Solution Mask: Are Infipure’s New "Nose Masks" Truly Effective or Even Safe?

On the smoggiest of days, Beijing sidewalks are congested with people sporting leopard print patterns, Hello Kitty logos and other quirky designs across their faces. But one local startup offers a more practical version of such products, one that isn’t nearly as flashy.

In fact, it’s practically invisible.

“When I was first in Beijing as an expat, we all used big air masks that covered our mouths. I remember a lot of them being really uncomfortable, hot and stuffy,” said Francis Law, a partner at Beijing-based company, Infipure.

To snuff out this issue, Law says the firm’s designers devised small filters that can be inserted into users’ nostrils, allowing them to not only breathe easily but also discretely. Aside from its aesthetic advantages, Law says Infipure filters’ effectiveness is unparalleled, blocking 99 percent of pollution, including the infamously toxic PM2.5 particles.

He said another big selling point is the price, witheach pack of eight disposable filters costing RMB 32. But Infipure is not without its critics. Nose masks like Infipure’s are “uncomfortable, and make you appear that either you need rhinoplasty or just went to the wrong plastic surgeon,” said Mairead McClean, a spokesperson at British face mask maker Respro.Law filters through such criticisms, hoping to clear the air in more ways than one.

How do your nose filters work?
Users can insert the filters in their nostrils and dispose of them at the end of each day. We understand that putting things into your nose can be a very new experience. But we liken it to many years ago, when contact lenses were new, and putting something in your eyes was foreign to most people. Our product comes in three sizes that cover the general range of nose diameters. We spent over two years researching and developing soft, comfortable materials. Soif you select the right size, combined with its soft material, it will fit well for you and block a lot of pollution.

What are these “soft materials” that you mention?
That’s a trade secret, which we need to keep to stay competitive. But we have done third-party tests with the American National Standards Institute. They checked our efficiency against PM2.5s, and our filtration material was able to block particles at over 99 percent.

Are there any risks in terms of what the filters are made of?
Definitely not. That was also part of our research and development. We ensured the materials were safe, nontoxic and recyclable. Our invisible air mask design is new for the Chinese market; before we created this product we didn’t have a product standard to compare it to. So we had to write our own product standard, which the government has accepted.

Why is government approval something to strive for?
We feel that the Chinese government is actively improving standards to maintain safety. We also work with all our third party suppliers to ensure high qualitystandards. Sometimes the safety hazards are not due to poor standards, but to manufacturers who are not meeting them.

A South Korean filter firm said it is unsafe for Infipure to not divulge what materials you use. What are your thoughts on this?
Our filtration material is modified from a similar type of substance used in a well known anti-air pollution product, which we can’t name because of our trade secret. We chose it because it is proven, soft, and effective. Our filters also have a low amount of air resistance, helping them conform to the numerous sizes and shapes of noses while maximizing breathability and effectiveness. The plastic components on our product, which are a medical grade polymer often used in the healthcare industry, were selected because they have a high stretch point to minimize potential breakage.

The filter’s look and functionality have been criticized. How do you respond to that?
We don’t feel it’s right to critique our specific competitors. We all have the same goal of trying to help people improve their health by defending against air pollution. Our product may appear simple in design, but this was intentional. The nasal passage is narrow, so we wanted to ensure that we weren’t over designing filters with extra plastics or other material that would create breathing resistance.
It’s understandable that our competitors may feel compelled to critique us. Of course Infipure, like any other product, is not for everyone – especially mouth breathers. But the vast majority of our customers have indicated that our product is comfortable, safe, hygienic and highly effective.

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Photos: Infipure

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