For a word that literally means “defense against the sun,” it’s quite fitting that in Korea, the parasol—an umbrella for sun protection—is part of a woman’s arsenal against her skin’s biggest enemy.
Truth be told, I used to dismiss young women who avoided the sun like the plague. They seemed obsessive and neurotic. But I was young then, and so was my skin. Now I know that parasols are the continuation of a Korean women’s skin care routine, the unsung heros of anti aging and flawless complexion everywhere.
Healthy, glowing skin is a result of many factors, including good genes and good habits, but being weary of the sun exposure also helps. Parasols have been around for centuries, but I see more younger women sporting them in Korea these days. Over the past few years of living here, I’ve come to embrace the parasol and its many perks. Anti aging is just one of them.
Here’s why the umbrella for sun protection, AKA the parasol, is the best anti aging secret:
It’s SPF that doesn’t need to be applied
You can buy parasols anywhere from street vendors to premium department stores in Korea, but legit parasols will have a UPF (Ultraviolet Protection Factor) rating. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends daily use of sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher, so likewise, look for parasols with a similar or higher UPF rating, which measures the UV protection provided by fabric. For ultimate sun protection, it’s recommended that you use both a parasol and sunscreen; the latter will catch the UV rays that bounce off reflective surfaces that aren’t coming at you from overhead.
It comes in all shapes and sizes
There’s no lack of selection for parasols in Korea, and you can find one for every taste and occasion. If sun protection is your goal, remember that a darker exterior and interior color will absorb reflective UV rays better. As for size, I always opt for something tiny that I can stick in my bag and forget about. You’ll find countless options for compact parasols that retract and fold to fit inside your clutch.
It doesn’t crimp your style
Before I started using a parasol, my go-to fix for the sun was a classic cap. While I like hats, I don’t like the flattened hair they leave behind. Likewise, sunglasses are stylish and practical, but they also come in contact with your skin. The parasol is a great alternative when you want to shield yourself from the sun while avoiding hat hair, smudged makeup and indentations on your face. Plus, it helps keep your temperature down by covering more of your body than a floppy hat can.
It makes babywearing better for everyone
Even if you don’t need a parasol for yourself now, you may reconsider when you need coverage for two. I have a newfound appreciation for parasols after becoming a mom. It’s so useful for babywearing outdoors, since many babies resist hats and sunscreen isn’t recommended for infants under six months.
It doubles as a backup umbrella
The parasol is not just an umbrella for sun. One of the hottest months of the year in Korea also happens to be one of the wettest, and I’ve been saved by my parasol on several occasions when a seemingly sunny day is interrupted by unexpected showers. If you’re looking for something that can handle rain or shine, look for coated or tightly-woven parasols, which make better water-resistant umbrellas. Many manufacturers now create parasols meant to shield you from various weather conditions. In Korea, most people carry umbrellas when it snows, so the parasol comes in handy 365 days a year.
Still not sure?
If the thought of walking around with a parasol just doesn’t sit well with you, at least consider getting a portable one to use for outdoor activities. I love my oversized parasol that I can take to the park or the beach. Get one with a clamp so you can secure it anywhere and go hands-free.