You’ve seen pictures of them: Korean stars breezing through airports, their porcelain-skinned faces covered by masks. Nope, not skincare sheet masks—cloth masks or surgical masks, the kind you’ve seen old Chinese ladies or Japanese commuters wear.
Online are numerous explanations behind the trend. They have no makeup on. They might be hiding zits. (Seriously, do they even get zits?) The air is polluted. They’re sick. They don’t want to get sick. They don’t want to be recognized. They don’t want to be photographed.
In one of her Eye Contact Cam videos on YouTube, Red Velvet’s Seulgi shared the secret behind her masked airport appearances. Seulgi, who was on a flight to Los Angeles for the girl group’s US tour last year, said, “I don’t have much to do on the plane. Eat, sleep, eat, sleep, eat, sleep, movie, eat, sleep. That’s why my face often swells up when we’ve arrived and so a mask is a must.”
And because they’re idols, they managed to turn what was a necessity of fame into something cool.
It caught on. Fans followed suit, buying masks (mostly black cloth ones) not for protection but to accessorize.
Online sellers promote them as “celebrity masks” or “idol masks.” 7-Eleven in Korea sells them with the words “Fashion Fit Mask” on the packaging. Mask brand LeMASKA had a collaboration with Umbro.
Allure Korea has featured its most fashionable favorites.
A brand called Mima has this tagline: “Save Money. Save Face. Save Your Life.”
In the Philippines, more and more people have started wearing masks but not as fashion statement. First it was because of Taal and now it’s because of the dreaded Wuhan coronavirus.
It’s the fear of the potential pandemic that’s making people cover their faces.
Experts aren’t convinced they offer enough protection from the virus but if you are intent on wearing masks, choose wisely and use them the right way. As Dr. Peter Lin told CBC News, “N95 masks seal around you and you’re truly breathing through a filter. The paper ones that you see everybody wearing, it leaks all over the place… If your mask gets wet, if you have some moisture, that filter is no longer worthwhile. I’ve seen people use the same mask over and over again and some people are using just the cloth one… it will grow mold.
“That would make you sick faster than the coronavirus.”