How to Choose a Stylish and Functional UV Parasol or Umbrella

Updated on April 27, 2016

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Protection, the most common form of cancer in the US is skin cancer. In 2007, over 58 thousand people were diagnosed with the melanomas of the skin, and 8,461 people died from the affliction.

Not ready to fry up and become another statistic, I'm pretty careful about sun protection. That said, I don't always have time to put sunscreen on more than just my face, and I neither like the feeling of sticky arms nor the dreadful heat of extra layers of sun-protecting clothing on hot summer days.

This is why I have turned to UV parasols. They serve as an excellent alternative in the world of skin protection. UV parasols, different from many typical umbrellas, have specially treated fabric that protects the skin from UVA and UVB rays. Though some can also be used for protection from rain, most UV parasols are designed exclusively to protect your skin from the sun and will do no good in a downpour.

Interestingly, UV parasols existed before rain umbrellas. The word "parasol" is actually derived from "para" (defense against) and "sol" (sun), and parasols in Europe were originally used by stately ladies adapting asian-style umbrellas to secure stylish, mobile shade. The modern rain umbrella didn't actually come about until the 1800s.

This strawberry-themed UV parasol is utterly adorable!
This strawberry-themed UV parasol is utterly adorable! | Source

A Smart Solution

I first encountered UV parasols in Japan - they can be seen all over on city streets, in parks, and in local neighborhoods, and a litany of beautiful styles and colors are available. I started collecting them and bringing them home with me, and always got compliments when I took them out on my afternoon constitutionals.

Thankfully, more UV parasols have become available outside Japan, so you won't have to fly abroad to pick one up. I've shared some of the best UV umbrellas below (both in terms fo style and functionality) for you to review. If you hope to protect your skin during your daily commute, find a complimentary accessory for a costume, or add something both romantic and practical to your wardrobe, I hope you'll find this guide to be helpful.

The Best UV Parasol Options for Fashionistas

Though parasols typically have a historical underton to them, there are some really cool modern UV parasol designs available. A lot of them riff on modern umbrella designs, but don't be fooled - a typical rain umbrella is NOT necessarily designed to protect you from UVA and UVB rays.

When picking out a UV umbrella, consider colors that will go with the mass majority of your sunny weather outfits. The UV parasols I have are red, tan with brown accents, and pink with yellow accents. That pretty much covers all of the palates I have for warm-weather clothing.

Also, consider how you will be using your UV parasol. If you're going to use it on your daily commute, you might want one that is entirely collapsable and can fit in a purse. I do, however, have a penchant for UV parasols that have intact, non-collapsable handels. They're a bit bulkier, but they look more like honest-to-goodness parasols and less like umbrellas, which is important in imparting on others that you are not, indeed, walking around in the sun with a rain umbrella.

UV Parasols for Old-Timey Romantics

Though more prevalent than ever, umbrellas with uv protection are still relatively rare in the US and elsewhere, and are most commonly sported by those with an old-timey or romantic disposition.  I see a lot of cosplayers, gothic and sweet lolitas, and period dressers sporting parasols.  

This makes perfect sense - parasols saw their last (Western culture) heyday in the eighteenth and very early nineteenth century.  Think Jane Austen characters.  Think Marie Antoinette.  

In my humble opinion, UV parasols that hearken back to this era are the coolest ones out there.  They're typically well-constructed, often embellished with pretty lace or ribbon, and have beautiful handles.  

The downside to vintage-style UV umbrellas is that they are typically heavier and bulky, so if you're looking to get a UV protection umbrella for everyday tasks, these might not be the ones.  

Perhaps Japan has been so up on UV parasol trends because they have such a rich history of parasols - the old wood and paper designs simple blended with Western cloth and metal designs!
Perhaps Japan has been so up on UV parasol trends because they have such a rich history of parasols - the old wood and paper designs simple blended with Western cloth and metal designs! | Source
Actress Betty Compson with her traditional Japanese-style parasol.
Actress Betty Compson with her traditional Japanese-style parasol. | Source

Asian-Style Parasols

One reason why I think UV parasols have evolved so splendidly in Japan (and in Asia in general) is because skin-protecting umbrellas have been used for a long, long time.

