The umbrella is not just for trudging through rainy days. When the sun pours down from blue skies, a sun umbrella can offer shade and protection from harmful ultraviolet radiation, an invisible threat that can damage skin. Beach excursions almost require a lofty sun umbrella planted in the sand as a respite from the heat. In Southern cities known for long, humid summers, such as New Orleans, Louisiana, it is common to see men and women holding sun umbrellas over them as they walk outdoors. Sun umbrellas include the parasol, a decorative umbrella that doubles as a fashion accessory and dates back to ancient Egypt. Many sun umbrellas absorb or block out UV rays at a Sun Protection Factor level of 50, and are not suitable as rain gear because the fabrics are not water-repellent.
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About six feet in diameter and up to seven feet tall, the standard beach umbrella can help prevent sunburn along with sun block lotion. Beach umbrellas weigh about five pounds and you typically insert them in the sand. Many beach umbrellas come with bases that you can fill with sand to keep them from falling over or the wind blowing them away. They are available in various colours and patterns. In addition to blocking harmful UV radiation, beach umbrellas can keep you up to -12.2 degrees C cooler in the hot beach sun.
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Parasols can offer shade from the sun, but are primarily fashion accessories dating from about 1000 B.C. The parasol has long been a decorative feature for brides or debutantes, and connects with celebrations or, centuries ago, was a proof of affluence. Men used them while horseback riding or watching outdoor theatre, but women primarily carried parasols. In 18th century England, a parasol became a common fashion accessory. Many women with fair skin still carry a parasol as protection against sunburn.
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Sun umbrellas designed for golfers come in wide diameters, roughly a 62-inch arc, and have ergonomically-built handles and an automatic open feature. A sun umbrella made for golfers have fibreglass handles and nylon fabrics that make the umbrella weigh only one or two pounds. Unlike most sun umbrellas, which block UV rays and offer shade but are not water-resistant, many gold umbrella manufacturers will add water-repellent fabric to make the umbrella an all-purpose item for golfers who play no matter what the weather brings.
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As sun umbrellas are a relatively inexpensive way to provide lasting protection from UV and heat, people can enjoy an outdoor meal or work outside. In tropical climates, outdoor patio sport umbrellas made from palm leaves, or thatched umbrellas made from reeds, can protect people from the sun. Manufacturers chemically treat commercially made garden umbrellas to provide UV protection. Yet, a worldwide trend grows for sustainable living and eco-friendly furniture, producing handmade garden umbrellas made from waterproof leaves, plain grasses and straw.