Some are likening the new look to Darth Vader while others can’t stop raving about its many benefits.

In a country where pale skin is deemed to be the height of beauty, people in Japan are known for taking skin protection to another level.

If you’ve been here for any length of time during the warmer months of the year, there’s a good chance you’ve dodged parasols at crowded tourist sites, seen women wearing long arm covers in the heat of summer, and encountered people on bicycles wearing dark visors covering their entire faces.

Now there’s a new sight to see on the streets of Japan this summer, and it’s designed for maximum protection of the user’s face from the sun.

Said to cut 98 percent of the sun’s harmful UV rays, the new accessory, currently being distributed by online retailer Belle Maison, might look strange at first, but it hasn’t stopped customers from purchasing the product, with more and more women seen wearing the new mask around Japan.

▼ While a number of women opt to keep the mask in the glovebox of their car to use while driving, others opt to use the mask while out playing sport.

When combined with a cap, the cover helps to shield the entire face from direct rays. Even without a cap, one of the major benefits of the mask is that it covers the sensitive “C-Zone” area around the eyes, which is easily prone to wrinkles following excessive exposure to the sun.

The unusual-looking mask also goes by an unusual-sounding name: the “Non-suffocating UV Face Cover“. Though it sounds less-than-glamorous, it’s actually a good description of the product, as it provides plenty of ventilation for the wearer, while also offering an impressive amount of face coverage.

Belle Maison’s “Non-suffocating UV Face Cover”, which retails for 2,484 yen (US$22.40), is one of a variety of similar face covers currently on the market, which have become particularly popular with ladies on the golf course.

So next time you’re in Japan and you spot a woman sporting this style on the street, there’s no need to question her fashion choices. It’s all about protecting one’s youthful beauty, which is really, when you think about it, one’s most precious fashion accessory.

Source, images: Belle Maison