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Stylish Shade on Summer Days

May 2010

By Rachel Winters

Edward Manet painted the famous “Woman with a Parasol” in the late 19th century. The woman in the painting was showingblue parasol off not only her elegant sense of style but also practicing sun-safety!

The word “parasol” comes from Latin roots meaning “shade” or “shadow.” Women around the world have been using the parasol for centuries to protect their delicate skin from the sun.

Opening a parasol on a blazing hot day continues to be a stylish and effective way to prevent skin cancer in many countries. It not only helps keep you extra cool, but also protects your skin from the early signs of aging.

“Sadly, not many people carry parasols in the United States, but in other countries, it is a way of life,” says Susan Chon, M.D., assistant professor in the Department of Dermatology at MD Anderson.

No one knows the exact date the parasol was invented. It began appearing as far back as ancient Egypt, when pharaohs used parasols as a way to get shade from the desert sun. People in ancient Greece and Rome used parasols made out of leaves or colorful feathers. China came up with the idea for the collapsible parasol.

Think of the parasol as a fashion accessory

Today, you easily can find both fashionable and functional parasols. Think of them like handbags. You need one for each outing.

When shopping for a parasol, choose one that works for multiple occasions. Or, purchase a few. You can get one for:Tailand Umbrella

  • running errands or sitting at a sidewalk café,
  • taking a walk on the beach or chatting by the poolside with friends,
  • hanging out at a family barbeque, and
  • sitting in the bleachers at a Little League soccer or baseball game.

Parasols also make great party favors, especially for outdoor weddings.

Show some personality and creativity when picking your parasol. They come in a variety of materials, like silk and bamboo. They also come with different kinds of trim, like lace, jewels or feathers. You can even get yours monogrammed!

Look for specific features when picking a parasol

Just keep in mind, certain parasols provide more benefit than others. “Skip parasols made of paper or extremely thin cloth,” Chon says. “They offer little or no protection from the sun. Instead, get a parasol in thicker, darker colored fabric.”

Many websites that sell Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF) clothing also have fun, colorful parasols. UPF indicates how much ultraviolet (UV) radiation can penetrate the fabric in clothing. Some of these parasols block as much as 95% of UV rays.

Seeking shade isn’t just about being coolsummer umbrella

“The amazing thing about parasols is that they are portable and offer shade to the entire top portion of your body,” Chon says. “They cover your face, neck, shoulders and even the tops of your arms. And, unlike hats, they don’t mess up your hair.”

Chon suggests you seek shade between 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. when the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays are at their strongest. 

In addition to using a parasol, always wear sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher and reapply regularly.

Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States. More than one million skin cancer cases are caused by over-exposure to the sun, according to the American Cancer Society.

Related Links:
Sun Damage - Skin Cancer Prevention (MD Anderson)
Skin Cancer (MD Anderson)
Preparing Your Skin for a Day in the Sun (MD Anderson)
How Do I Protect Myself from UV? (American Cancer Society)

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© 2014 The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center