Pale, porcelain-like skin has traditionally been treasured in Japan (consider how geishas even go to the trouble of painting their faces white to accentuate this), so UV parasols were always a big deal. Aesthetics are also a big deal in Japan, so of course the functional, skin-shielding parasols that were designed were also made to be very beautiful.

I picked up a red wooden and paper parasol on Kyoto and absolutely love it. It makes for a very bold fashion statement and is fun to twirl around. This style of parasol has been used by many, many fashionistas over the years and typically doesn't go out of style, since it is so separated from the Western conception of umbrellas.

Though both cloth and paper variations of this style of parasol are available, I suggest going with a heavier paper. They have a cooler feel to them and offer a bit more protection from UV rays.

If sun protection is, however, your primary concern, I recommend getting a more Western-style parasol that has fabric that has been specifically designed to block UV rays.

UV Parasols for Men

When I first encountered UV parasols in Japan, they were mostly used by women, but many of the trend spotting agencies I follow have been buzzing about the increasing number of Japanese men who are now taking advantage of the accessories.

Why the change?  Well, I think that people are realizing how common skin cancer is, and how important it is that we protect our skin from the sun.  

If you're a dude, there are definitely UV umbrella options out there that are perfectly masculine and acceptable.  If you start using one now, people might balk, but who knows, the Japanese trend might make its way across the sea, and then you'll be seen as quite the forward-thinking trend setter.

UV Parasols for Travellers

I do a lot of walking whenever I travel - so much so that every time I take a week or two off, I typically lose around 10 pounds (which is kind of bad, now that I think about it...).  A lot of the time, I walk in the sun, and both the heat and the sun exposure get to me.

A lot of travelers get around the issue of walking in the sun by either wearing sunscreen or long-sleeved shirts and long pants.  One option makes me feel super grody, the other option often leaves me in a puddle of sweat, and neither option helps with keeping oneself cool.   For this reason, UV umbrellas make for an excellent alternative.  They allow you to protect your skin while also wearing more skimpy clothing, they offer shade on a hot day, and they also provide sun protection on days when you don't have time to apply sunscreen before running off to a new destination.

When choosing a UV protection parasol for travel purposes, portability is key.  You'll also want one that's durable and light, and that goes with as many outfits as possible.

Questions & Answers

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      • profile image

        Eitan 

        13 months ago

        Hi,

        I live in Israel.

        Assume you know the Dead Sea, lowest place on earth (about 400 m' below sea level). People from many countries coming there for a period of 2 weeks, to have sun bath of 6-8 hours each day, as a cure of the Psoriasis disease. I can confirm you that the cure is perfect and remains stable for about a year (then the wounds appear again).

        So I am searching a solution to cure Psoriasis without need to stay 2 weeks at the Dead Sea.

        The idea is to find a fabric that can screen the sun and just let penetration of the required healthy radiation which is 311-313 NM ( light UV-B that)

        anyone has any idea ?

        can you refer me to a suitable manufacture ?

        Thanks.

      • profile image

        Meka 

        14 months ago

        Great info thanks for the post. I wish there were links to buy some of the wonderful things you suggest.

      • profile image

        stevenlei 

        4 years ago

        may I ask u a question,“what kind of umbrella have a good UV protection,We buy parasol what we need focus on ?”

      • Simone Smith profile imageAUTHOR

        Simone Haruko Smith 

        5 years ago from San Francisco

        Oh wow, Styled in Japan! That's pretty intense. I am so glad the cancer has not returned- and that you share my love of parasols!

      • profile image

        Styled in Japan 

        5 years ago

        I'm an Australian, and like many others, developed skin cancer about 20 years ago, and had to have a melanoma removed. I've lived in Japan since that time, and have been a passionate anti-UV parasol use ever since. Happy to report that the cancer has not returned! Japanese parasols are adorable -they are both fashionable and offer protection from UV radiation.

