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Image Source: @mark.c

Who else here likes to keep it old school?

I don’t clean the house in heels and pearls, but I do own and use stationary, freak out if I don’t have a gift on hand for a housewarming, and insist on lugging all the heavy, tornado-shelter-worthy solid wood furniture I possibly can up the two flights of stairs to my apartment.

That last one gets HARD in the summer, but hey, what doesn’t.

Keeping your curls and scalp safe from the sun is one of those things that absolutely gets more difficult when the heat is on. Sunburn is R.E.A.L, curlistas!

It doesn’t matter where your ancestors hail from, how much melanin you do or don’t have, or how dense your curls are—extended exposure to the sun in these days of shifting ozone layers can be capital D dangerous! So what do you do?

Sunscreen can be messy, and hats, well...what with the one-size fits all approach of anything that’s not custom made they don’t work for all of us.

Fortunately for me, my old-school ways do extend to knowing an excellent milliner, but when I’m compelled to spend my money on more responsible things, that’s when I break out the big guns!

But this isn’t just for fun, or annoying people on narrow sidewalks. This is about throwing protective shade! Let me back up though.

What is a parasol?

If you’re not familiar with the concept of carrying one, someone carrying a parasol just looks like they don’t know when umbrellas are meant to be used. And that’s fair! A parasol has the exact same “skeletal structure” as its rainy day sibling, and they operate in literally the same way. The differences are skin-deep!

Image Source: @curlygirlcollective

A parasol is made to protect you from the sun’s rays, rather than the rain. But just because we usually think of Gibson girls or French nobility preserving fair skin doesn’t mean that’s their only application.

I don’t use my parasol to not get darker in summer—it’s quirky AND practical! My box-braided scalp is vulnerable to long days in the heat, and I don’t want to be an alarmist, but considering the subtle ways melanoma can manifest (seriously, the soles of your FEET?), I don’t want to take chances! The rest of the world thought the same!

On every human-populated continent, versions of both umbrellas and parasols developed independently. Aztec military carried them. Ashanti kings carried them. Super-successful Japanese families had them carried for them. And the list goes on!

Why? Simple! Being stuck in the sun SUCKS, no matter where you are in the world!

The fact of the matter is that they tend to be associated with upper class people in the older versions of all the societies they developed in because they were expensive to manufacture, and difficult to manipulate when doing anything that’s not sitting or walking slowly.

There have been times I’ve been walking for groceries with one on hand, and the trip back means I just plain have to fry. And if you’re walking into the wind, you get to pick between being able to see, and being in the shade!

So why do I need one?

Three words, curlfriend. “U. V. Rays.” Actually, I’m not sure if that’s two words...or technically just one word. But the point stands! If you aren’t a Muslim curlista rocking your natural hair under an abbayah, your scalp, face, and neck are probably over-exposed!

Be honest, now are you ACTUALLY applying your sunscreen as directed? Really? Are you sure?

Because most directions will say that you need to apply somewhere between 15 and 30 minutes before you even go into the sun! They’ll go on to say that you need to reapply at least every two hours, or after heavy activity involving water and/or sweat.

So ask yourself that question again.

Exposure means burns, and burns mean pain at the least! If you have full use of both hands and can’t/won’t stay indoors all summer (hey, even I float rivers on occasion), and can’t/won’t cover up with direct clothing for the heat or for the aesthetic, a parasol can be the perfect compromise.

Image Source: @yvettecorinne

“Can’t I just use my umbrella?”

Hmmm...yes...but no. I’ll explain.

MOST umbrellas aren’t made to pull double duty as parasols!

Umbrellas can provide you with a modicum of shade, but because they’re made with cloudy weather in mind, you may find yourself hot and unnecessarily encumbered outside! More importantly, they lack the UV protection that’s woven into modern parasols, either by virtue of reflective fabric or a higher, non-plastic thread count.

That fabric is the same reason why many parasols won’t work as umbrellas—the water gets absorbed, and then things get damp.

When you’re out in the elements, ANY protection beats NO protection, but it’s still important to have the right tool for the job!

“Makes sense! How do I find the right tools?”

  • Find the silver lining! Look for a parasol with a silvery lining on the inside, as the reflective properties literally bounce light away from you.
  • Stay single! Wedding parasols are cute, but they tend to be super small to keep attention on the people walking the aisle, and made for taking pictures rather than providing actual protection. Again, better than nothing, but if you’re buying new, buy better!
  • Size matters! If you’re broad-shouldered like I am, the parasols made for daintier frames won’t do much more than make you look like a vintage tight-rope walker. Take your measurements into account so you can keep head and shoulders shaded!

I like to use Amazon on these things, but if you’d like to see some in action in person, see if you have an East-Asian imports store near you! Many carry actual parasols with the sun-protective properties your curls will love!

Care to snap a pic with your parasol, curlfriend?

Tag @naturallycurly in your photo-ops, and show off your shade!