Interested in protecting their faces from radiation from the sun, algae that lives in the water, and jellyfish strings, women around the world are embracing a fashion trend that started in China years ago by wearing a “facekini.”
A facekini is a mask designed to protect the face from harmful things, with holes left for the eyes, nose, and mouth. Invented by Zhang Shifan in 2004, the trend kicked off in Qingdao in China before taking off around the world. Carine Roitfeld, editor-in-chief of the the bi-annual print magazine “CR Fashion Book”, brought additional fame to the unusual fashion accessory in 2014 by showcasing models in the facekinis wearing Michael Kors and Alexander Wang jewellery and swimwear.
Even Vogue has written about the sun-protection garment. Vogue writer Monica Kim penned, “Along the main road, a handful of vendors sell stacks of solid spandex face and body coverings for 15 to 25 Yuan apiece (about $2 or $3). Yet the best are the boldest—a mad mash of peacock feather swirls and paisley drops, capped off with goggles.”
Mothers are buying their children facekinis to wear, teaching them about the importance of sun protection at an early age. Beyond the warm sunshine the sun provides, the sun also blasts Earth with UV radiation. On the electromagnetic spectrum, UV light has shorter wavelengths than visible lights; human eyes can’t see them. Within UV rays, there are two types: Ultraviolet A, known as UVA, and Ultraviolet B, known as UVB. While both can tan the skin, they can also harm it. The longer wavelengths of UVA age the skin, giving overexposed skin over time a wrinkled, leathery appearance. The shorter wavelength of UVB can be more intense in the short-term creating burns.
Beyond tans and burns, UVA and UVB also damage the DNA in skin cells. When the DNA is damaged, genetic defects and mutations can occur. Beyond premature aging, these altered DNA can also lead to skin cancer. Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) and basal cell carcinoma (BCC) are two common types of skin cancer proven to be linked to UVA/UVB exposure. Fortunately, these skin cancers can be cured if found early enough.
Prolonged UV exposure over a considerable amount of time can also lead to melanoma, considered to be the most dangerous type of skin cancer. Melanoma is a skin cancer that begins in cells known as melanocytes. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, 70-80% of all melanoma forms on normal-looking skin while the rest forms in/around existing moles.
Online retailers like Amazon offer face bikinis in solid colors, while Facekini.com offers fashionable prints featuring American Flags, tropical, and camouflage colors. They range in prices from $12 to $20.