Parasols Are a Fashionable Way To Protect Your Skin From the Sun

The parasol is being touted as the must-have accessory for spring and the return of sunshine, but this trend is dipping back into history by thousands of years.

In the old days, you could judge a lady by the fairness of her skin, while Asian women have always been praised for their porcelain tan. What do the English rose and a Geisha have in common? Parasols of course.

A parasol is defined in Webster's as “a lightweight umbrella used as a sunshade, especially by women”. While parasols have often been thought of as wedding accessories or for period costumes, they are also for fun and fashionable. They are very elegant and make a definite fashion statement. Parasols are also practical and provide UV protection from the sun's harmful rays, and excessive sun exposure is the leading cause of skin aging and skin damage.

The Parasol's History 

The parasol is most often thought of with Victorian society in England and the U.S. Perhaps the chief reason for its popularity at the time was the Victorian admiration (or obsession) for a fair complexion. It was more than a sign of beauty; it proved to the world that a woman was a lady, who didn't have to work outdoors like “common” females did.
The parasol, along with its rainy-weather cousin, the umbrella, doesn't actually have a credited inventor. As a natural solution to keeping off the heat in humid climates, this invention evolved naturally. In ancient Egypt, the parasol was used both to provide protection from the sun and as a ceremonial accessory. In paintings and engravings from that period in history, it is shown protecting pharaohs and other members of royalty. In that time, the parasol was often made from palm leaves or colorful feathers. In ancient Greece, parasols were not only fashionable, but were also used by priestesses in religious ceremonies.

The use of the parasol to provide protection from the sun and heat was common in ancient Rome as well, making it prevalent in most of the powerful civilizations in history. However, it was ancient China that invented the collapsible parasol. Wang Mang, an official in the Han dynasty, designed an umbrella in the year 21 CE for a ceremonial carriage that could fold down when not needed. This invention doesn't seem to be unique for the time, however. Collapsible umbrellas and parasols have been discovered that date from even further in history, in the third and sixth centuries BCE. The latter invention was unearthed in the Chinese city of Luoyang and featured bronze hinges and intricate locking mechanisms.

It was most likely China that inspired England and France's use of the parasol. Yet, it wasn't until the 17th century that they were put into use, more commonly in France. This invention didn't catch on in England until the 18th century.

Even now, with all of the improvements made to its design throughout history, the parasol isn't as commonly used as an umbrella. Perhaps the fashion world's renewed interest in this invention will encourage us all to become inspired by history.

Parasol's Today

While middle aged and elderly women have long used parasols for protective purposes, it has been only recently that young women have seen them as a fashion accessory. After remaining out of fashion for about 90 years, parasols had a resurgence around 1990 as many women no longer considered it healthy or wise to be in the sun too long. Now, with warnings about ultraviolet rays and the irreversible damage caused from sun exposure, parasols are again in fashion. Increased awareness about skin cancer also contributed to the renaissance of parasols. Parasols are being carried again in increasing numbers in the U. S., Great Britain, France and especially Japan.

Japanese women have long used umbrellas for sun protection. The Japanese standard of beauty has always favored fair skin (the dark-suntan craze was nothing more than a passing fad among Japanese teenage women), and the number of Japanese women of all ages who worry about sun exposure continues to grow.

Fashionable parasols are also now coming out in new materials, including Solarweave with UV protection that filters out 97% of UV rays. These parasols are becoming increasingly popular in the U.S.

What Color Parasol offers the Most Protection?

The emergence of black as a favorite color for women's parasols was inspired by reports that black is more effective than light colors at blocking ultraviolet rays and preventing suntan. Department stores responded to the reports by enriching their supply of black parasols, and these items have been flying off the shelves in Japan.

Parasols in other dark colors, such as brown and navy, are also selling well. Parasol sales are particularly brisk in western Japan, where sunlight is strong: Some retailers in the region are selling twice as many parasols as they did last year. The major manufacturers have boosted parasol production by about 20% over last year's volume, and black parasols account for 40% of this increase. Also fueling the parasol boom is the availability of products licensed under famous designer brands, such as Ralph Lauren and Burberry.

Here's a large UV resistant black parasol from Amazon. Or you can search all of the parasols at Amazon, there are many styles and colors.


Thanks for reading! What do you think?

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