5 ways to combat China's air pollution

One of the main questions I get asked by people is, "How bad is the pollution?" Truthfully, it hasn't been nearly as bad as I was expecting. It's only been hazardous around Christmas when factories were busy making and shipping out orders exported to online shoppers. That doesn't mean it's been blue skies and easy breathing. I've had pollution sickness for a month at a time. It's nasty business.

So, how does someone who loves clean air and mountain hikes as dearly as I do, survives a place where air pollution is often an issue. 

I want to say a few quick things about China's pollution problem. The first is that it isn't China's problem. We have to stop thinking it is. The air pollution in China is the direct result of mass consumerism and irresponsible shopping. We all want everything as quickly and cheaply as possible. And, for that, the air we breathe is affected. I'm not saying the Chinese are without fault {their economy directly benefits from cheap labour in unsafe working conditions producing large quantities for export}, but I don't like pointing fingers at one place and one people and blaming them the wreckage the world as a whole has caused.

Secondly, I think it's important to note the efforts China is making towards sustainability and how complex the pollution problem is. Most of China lives in poverty, so environmental issues tend to be farther down the list of priorities. When millions of people heat their homes with coal to survive the winter, it's hard to tell them not to do that for the sake of the air, ya see? Beijing has already made large strides in improving factory regulations and tightening inspection standards. 

Finally, I'm not saying the pollution in China isn't devastating. I've read about 'cancer villages' and the environmental destruction. It's terrible. I'm simply saying that where I live and in the two months I've lived here, the pollution hasn't been as bad as what I initially expected {since I knew next to nothing about China upon arrival}. 

Here are 5 of the best ways to combat air pollution in China...


1. Wear a mask

I know, I know, they aren't exactly "en vogue", but your respiratory system will thank you. Trust me on this one. I fought getting a mask for a week and then got properly rocked by pollution sickness {a burn down your throat, a dry cough, blocked sinuses, watery eyes, and bad migranes}. I quickly purchased a mask and realized no one here blinks an eye at anything, let alone an individual with a mouth cover. You can get this at the Chinese pharmacy chain Watson's and a handful of other places. Just make sure the mask you purchase says PM2.5 on its packaging. This means the mask is made for air pollution and not a mask to help prevent the spreading of typical mouth germs!

If you're looking for a fashionable alternative, I recently stumbled upon Wair, a French company that makes face masks that help fight air pollution and have quite the sophisticated look. 

2. Vitamin C

Antioxidants help fight free radicals, which form when air pollution enters the lungs. It was suggested to me by the local staff that I eat oranges as much as I can and take some kind of Vitamin C in hot water regularly. I walk to work and, as dramatic as it sounds, I can tell the difference in the way my throat feels if I miss my morning cup of boiled water and Vit C tab. You can find Vitamin C tabs at Chinese Walmarts, Watson's pharmacy, and some convenience shops. 

*I am not a medical professional. I always suggest seeking advice before you take anything.* 

3. Get an air purifier

If you are moving to China, you need to make sure your flat has an air purifier. If it doesn't, negotiate with your landlord. If they won't budge, buy your own. It's necessary spending-- your lungs depend on breathing clean air. 

4. Take care of your skin

My skin took a serious beating upon arrival into China. The smog combined with harsh dry air meant my poor face went crazy. Luckily, if there is a positive stereotype that holds true, it's that Chinese women know every skincare trick and have full access to every Korean beauty brand on the market {and Koreans also know skincare}. Yes, skin bleaching is still very popular in this part of the world, since lighter skin is associated with money and education, but you can still find a library of products in China that fight the air pollution without bleach in the ingredients. 

Products I love + recommend highly are: innisfree sleep masks {to replenish lost skin nutrients while you sleep with all natural products}, my ride or die Live Crude products {all natural, cruelty-free, vegan certified, and detoxifying}, and a Japanese facial massager that cost USD $1.50 {becuase lymphatic drainage is important, I purchased mine from Miniso}. My friend Katie recently purchased me Zhwia Dua skin cleansers the Chinese swear by as a Christmas gift and they've genuinely made my face smoother and more moisturized, but I can't find a link anywhere other than the Chinese Amazon-like app, Taobao {sorry}. 

5. Know the AQI

If for whatever reason the AQI reaches hazardous levels, avoid going outside! It's super unlikely it will come to that, but find alternative things to do. Clean your house, read a book {or a blog ;)}, snuggle up for a movie, do your run at the gym instead of outdoors. If you have a Chinese phone, it's important to know that the AQI on the Chinese weather app is incorrect. It will almost always say the AQI is below 100...install an app that's reliable or check online.