It takes guts to get outdoors in Beijing, as the capital welcomed its hottest June since 1961. But for those who have to, they need to get prepared.
Working as a food deliveryman in Beijing for about two years, Li Haonan usually rides an electric motorbike on the road during lunch hours. To avoid sunburns in summer, Li wears arm coverings and a face mask that covers him from below his eyes to his neck.
“I’m not afraid of getting tanned. I pay attention to sun protection because the coverings could prevent the sun from hurting my skin,” said Li. “The material of the face mask is not thick, and it’s not stuffy when there is wind.”
In the skin care industry, sun exposure is responsible for most signs of skin aging, including wrinkles, pigmentation, or reduced skin elasticity. Covering the skin has been regarded as the most effective way to avoid damage caused by sun exposure.
As heat waves scorch many parts of the world, it’s no surprise that the market for sun protection gear is booming. Its market size in China has expanded rapidly in recent years.
China’s sun protection clothing market increased from 45.9 billion yuan (roughly $6.4 billion) in 2016 to 61.1 billion yuan in 2021 and is expected to reach 95.8 billion yuan in 2026, according to China Insights Consultancy, a financing advisory firm headquartered in Shanghai.
People wearing sun protection clothing take to the street in Sanlitun, Beijing, June 27, 2023. /CFP
Face comes first
Working in Jinan, capital of east China’s Shandong Province, Liu Li gets about 30 minutes of sun exposure when she commutes on workdays. Besides applying sunblock cream, she wears sun glasses and a trendy sun protection jacket with a wide-brim hood.
“When I zip it to the top, it could also cover the lower part of my face,” laughed Liu, adding that the design is so popular that she could meet people wearing similar-style jackets every day.
From the “facekini,” which originated in the coastal city of Qingdao, to the sun protection jacket with only the eyes exposed, designs of sun protection gear are paying more attention to covering the face.
“This year, the face mask that covers the outer corner of eyes sells well in my shop. Skin around the outer corner of eyes could age easily,” said Dong Wei, a shop owner in Yiwu International Trade Market. Located in east China’s Zhejiang Province, the huge market is the world’s largest distribution center for small commodities.
Dong added that sales of sun protection face masks in her store have increased by 30 percent year on year.
Beach goers wear “facekini” while having fun in the sea in Qingdao, east China’s Shandong Province, June 24, 2023. Invented by a Qingdao resident in 2012, the sun protection mask covers the head and neck, and have holes for the nose, mouth and eyes. /CFP
Meeting the demand
In the wake of the hot spell baking some cities in China, the recent sales of sun protection products have increased by more than 50 percent, according to data from e-commerce platform Jingdong (jd.com).
Along with people’s awareness of skin health, the pursuit of fair skin and the popularity of outdoor sports also drive consumers’ demand for escaping harmful sun rays. On lifestyle platform Xiaohongshu, for example, most content on sun protection products underscores the aim of keeping complexions fair and looking stylish.
Sun protection is the biggest demand in outdoor sports, with 89 percent of outdoor goers buying sun protection products, according to an industry report released by iResearch, a Beijing-based research firm, in March.
Moreover, male consumers’ demand for sun protection is growing as well, though female consumers are still the main buyers of sun protection gear.
Specializing in sun protection gear, including hoodies, hats, arm sleeves and over-sized face masks, domestic bands such as Beneunder, Bananain and Ohsunny are competing for market share in China.
From the special fabric to new weaving and coating technologies, the designs and functions of sun protection clothing are all key angles of marketing on social media platforms. In addition to sun protection, some products even added features such as driving away mosquitoes.