MK Manoylov takes a stroll with an umbrella on a sunny afternoon. Manoylov’s preferred method of protection from the sun during the summer is a large umbrella. (Photo/Daniela Rico)

Whenever I have a choice, I will stand under the sweet, sweet shade of a tree versus direct sunlight any time. But when I walk around in the Georgia heat, I find myself exposed to the harsh sun, often getting horrendously sweaty in the process. Sunscreen protects my skin, but it doesn’t keep my cool when I walk.

Umbrellas are the perfect solution to not only cool me down but keep the sun off me too, but I see few people using umbrellas to keep the sun off themselves in Athens. They’re a severely underappreciated form of sun protection and more people should use umbrellas to ward off the sun this summer.

The sun is dangerous and harms our skin, but traditional sun protection isn’t comfortable enough to use consistently in daily life. The United States Occupational Health and Safety Administration recommends wearing long clothing to cover the skin, using a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15 to block out harmful UVA and UVB rays from the sun and wearing a wide-brim hat to protect your head and neck.

If I’m meeting someone at Walker’s for coffee, I don’t want to slide into the booth sweaty and greasy from my sunscreen, my hair matted from a hat and pit sweat expanding under my long sleeved shirt. I’ll gamble with skin cancer, thank you.

That’s the problem with traditional sun protection — it’s often at odds with our image-conscious culture prompting us to take care of our appearance at the expense of our health. This is especially true for young adults, a University of Missouri-Columbia study finds.

And of course, even if sunscreen and long clothes and hats keep the sun off your skin, it doesn’t keep the heat off you. You’re still going to sweat, smell and feel gross after a casual walk in the sun, even if you’re fully decked out in traditional sun protection. That’s because direct sun exposure is usually much hotter, even 20 degrees Fahrenheit hotter, than in the shade as Dallas meteorologist Kyle Roberts finds. He recommends staying cool by staying in the shade, such as under a tree.

Umbrellas allow you to take that delightful shade with you anywhere you go, keeping your upper body cool and protected. Foldable umbrellas store easily in backpacks or purses, and they’re a one-time purchase unlike sunscreen. Any prep work done to your face and hair will remain pristine under the umbrella’s protection. All these together make umbrellas better than sunscreen, a wide hat or long clothes.  

Umbrellas aren’t perfect, of course, as you’ll have to protect your legs and feet somehow. But the cooling effects and upper body protection (which, let’s face it, we really care about) far outweigh the negatives. For consistent, comfortable and cheap sun protection, choose umbrellas as your main form and sunscreen or long clothes as supplements.

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