      • Simone Smith profile imageAUTHOR

        Simone Haruko Smith 

        6 years ago from San Francisco

        There aren't any particular brands I'd recommend, Bella- just be sure to check the label on the parasol to make sure the fabric protects you from UVA and UVB rays!

      • profile image

        Bella 

        6 years ago

        What collapsable umbrellas / parisols do you recommend? I commute a lot and live in a very sunny area. I am trying to find an umbrella that can fit into a backpack or purse

      • profile image

        Janet Walsh 

        6 years ago

        Powerful promotion of parasol UV protection and perfection. My parasols are mainly pagoda style availing wide protection but I also have deep-domed floral parasols and two Japanese versions of this essential and most enjoyable UV protection. On opening each chosen parasol cool calm comfort charm and confidence combine to delight me. Parasols are so easy to manage and are such pretty protection as your ample advocacy affirms. Your parasol - and umbrella - enthusiasm is splendidly evident in your hub.Like myself You manifestly enjoy your parasols. They are Indeed enjoyable and delightful,pretty and protecting perfection.

      • profile image

        Peter Walsh 

        6 years ago

        Dear Simone.Congratulations on Your Splendid Parasol Promotion . Janet, My Wife, is a parasol devotee never without her selected parasol opened immediately when out in sunshine. Pretty parasols are supremely feminine and truly delightful protection.Janet sends You her congratulations and appreciation of your commitment to parasol perfection as well as protection. Open and Enjoy.

      • Simone Smith profile imageAUTHOR

        Simone Haruko Smith 

        6 years ago from San Francisco

        I am not sure whether you'll find many in Nigeria, since I can only really speak for the US and Japan, but perhaps so! In my parts, they go for between 15 and 75 USD. I wouldn't spend more than $25 on one :D

      • profile image

        jdhot 

        6 years ago from Nigeria

        wow! This is great news. Can i find it in nigeria cos that is where i live.the sun over here is very hot and harsh and this uv umbrella will be my remedy. How will i know a uv umbrella when i see one? Are there very expensive? Thanks.

      • Simone Smith profile imageAUTHOR

        Simone Haruko Smith 

        7 years ago from San Francisco

        Oh, I'll certainly have to check your Hubs out! Thanks for stopping by, Jeanastra!

      • profile image

        Jeanastra 

        7 years ago

        I have a skin cancer Hub and offer suggestions on sunscreens & sun protective clothing but now I wish I added parasols. I've been contemplating one now that my hair is short and my hats don't look as good as they used to. Also, you get a lot more coverage with a parasol. We should cross-reference each other's HUBS. Voted up. Thanks!

      • Simone Smith profile imageAUTHOR

        Simone Haruko Smith 

        7 years ago from San Francisco

        Thanks Carol and crystolite! You're right, Carol - skin cancer is something that's difficult to think about until it hits. I am so nervous when it comes to cancer that one of the few ways I feel comfortable addressing the subject involves working the subject into fashion, hahaa @_@;

      • crystolite profile image

        Emma 

        7 years ago from Houston TX

        Good hub,thanks for sharing.

      • cjv123 profile image

        Carol 

        7 years ago from Michigan

        I have never heard of such a thing - UV parasols - what a great informative Hub! Skin cancer seems so remote - until it happens to you - it's not something to make light of and by your mention, you do the topic justice.

        Carol

      • Simone Smith profile imageAUTHOR

        Simone Haruko Smith 

        7 years ago from San Francisco

        Oh, they're super fun! I'm glad that you know about them now!

      • ripplemaker profile image

        Michelle Simtoco 

        7 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

        Hi Simone, this is the first time I've heard of UV umbrellas! Interesting and yes definitely an alternative to long sleeves shirt esp. on hot weather :)

      • Simone Smith profile imageAUTHOR

        Simone Haruko Smith 

        7 years ago from San Francisco

        Thanks for stopping by, Aris Budianto! I hope you find parasols to be as lovely as I do.

      • Aris Budianto profile image

        Aris Budianto 

        7 years ago from Lying along the equator Country

        Thanks for this info, Simone Smith, useful hub.

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