC365N95 – a surgical N95 that fits me well.
However, after trying the Strapless N95, it is equal to or better than these two masks in all situations. It fits me incredibly well, and I don’t notice any leaks when sealed. I don’t have the equipment to perform a quantitative fit test, but I had great results in a qualitative fit test – very similar to what I received with the Aura.
With this being said, the Strapless N95 can be challenging to fit properly sometimes, and I experience leaks if the bottom of the mask isn’t sealed properly. There is a seam along the bottom of the mask once it’s fitted, and the point where this seam seals under my jaw is the most leak-prone part of the respirator.
This is contrary to most respirators, where the point most prone to leak is around the bridge of my nose, where the wire nosepiece is located. However, with the Strapless N95, I never had issues with leaking around my nose; instead, I found the bottom of the mask most prone to leaks.
This leak was preventable, but it could take a couple of adjustments or even a complete refitting to get the mask properly fitted and sealed to the underside of my jaw. Luckily, I had no situation where I couldn’t remove the leaks after a few adjustments. Once adjusted correctly, the mask sealed very well.
Most impressively, I found the mask to stay sealed even when I talked, yawned, or coughed. When yawning, I could feel the adhesive pulling (which I discuss in the comfort section of this article), but the seal never broke. In fact, it handled these situations much better than a typical headband N95.
To ensure the Strapless N95 remains sealed even during large mouth movements, you will want to ensure you’ve followed the fitting guide included with the respirators. Although it’s natural to try and fit the device with your mouth closed, it’s far better to fit it with your mouth open (as the instructions detail).
This will ensure the respirator is sealed with enough room to let you cough, yawn, or talk if needed. If you fit the product with your mouth closed, it will be very strained when you make large mouth movements, and the seal may break.
Interestingly, I found the Strapless N95 far less prone to becoming dislodged during day-to-day life. Since the respirator is stuck to my face rather than mounted with headbands or earloops, I never had the seal break when looking left, right, up or down – something which can happen with other respirators.
The fit also didn’t seem impacted by sweat. I was worried that the mask might gradually loosen on hot days due to sweat, but this didn’t appear to be an issue. While I made sure to fit the mask when my face was dry, I could sweat after donning the mask with no issue.
You can probably already guess my conclusion for this section, but here it is anyway: the Strapless N95 is, at worst, among the top three best-fitting N95 FFRs I’ve tried. However, since the seal is more consistent and less prone to breaking, I would place this above the Aura and Honeywell DC365N95 I normally wear.
Remember to watch the instructions and keep your mouth ajar when fitting the mask. Without this step, it’s easy to feel like the Strapless N95 restricts talking and other mouth movements. However, with this extra step, I never felt restricted.
Purchase the Strapless N95 from Alliant Biotech | Save 50% with code ‘breathesafeair50
The Strapless N95 was designed to combat one issue – the discomfort caused by most respirators. As someone who masks every day and has tried well over 100 disposable masks and respirators, I feel I have a wealth of experience to base my thoughts on.
As the Strapless N95 is N95, I feel comparing the respirator to other similarly-classed devices is most relevant. Generally speaking, I find N95s the most comfortable respirator class. Headbands are required (as opposed to the earloops often found on KN95, KN94, and FFP2 masks), making them generally more comfortable. However, I still find that head loops cause discomfort and sometimes even pain after wearing them for a few hours.
On top of this, N95s tend to be less breathable than masks focused towards consumers such as KF94s. Therefore, while N95s tend to be comfortable (in my opinion), there is still significant room for improvement.
The Strapless N95 is a vast improvement. Frankly, I was amazed at how convenient the mask is to wear and how comfortable it remains – even during long flights and train rides. I wore the mask for a 4-hour train trip last week, and it remained comfortable and sealed for the entire trip.
Since the mask isn’t fitted with headbands or earloops, there is no need to worry about the pressure these masks place on the back of your ears or head. While the feeling of the adhesive seal is initially unusual (and takes some time to get used to), I prefer this experience to wearing headbands or earloops.
Inhalation resistance. From Alliant Biotech resources page.
Breathability with the Strapless N95 mask is good but not great. In NIOSH testing, inhalation resistance was between 10.7 and 11.9mmH2O. This puts it squarely in the middle of the pack regarding N95 inhalation resistance. Some respirators, such as the 3M 1860, 1870, and Gerson, have < 10mmH2O of inhalation resistance.
Exhalation resistance is lower, making the Strapless N95 one of the better-performing NIOSH-approved respirators for exhalation resistance. Below you can see the results from the official NIOSH testing.
