A Chinese beachgoer wearing a bathing suit and head mask

The face-kini: a swimwear trend that's going global

How the 'bank robber on the beach' face-kini look spread from China to the pages of a New York fashion magazine

The face-kini, originally worn by middle-aged Chinese women to protect their skin from the sun, has found its way into a high-end fashion shoot in New York.

The bizarre swimsuit accessories were featured in a spread in the magazine CR Fashion Book, founded by former Vogue editor Carine Roitfeld.

The nylon swimming mask that covers the face and neck is worn to protect users from harmful UV rays, as well as pollution and jellyfish stings. The craze reportedly began in China's Qingdao province in 2012, according to the online magazine Women of China.

Models in the US fashion spread were pictured sporting the colourful face-kinis while wearing expensive designer swimsuits and jewellery by Gucci, Armani and Chloe.

The editorial reads: "Our latest summer story represents an opposing ideal of beauty altogether, with masked poolside models set out to soak up as little sun as possible".  This season, they declare, "a deep tan is the enemy".

As well as avoiding sun damage, the face-kini also has other advantages, with women reporting that it made them feel better about baring all in a swimsuit. "Wearing a mask made them feel more comfortable and self-confident," Chinese photographer Peng Yangjun told CNN.

Light skin is historically seen as a sign of prosperity across China, and beach-goers often go to extreme lengths to protect themselves from the sun. Some resort to removable swimsuit sleeves and Batman-style capes, the BBC reports.

While it seems to have impressed a top fashion editor, other social media users remain unconvinced. "It looks like bank robbers are raiding the beach," said one, while another described it as "Pussy Riot meets Mexican wrestling".