The pollution in Beijing is something we've learnt to live with (compartmentalisation FTW). That means masks should now be a wardrobe staple, alongside our Feiyues and misspelled T-shirts.
With winter weather here to stay, it's time to ditch the convenience store cheapies that, deep down, you know don't actually work, for a better model. But with so many to choose from, it's difficult to separate the real deal from the fakes. Here are five of our favourite brands to stock up on.
What is it? A fashion-conscious
choice, US-based Vogmask uses
a microfibre filtration fabric to filter
the air and can be washed and worn
for hundreds of hours before being
replaced. And if you didn’t believe
that wearing a pollution mask could
be fun, Vogmask lets you take your
pick from an array of prints with
stars, patterns, characters and
animals on the mask, available in
different sizes aimed at adults,
teenagers and children.
Pros There’s no need to change
the filters, making Vogmask very
convenient to grab and go – each
carbon filter lasts around 200 hours
before the whole mask needs to be
replaced. The colourful patterns are
whimsical and add a little levity to
the wearing of a pollution mask.
Cons Aside from a high price tag,
the main con we came across is
that the ear straps can’t be pulled
tighter meaning polluted air can
sneak in round the outsides if, like
us, your ears just don’t seem to fit
properly. But you can still rest easy
in the knowledge that you’ll definitely
What is it? A relative newcomer to
the pollution mask world, these are
stylish silicon-sealed plastic masks
in a range of colours; transparent
with blue straps, black, and hot
pink. A new line for children is on its
way too, and the China-based team
behind idMASK insist their seals
make it the best on the market.
The unusual shape means it is
particularly good for sporty types
(it’s been endorsed by triathlete
Pros This mask really is airtight;
put your hands over the filters and
you can’t breathe at all – great as
it means air gets passed through
the filters without any polluted air
sneaking in around from the outside.
The filters start white and turn grey
when they have collected enough
dirt, so it’s easy to know when to
Cons These masks are a little pricey,
and you need to keep buying filters
(59RMB for 24 filters). We also found
it a little difficult to wear glasses at
the same time as this mask, as it
rises pretty high up the nose.
3. M Nexcare
What is it? 3M offers a range of
pollution mask models made from
non-woven cloth, and these Nexcare masks are among the cheaper and
most easily found pollution masks.
They aren’t the most fashionable
but they are widely available and
an absolute steal, leaving you with
three new masks and change from
a 20RMB note. They do make you
look slightly like a doctor carrying out
Pros You won’t get a better bargain
than this. They can also be easily
picked up at almost any convenience
store if the smog suddenly descends
and catches you unprepared.
They certainly aren’t the
sturdiest of masks (though 3M do
offer a more comprehensive range
through websites like JD.com
probably are one-time wonders.
Price Around 20RMB for three at
convenience stores around town.
What is it? This mask, from Central
European ‘nanofibre company’
Respilon, promises to offer dual
uses as both a pollution mask and
a layer to keep you warm in the
winter. The mask comes with four
changeable filters that are simply
stuck on the inside of the mask (so
simple it took us a while to work out)
and can be worn without when it’s
chilly but the air is fresh.
Pros This mask is pretty comfy, you
can adjust the ear straps, easily
change the filters and it won’t break
the bank. As we head into wintry
days we’re also pretty sure we’ll be
grateful of that extra facewarming.
Cons There’s only one size on offer,
and we just can’t get it to sit properly
around our chin and nose, however
much we adjust it. Perhaps it’s us.
35RMB for one with three
filters, available at JD.com
What is it? This is a no-nonsense
disposable pollution mask with
sensible grey fabric, a side
exhalation valve and KN95
credentials. This means it’s been
certified to provide effective
filtration of particulate matter down
to .03 microns. Each mask can be
worn for between 18 and 40 hours; a
rather wide berth so we’d say better
to err on the side of caution.
Pros The strap fits round your whole
head, not just your ears, which takes
out any complication about how big
your head is, and the price is right.
An additional plus side is that the
mask fits extremely snugly round
Cons …A little too snugly. After
about ten minutes we are longing to
pull off the mask and let blood start
circuiting in our cheeks again.
97RMB for ten, available