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'Facekinis' take China by storm

Wanna fit in on China's beaches?

Try going for the luchadora wrestler look. Especially if you're a woman.

That's the advice in Qingdao, anyway, a seaside city of nearly 9 million in northeast China.

Qingdaonese swimmers have recently made waves on Chinese Internet sites for their bizarre swimming gear: colorful, full-face masks.

Dubbed "facekini," the fabric masks cover a swimmer's entire head and neck down to the collar bones. Holes are cut for eyes, nostrils and mouth.

The mask not only helps me from getting tanned, it also prevents jellyfish stings.

According to Chinese media, most "facekini women" are retired middle-aged Qingdaonese who swim regularly in the ocean.

"[I wear this because] I fear getting tanned," said Wang Xiuzhi, a "facekini woman" on Qingdao's No. 1 Bathing Beach, as reported by Xinhua.

"I come here to swim often and [the mask] does work," Wang added.

White skin is considered a sign of beauty in China.

Chinese have a saying that translates roughly as, "white skin covers up a hundred uglinesses." Many Chinese women go to great lengths to prevent themselves from getting tan lines in summer, such as using parasols while walking on the streets and wearing long-sleeve jackets while riding bikes or motorcycles.

Warding off ultraviolet rays isn't the only benefit of "facekinis."

"The mask not only helps me from getting tanned," swimmer Liu Aiwen told Xinhua. "It also prevents jellyfish stings."

"Normal swimmers here all dress like this. We're used to it already," continued Liu, who sports not only a "facekini," but also a full-body swimsuit that stretches from her neck to wrists and ankles.

"Facekinis" can be spotted in stores along the beaches in Qingdao for around RMB 15 (US$2.35) as well as on Taobao, China's retail website, for around RMB 25.
Shark repellent?

According to some online sellers, the masks can also repel mosquitoes, and even sharks.

"Fingertip melody 234," one of Taobao'd "facekini" vendors, says bright orange masks can help drive away sharks "because they fear this color the most."

"These masks have been very popular among buyers," said a sales officer from Ma Ke Water Park, a Qingdao-based online "facekini" seller.

Ma Ke Water Park sells the masks in 18 different colors, from sky blue to magenta, and in three styles, distinguished by the size of eye holes and placement of seams.

The same sales officer added that "facekinis" aren't a new trend -- they've been popular in Qingdao for at least five years.