Like most other preteen kids in the 1980s, I tried my very best to get tan. But my skin would never cooperate. As Woody Allen said, "when I go to the beach, I don't tan, I stroke." In the sun, my skin burns, freckles, and wrinkles. By the time I was a teenager, time spent outside in the hot sun had become a trial of sweaty, squinty efforts to find comfortable shade in which to stay cool and avoid damage to my skin.
I was 15 years old when I first used an umbrella for sun protection. It was at my sister's high school graduation. Among the hundreds of sweltering family members and friends sitting under the blazing sun on that hot June day, only I sought the shade of a big black umbrella. The act probably did much to cement my reputation as a bit of an oddball, but I didn't care. I was comfortable. My skin didn't burn or freckle. I thought everyone else was crazy for not seeking refuge as I did.
Fast forward four years, and I'm again at my sister's graduation, this time from college in North Carolina. A bit older and having grown out of my teenage penchant for nonconformity, I sat in my seat in a giant sports stadium and refused to open an umbrella to shade myself. I still remember the painful, long-lasting sunburn my scorched shoulders suffered where my sunblock hadn't quite reached. And the proliferation of unwelcome freckles (I have enough already, thanks) that appeared on my sun-reddened face as I sweated through George Will's speech about the Balkanization of American culture. I vowed to never again sacrifice my skin just because no one else in the crowd shared my inclination for aggressive sun protection.
Vanity aside, I also know that sun exposure is dangerous in addition to being uncomfortable and causing over 90% of visible signs of skin aging. I have two cousins who are dermatologists, and they’ve opened my eyes to the realities of the sun’s harmful effects. The fact is, skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States. Its deadliest form is melanoma. According to The Skin Cancer Foundation, about 86% of melanomas and 90% of nonmelanoma skin cancers can be attributed to exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun. We all know we need to wear sunscreen and protect ourselves from UV rays, but so far, our efforts haven’t been sufficient. Melanoma rates continue to rise, accounting for over 76,000 diagnoses and over 9,700 deaths in the United States this year. We need to push those statistics back.
After decades of suffering stinging, teary eyes from sunscreen (and then not bothering to reapply it every two hours), wearing leggings to the beach, and trying to organize my hair around a hot sun hat, I finally realized that my best protection against the sun was to carry around a parasol. But have you seen what a “parasol” looks like? Its design has not made great strides since the Victorian era. Parasols tend to be lacy, frilly affairs, with light colors and thin fabrics. So in addition to not being fashionable, they're often are not as sun-protective as they should be.
So I started carrying around a plain black rain umbrella. It provided shade, but it was drab, absorbed heat, and, well, looked like a rain umbrella I was repurposing for sun protection. I knew there had to be a better way. After years spent looking for a stylish sun-protective umbrella and coming up empty-handed, I went ahead and invented one.
The result is PARASUN. More shade, better protection, in a chic, compact accessory. I use it when I'm walking down the street in the city, hanging out at summer camp visiting day, spending time with my kids in the park, or attending any outdoor event. Now the comments I get are from people who envy my shade, respect my dedication to sun protection, and want to get a PARASUN for themselves. Join us!
- Dara Kubovy-Weiss
Founder, PARASUN BY INDUSTRY