Lloyd Armbrust from Armbrust USA did further testing on the masks and found them to have a pressure drop of 0.1024 kPa. Converted to mmH2O, this is 10.2mmH2O – better breathability than shown in the NIOSH results. However, my conclusion here stays the same – breathability is acceptable and comfortable but not the best.
While it’s not as breathable as other high-filtration masks, such as the AirPop Light SE and Pocket or the Airgami mask, it’s more than breathable, and I experienced no discomfort related to breathing resistance. Combined with the lack of straps, this pressure drop result means the Strapless N95 is a comfortable mask.
Another big advantage of the Strapless N95 is the lack of ‘mask face’ after doffing the respirator. With most respirators – especially when you wear them tightly to get the best seal – it’s common to have red marks indented on your face for as long as 30 minutes after removing the device. With the Strapless N95, this issue is non-existent.
With the good points out of the way, let’s discuss the two downsides I’ve discovered in regard to comfort. These are not deal-breakers for me and don’t bother me much. However, these issues might be a big deal for some people, and it’s worth mentioning them.
The first is the filter collapse. Since the mask is super lightweight and is made from a thin material with no reinforcement, the mask has significant filter collapse. When I inhale, I often find the mask pulling towards my nostrils and regularly touching my nose. If I open my mouth and breathe, the mask will pull in and contact my lips when I inhale.
For this reason, I would not wear the Strapless N95 for exercising or any high-intensity activity. It works best at normal breathing rates and interferes minimally in these situations. During exercise, it regularly gets in the way and becomes frustrating.
The filter collapse is also very visible to others. Although this doesn’t bother me, some readers have stated they feel self-conscious wearing the Strapless N95. If you feel this might be an issue, it’s worth avoiding this mask.
The mask is very thin and lightweight and suffers from filter collapse.
Secondly, the mask is slightly uncomfortable if you need to yawn, cough, or otherwise open your mouth wide. Even if you fit the mask with your mouth slightly open (as is recommended), the adhesive will pull on your face if you need to yawn or cough. However, this is the trade-off for a good fit, so I can overlook this.
Of course, I must mention doffing the mask, too, as you must pull the adhesive off your face. As someone who is clean-shaven, removing the mask wasn’t painful. It’s far more comfortable than removing a bandaid and didn’t pull any hair out. While I imagine this would be more painful for anyone with facial hair, you won’t want to wear this mask with facial hair anyway, as it won’t seal well.
Overall, the Strapless N95 is a very comfortable mask. There are some minor discomforts, but on the whole, I believe this mask is the most comfortable disposable N95 I’ve tried to date. I can happily wear this for long periods, such as during flights or train trips.
Purchase the Strapless N95 from Alliant Biotech | Save 50% with code ‘breathesafeair50’
Pricing & Reuse
The Strapless N95 can not be purchased in packs smaller than 50. For a 50-pack, you’re looking at a price of 70 USD meaning each product costs $1.40. Although this is more expensive than cheaper masks and respirators such as KF94s and KN95s, it’s quite reasonable for an N95-approved product.
Looking at the current prices on Bonafide Masks, N95s start at $0.75 and go for as much as $2.40. Currently, the 3M Aura costs $1.50 per mask on 3M’s website, which I would consider a similarly-performing mask fit-wise.
It is important to note that the Strapless N95 mask is often on sale for 50% off (you can also get this discount by using the code ‘breathesafeair50’), which puts the masks at $0.70 each.
The biggest issue with the pricing of the Strapless N95 is, of course, reuse. Depending on their treatment, the other N95s can be reused for many days, whereas the adhesive seal on the Strapless N95 means it has a far more limited lifespan.
Officially, the Strapless N95 should not be reused. However, this is similar across all N95s, and research shows they can generally be used for longer than their intended lifespan. With that said, it’s a different matter with the Strapless N95.
I found the adhesive seal was strong enough for two full uses (two days of wear), and on the third day, the seal began to lose a substantial amount of stickiness. While I could wear it for a third day, it was not ideal, and I would recommend changing the respirators more regularly than every third day.
I also tried to remove the product as infrequently as possible. Every donning and doffing of the respirator will cause more wear on the adhesive, and if possible, you’ll want to avoid doffing the respirator unless necessary.
The Strapless N95 is not primarily meant for consumer use. It’s a product designed for healthcare workers and industrial hygienists. However, even in these cases, it’s important to be able to remove the respirator for eating and drinking between work.
At the end of the day, the finite lifespan of the Strapless N95 will make it more costly than other N95s – even pricier options such as the Aura. With that said, it’s the perfect respirator for many situations. Getting a haircut or taking a long flight? The Strapless N95 is perfect.
