Facekini:  Reviewed by a Real User

The facekini is a sun protective mask made popular by the Chinese and just starting to get some name recognition in Europe and the US.  The mask is made out of nylon and much like a ski mask, has holes for the eyes, nose and mouth, while covering as much skin as possible.  While the facekini has been available in China for at least a couple of years, only in recent months has it become available in the US.

What’s the point?

What’s the reasoning behind wearing a stretchy mask on your face while swimming?  In China, lighter skin is viewed as being more attractive than tanned skin, leading people, especially women, to go to great lengths to avoid sun exposure.  A market in the US is likely to exist too as the population becomes more health conscious and many try to avoid overexposure to the sun due to the risk of melanoma.  Vanity is also likely to play a role, as sunlight leads to premature ageing.  In my own personal case, a form of hyperpigmentation called ‘melasma’ on my face has led me to be very wary of sun exposure, as darkening of the affected areas can occur even while wearing sunscreen.


Where did you get it?

I bought mine on Ebay for $9.99 plus $5.00 shipping from a seller called “floatingfloor”.  I’m guessing that Mr. or Ms. Floatingfloor has only recently gotten into the facekini selling business because I have been looking online for them regularly for the past year and have only found foreign websites who did not ship to the US.  There was a choice of 8 different colors and I chose the royal blue, trying to navigate between which would offer the most protection and which would not make me look like a terrorist.  Royal blue seemed to be the best choice for me.  I knew I would look spooky no matter what.

Did it arrive?

Yes, it arrived promptly.  I ordered it last Thursday and it was delivered into my mailbox on Monday.  The packaging was small and flat and the blue facekini inside was exactly as I had imagined it would be from the pictures I had seen online.

What was it like to use it?

The first thing I had to decide was whether or not I should wash my face before using it to take off the sunscreen.  I decided not to.  I am truly paranoid about the sun and have yet to read any declaration about how much protection any facekini offers.  Also, I expected some skin around my nose and upper lip to be exposed so I decided to put my facekini on over my sunscreened face. 

Again, it felt much as I expected it to.  It was very lightweight and form fitting, but easy to maneuver to get all the holes in the right place.  I should also mention that I decided to try this out at home, alone, planning a quick dip into my back yard pool with the gate locked.  I looked spooky.  After getting changed into my swimsuit, I called my dog to join me in the back yard and I think I even saw a moment of disbelief on his face.  I was planning on putting sunglasses on too but soon realized I couldn’t because my ears were contained in the facekini and there was no place to hook the glasses on to.  Maybe I could cut earholes in the mask, but I’m not ready to start cutting yet.  Instead, I brought a baseball cap poolside with me to cut the glare when I was in the pool and not swimming.

Once I got in the pool and cooled off on a very hot day, I paid careful attention to my new treasure.  The weight of it on my face didn’t bother me at all, but I needed to adjust the nose several times to keep breathing comfortably.  Then came the first underwater test, a simple back float.  Usually in the pool I wear a hat so can’t float on my back.  I love swimming but am reduced to water-aerobic type moves for exercise.  With my facekini, I had a nice relaxing back float, loving every second.  Then came goggle time.  My goggles were easy to put on over the facekini.  However, when I took my first swimming stroke, water rushed into my goggles.  I think the water held in the facekini rushed in.  Luckily, this was easily solved by dipping my head in once, coming up and emptying the goggles.  After that, the facekini was fine for swimming.  Occasionally, I had to adjust the positioning of the nose hole.

One odd thing about it that I noticed when my head came out from underwater was the feeling around my ears.  I expected some kind of popping or opening of my ears that didn’t happen.  It turns out that I had to pull the facekini slightly away from my ears on both sides for a couple of seconds to get the feeling I naturally do just by coming out of the water.  I kept my facekini on until going indoors and then washed it by hand in baby soap inside out to wash out the sunscreen from my face.

The verdict

Overall, I think the facekini will become part of my anti-sun arsenal and will allow me to start swimming outside again.  Considering the look of it, I imagine that only the most serious sun avoiders will be buying them, but with mounting rates of melanoma, that number might be sizeable.  It certainly has some negatives such as leaving small amounts of skin exposed and possibly needing to be worn at the beach afterwards as sunscreen applied earlier will have been washed and rubbed off by swimming in the facekini.  For people like me though, who haven’t been able to swim outside due to problems with the sun, that first single minute of floating on my back in the water made the purchase worth every penny.  I expect to soon be buying more.  I also imagine they’ll make great Halloween costumes!