'Face-kinis' craze hits China beaches this summer (PHOTOS)

This picture taken on August 16, 2012 shows Chinese beachgoers wearing body suits and protective masks, dubbed 'face-kinis,' on a crowded public beach in Qingdao.

No, they are not bank robbers, super heroes or Mexican wrestlers. Nor are they protesters showing their support for the balaclava-wearing Pussy Riot band in Russia. 

Underneath these bright-colored ski masks are middle-aged Chinese woman braving public ridicule in order to protect their pallid skin from damaging rays at the beach, NPR reported.

These beach masks, dubbed “face-kinis,” have taken the seaside city of Qingdao in Shandong province by storm this summer. 

The stretchy material reveals only the wearer’s eyes, nose and mouth and is impervious to ultraviolent rays, NBC reported, citing a user who bought their beach mask online.

"This item is very effective in keeping the UV (ultra-violet light) out, and it's very comfortable. With this, you can do whatever you want on a beach, with no worries of getting burned or tanned. It's really recommended," the satisfied customer was quoted as saying.

The beach masks, which cost between $2.40 and $4, also repel insects and jellyfish, according to the Daily Mail.

“I’m afraid of getting dark,” said Yao Wenhua, 58, as she explained to the New York Times earlier this month why she wore a mask.

“A woman should always have fair skin. Otherwise people will think you’re a peasant.”

While many people in the West want to get a tan when they go to the beach, this is not the objective of Chinese women.

In China, pale skin represents beauty and wealth. Tanned skin, on the other hand, is a sign of manual labor and poverty.

Such is the terror of getting tanned, many people pair their beach mask with a long-sleeved shirt to ensure maximum protection in the water. 

More from GlobalPost: Doctors remove plastic fork man swallowed a decade ago