CNN Photos

Behold the facekini

Beachgoers posing for photos on a sunny day. It’s a typical scene except for one small difference: All of these women have covered their faces with masks.

They’re called “facekinis,” and they’re a trend sweeping Chinese beaches. Photographer Peng Yangjun captured a series of women in the odd garments on the beaches of Qingdao, a city in the eastern Shandong province.

Part of the facekini appeal is practical: It protects its wearer from sunburn, pollution and jellyfish stings, which are a common threat on Qingdao beaches.

But the colorful masks also give a dose of self-confidence to people who might feel uncomfortable showing their body in public. Almost all of the people wearing facekinis are older or middle-aged women.

“These middle-aged women began to shy away from exposing their already aging bodies and faces,” Peng said. “Wearing a mask made them more comfortable and self-confident.”

The thrill of anonymity inspired some women to strike fun poses in Peng’s photos. One lady in a black bikini and an orange facekini flexed her arms for the camera.

In order to convince women to let him take photos, Peng would resort to flattery, telling them they had the “most beautiful facekini in the whole world.”

That’s an especially nice compliment because many people make their facekinis themselves out of old clothes or bathing suits stitched together.

The combination of materials sometimes leads to masks that have a “very artistic sense,” Peng said. “The colors are often very beautiful.”

Peng said that while his photos are humorous, they are also emblematic of China as a whole.

“The whole of Chinese society is filled with surreal landscapes, and these portraits are an effort to try and capture that,” he said.

- Casey Tolan, Special to CNN