We know what you’re thinking. Why would anyone want to wear such an uncomfortable and unattractive accessory to the beach? Well not only is this product simply available in China, last year this was the summer craze.
Now before you begin judging China’s fashion sense, it is important to know that this garment choice has absolutely nothing to do with fashion (clearly). The full head mask, nicknamed the “face-kini” and often paired with a long-sleeved body suit, has become a hit in China because of its ability to protect its user from the sun.
The need to protect one’s skin is a much deeper issue in Asia than some may realize. These extreme measures are not simply to avoid skin cancer. Instead, these measures are taken to satisfy Asia’s obsession with pale skin.
Here in California, it is not uncommon to find women spread out on a beach towel with coconut oil and a burning determination to get tanned. In fact, we even have a number of tanning salons which do the job without the hassle of sand in your hair. There are aisles of spray-on tans and tanning oils just to achieve the perfect California glow.
This is the absolute opposite of Asia’s ideal.
The New York Times spoke to a woman sporting the face-kini. “I’m afraid of getting dark,” she explained. “A woman should always have fair skin. Otherwise people will think you’re a peasant.”
As you can see, pale skin is not merely viewed as someone who hasn’t been out much. Traditionally in Asia, darker skin represents the physical labor of rural areas while lighter skin is a sign of wealth and beauty. As such, whitening products line the shelves of store in Asia.
Just how far will this go? People are found walking around with parasols and gloves just to avoid the sun for a 5-minute walk in the street. Asian media pushes the idea by clearly having a preference for light skinned women. Companies are reaping the benefits of whitening products.
We don’t know when this judgement of skin will stop– or if it ever will– but the creators of these face masks seem to have no problem perpetuating the idea that lighter is better.