Facekinis have become an iconic reminder of the skin-whitening trend that continues to lead the Asia-Pacific (APAC) beauty and cosmetic industries.
One name synonymous with ‘facekinis’ is Zhang Shifan, who created her first batch of the colourful masks as early as 2004. In 2006, the full-face beach clothing reached mass consumers in China.
Since then, Shifan has continued to update the design to complement consumer needs and emerging trends. And in recent years, Chinese beaches, particularly in Qingdao City, China's Shandong province, have been awash with facekini wearers.
Shifan, who has sold the stretchy masks on Taobao, China's retail giant, since 2007, also has a brick-and-mortar store.
Releasing the sixth generation of the facekini in a range of modern and quirky designs, they continue to feature holes that are cut in the skin-tight elastic fabric for eyes, nostrils, mouth and, in some cases, ponytails.
Evolving from simple headwear in basic colours, the latest suits provide full-body cover and comes in a variety of innovative and creative colour combinations, styles and patterns. Similar to bikinis and wetsuits, the full-body suits which cover their entire torsos and arms, help protect against tanning.
Skin whitening extension or fashion?
Although criticised for their appearance, facekinis have increased in popularity as the skin-whitening trend continues to dominate the Asia-Pacific region (APAC), particularly in Japan, South Korea and Thailand.
Facekinis offer Chinese beachgoers assurance against tanning and premature aging as it provides protection from ultraviolet rays.
Although facekinis were originally designed to provide protection from sun damage, they have also been found to successfully protect the wearer from jellyfish stings, algae and insect bites.
Tanned skin is for "peasants"
In many Asian countries, tanned skin is associated with “peasants” who work in construction or farming, and so facekinis have been interpreted as an extension of the ongoing skin-whitening trend in APAC.
However, although facekinis may be seen as part of the skin whitening trend, industry insight indicates that this is more of a fad that hasn't really hit China nationally.
It has only been seen people in Qingdao is far from going viral on Chinese social media. It may be best interpreted as more of an expression of “individuality”.
Generally associated with middle-aged females, the facekini appeals to a strong consumer demographic that is typically difficult to reach.