Rain or Shine, Umbrellas Are Fine

Ultraviolet ray protection from handheld umbrellas

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D

(RxWiki News) Umbrellas aren’t just good for protection from the rain. They can also be a great barrier from the sun. From lacy parasols to sporting favorite team logos, umbrellas make a healthy accessory.

A recent study tested how well handheld umbrellas could block ultraviolet sunlight.

Results showed that the darker the umbrella fabric, the better protection it gave from ultraviolet rays.

"Keep an umbrella handy for sunny days."

Josette R. McMichael, MD, from Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, GA, worked with fellow scientists to investigate the usefulness of handheld umbrellas in ultraviolet (UV) sun exposure.

According to the authors, 45 percent of women in China used handheld umbrellas to protect themselves from the sun. Umbrella use was also found to be common in the Middle East and Turkey.

In a small and casual study, 23 people attending the Emory Dermatology Grand Rounds brought their own personal umbrella for UV testing.

The tests were conducted on April 22, 2012 between 11:05 and 11:58 AM in an open area under a clear sky in Atlanta, GA.

A specially calibrated machine was used to test the levels of UV-A and UV-B type rays that each umbrella allowed through their fabric. The measure was microwatts of UV rays per centimeter of fabric.

Each measure was taken twice – once at one centimeter beneath the inside of the umbrella and again one centimeter from the nose of the person holding the umbrella.

The umbrellas were all different colors. Umbrella styles included compact travel size, large golf size, Coolibar sun blocking and child’s novelty type.

On the UV scale, low UV index is considered anything less than 2; moderate is between 3 and 5; high is between 6 and 7; very high is between 8 and 10; and extreme is 11 or higher. The UV rays on that day, without the use of an umbrella, were at an 8.

The study results showed that up to 77 percent of UV rays were blocked by the lightest colored (white) travel umbrella fabric, while up to 99 percent of UV rays were blocked by the silver (Coolibar) sun blocking umbrella.

This study was published in March in JAMA Dermatology.

No funding information was made available to the public. No conflicts of interest were found.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
March 21, 2013
Last Updated:
March 24, 2013