In my case, the Strapless N95 has become my favourite travel respirator. On my recent flight from Singapore to Korea (about 7 hours), I wore an Aura, and after a few hours, it really bothered me. The head straps – while much better than earloops – aren’t comfortable for me after such a long period.
I chose to wear the Strapless N95 during a train trip the other day, which totalled around four hours. Throughout the journey, I never regretted my mask choice – it was comfortable for the entire trip.
This leads me to conclude that with the price and limited reusability, the Strapless N95 isn’t an everyday N95. That said, it’s a fantastic respirator to have on hand because it excels in many situations. I would happily spend a bit extra to be more comfortable in these situations.
That said, if you are a healthcare worker or industrial hygienist where the price is less of an issue and protection is key, the Strapless N95 is a good choice. For consumers, it’s more of a situational respirator.
Purchase the Strapless N95 from Alliant Biotech | Save 50% with code ‘breathesafeair50’
If you’ve read this article in its entirety, you’ll already be able to guess my conclusion. However, for anyone skipping through, here are my final thoughts after using the Strapless N95 for around a month in various situations.
Overall, I found the respirator fit me well, and I had great success with the seal. This is the best fit I’ve experienced from the N95 filtering facepiece respirators I’ve tried. It fits better than my go-to respirators – the 3M Aura and the Honeywell DC365N95.
Compared to these two respirators, it’s also far more comfortable, and I much prefer to wear it when I know I need to be masked for a long period. That said, it’s also relatively pricey when considering how little it can be reused. For this reason, I don’t recommend it for everyday wear but rather for high-risk situations where donning it for a long time is essential.
If you don’t mind the extra price or normally only wear your masks or respirators a couple of times, there’s no reason you can’t use the Strapless N95 as your everyday mask. However, I believe this isn’t a viable approach for most people, so I recommend not relying on these masks daily but rather having them on hand when needed.
Other than the reusability, there were a few downsides to the Strapless N95 from ReadiMask and Alliant Biotech. Filter collapse means the respirator isn’t great for exercise, but it also isn’t designed to be. I also found the adhesive to pull on my skin when I needed to yawn or cough, but this felt like a reasonable price for the great seal.
One point of note is to be careful of the bottom of the respirator. It’s easy to wear the product so that it feels sealed, but there is a slight leak near the bottom seam. I recommend double-checking this leak-prone area and performing a self-fit check to ensure it isn’t leaking.
Have you tried the Strapless N95 before? If so, please feel free to share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below. I would love to hear from you! If you still have questions, please also feel free to use the comment form below – I will help whenever possible!
Purchase the Strapless N95 from Alliant Biotech | Save 50% with code ‘breathesafeair50’
Strapless N95 FAQ
Is the Strapless N95 the Same as ReadiMask?
Yes. The Strapless N95 is licensed to Alliant Biotech by Global Safety First and is made by Avery Dennison Medical.
Is the Strapless N95 Niosh Approved?
How Does the Strapless N95 Seal?
The Strapless N95 uses a skin-friendly adhesive to seal on the wearer’s face.
Can I Reuse the Strapless N95?
While N95s are only rated for single use, the respirator can be reused 2-3 times if needed.
Does Sweat Interfere With the Strapless N95 Seal?
No – although it can make donning harder. If you don the mask with a dry face and sweat once the mask is donned, there is no issue with the seal.
Can I Wear the Strapless N95 With Sunblock?
Yes. I had no issue wearing the respirator with sunblock.
Does It Hurt to Take off the Strapless N95?
No – the feeling is less painful than taking off a band-aid. I found no hair stuck to the adhesive on the mask after I doffed it.
Is the Strapless N95 Available in Other Colours?
Yes, the Strapless N95 can also be purchased in grey.
Is the Strapless N95 Comfortable?
I found it more comfortable than other N95s. I would say it’s the most comfortable N95 I’ve tried!
How Can I Fit the Strapless N95?
Alliant Biotech provides a fantastic guide here.
Strapless N95 (ReadiMask) Review - The Most Innovative N95 Respirator?
The Strapless N95 Mask from Alliant Biotech (also called ReadiMask) is an innovative N95-approved filtering facepiece respirator which removes the need for headbands or earloops by instead relying on an adhesive seal.
Product Brand: Alliant Biotech
- N95 approved
- Seals well
- Reasonable price
- Doesn't muffle speaking
- Multiple sizes available
- Only reusable 2-3 times
- Has significant filter collapse