Parasols Are Back!


Posted on August 13th, by staff in Hair & Style, Sun Protective Clothing. 46 comments

Parasols Are Back!

By Angelica Moreno (photographed above by Van Lee)

I recently attended an outdoor, country wedding. Knowing what I do about sun damage, I was nervous about sitting in direct sunlight for at least 1 -1.5 hours during the ceremony in addition to the time spent enjoying the grounds before and after the ceremony. My strapless, knee length dress certainly didn’t offer all the protection I would need from the sun.  When it was time to get ready, I generously applied SPF 60 sunscreen on all exposed skin. Next, I grabbed sunglasses to protect the delicate eye area. My last layer of protection was a pretty, white parasol with cherry blossoms on it that I picked up a couple of years ago in Chinatown. I could have gone with a hat but I wanted to wear my hair up for the party so my parasol was the way to go. For just $5, I got the sunshade I needed, a perfectly coordinated accessory, my hair stayed immaculate, and I received a ton of compliments!

The History of Parasols

All over the world and throughout history, people have been using parasols to block the sun. In fact, the word “parasol” literally translates to block sun in English from Spanish. Parasols have been recorded in Ancient Egypt, Persia, Greece, and India to name a few. Europeans and North Americans have also used parasols in the past as fashion dictated the value of pale, white skin. In more modern times, tanned skin has been the fashion in North America since the 1920s when Coco Chanel inadvertently made tanned skin trendy when she returned from a Mediterranean cruise several shades darker.

Luckily our knowledge of the damaging effects of UV lights (A and B) has also increased over time. We now know that skin cancer, wrinkles, sunspots, and premature aging – are directly linked to sun exposure. While North Americans were pursuing tans, many parts of the world preferred to stay pale and parasols remained a staple accessory.

Now they are making their way back into mainstream here. I originally bought my parasol after seeing Asian ladies (young and old) using them on the streets across Toronto. But if you pay attention, many pale-faced celebrities have been spotted with parasols too. Here’s Kate Middleton with one in Singapore…

Burlesque dancer Dita Von Tease using a pretty vintage-styled parasol in the rain…

Gwen Stefani never seems to leave home without either a parasol or a regular umbrella on sunny days!

How to Wear One

First things first, a parasol is not a substitute for sunscreen! It should be worn an added layer of protection; sun protection always begins with sunscreen! Both the Canadian Dermatology Association and The Canadian Skin Cancer Foundation recommend using a broad-spectrum sunscreen (meaning it protects against both UVA and UVB rays), with a minimum Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of 30, every day throughout the year. Click here for the best ways to apply sunscreen.

Next consider wearing sun protective clothing, which provides a permanent barrier against UV rays. While sun protective clothing is a relatively new concept in America, it has been used in Australia for over a decade where it is now more popular than sunscreen, states Coolibar sun protection company whose specialty shirts, pants, and hats have a similar protection rating system as sunscreen called UPF (Ultraviolet Protection Factor). The UPF ranking has 3 categories: Good (15-24) blocks 93.3%-95.9% of UVR (UV rays), Very Good (25-39) blocks 96%-97% of UVR, and Excellent (40-50) blocks 97.5%+ of UVR.

Where to Buy One

An inexpensive parasol can always be found in Chinatown. For those with deeper pockets and a desire for more sun protection, check out our editor, Helen Vong’s favourite UV umbrella: the sunBRELLI ($66-$84), a biodegradable parasol made from bamboo and a special type of plastic film that provides 99% protection from UVA and UVB rays. And because of it’s durability the sunBRELLI can be used as a regular umbrella on rainy and windy days too – it’s built to withstand 40 mph winds!  Says Vong, “Along with all the great functional attributes of the sunBRELLI, I also appreciate that it doesn’t look too costume-y.” Vong’s been toting around her grey personal-sized (37″) sunBRELLI all summer…

If you’re worried about looking too dainty or theatrical with a parasol, let me assure you, the only thing you’ll be receiving are comments laced with envy. And with 90% of all wrinkles caused by the sun, it just makes sense – that’s exactly what most other wedding guests said to me. Anytime I use my parasol, people comment on what a great idea a parasol is as an everyday accessory, and I couldn’t agree more.

Writer Angelica Moreno photographed by Jeremy Craigs