What Is A Parasol?

We all that when it’s raining, we take an umbrella with us to protect ourselves from the downpour.

But what can you use when the sun is really strong and you want to make sure you don’t burn your skin?

What Is A Parasol?

That’s where parasols come in. They have been around for thousands of years but you don’t see many around today.

So, what is a parasol? And what’s the difference between a parasol and umbrella? We explore everything you need to know about parasols.

What Is A Parasol?

A parasol is a light umbrella that is used to shade someone from the sun. 

It has a similar shape to a traditional umbrella. However, a parasol is typically made from a lighter material, such as lace.

Plus, traditional parasols also curve slightly inward to protect the face and top shoulder area from the sunshine.

What’s The Difference Between An Umbrella And A Parasol?

The best way to understand what a parasol is, is by looking at its famous counterpart: the umbrella.

It may come as a surprise but the parasol was invented first. In fact, the parasol was created thousands of years ago in Ancient Egypt, China and India.

This fashion accessory was used by royalty to create shade and protect kings and queens. 

However, the design of the parasol was so functional that it traveled to other parts of the world, including Europe and North America.

While the terms parasol and umbrella are sometimes used interchangeably, they have a very different purpose. 


An umbrella is made with waterproof material, such as nylon or polyester. This blocks out any rain, hail or snow.

A good-quality umbrella has a slightly curved handle that allows you to grip it firmly.


On the other hand, a parasol is made with much more delicate fabrics, such as silk, plastic, lace, linen or cotton.

Parasols help you to protect your face and upper shoulders from the glaring sunlight.

In the past, parasols were also a symbol of wealth and prosperity. They would often contain ornate designs that show the wearer’s social status.

Typically, parasols only have a plain handle with a straight shaft that matches the design of the fabric on top.

The History Of The Parasol

The parasol was invented over 4,000 years ago. Experts have found artifacts that prove the existence of the parasol in Ancient Egypt and China.

While the umbrella is much more popular today, the umbrella design is based on the concept of the parasol that provides shelter from the elements.

Ancient Egypt

The first parasols were used in Ancient Egypt more than 4,000 years ago. They were originally used to protect nobility and royalty from the harsh sun.

Back then, parasols were made from palm branches and tree leaves. They later evolved used other materials, such as cloth and animal skins.

As these materials were very difficult to source making them extremely expensive, parasols were used as a symbol of high status by nobility and royalty.


Further East in China, a similar parasol design was also used by anyone who could afford this luxury accessory.

However, due to the lack of trade routes to other parts of the world, the parasol didn’t leave China for another few hundred years.


The first parasol-shape items became available in Europe after a trade route was created between Egypt and Greece. This was around the fall of the Roman empire.

This was bad timing for the parasol as society and money exchanged changed in Europe. A darker time entered the continent and luxury items weren’t available anymore.

The parasol only made its comeback a thousand years later in the Middle Ages. But the design had changed and parasols were not more waterproof.

They would be used to wade off the rain in cooler climates in Northern Europe.

While the parasol was initially a luxury fashion accessory, Europeans adopted the umbrella as an item for daily use.

There was also a change in who used an umbrella. 

Originally used mostly by women, now that the parasol turned into a waterproof umbrella, men also happily used this practical accessory to protect themselves from the rain.

With the emergence of the umbrella, the parasol was largely confined to summer days. That’s when noble women would only use parasols to wade off the hot rays of sun.


With the rise of new technologies and different fashions, the design of the parasol keeps changing today.

The traditional parasol isn’t very common anymore. However, its counterpart the umbrella has become one of the most used items around the world.

However, there may be hope for parasols. Changing fashions mean that parasols make an appearance here and there at different fashion shows.

Parasols are an essential accessory when you want to try out a vintage dress. You can find parasols at thrift stores or online. 

Do Parasols Protect You From The Sun?

Do Parasols Protect You From The Sun?

Parasols were invented thousands of years ago for the simple purpose of providing shelter from the sun.

However, not all materials can protect you properly from the sun. Some light materials like lace may only offer some shade but no UV protection.

Saying this, you can also find parasols with full UPF sun protection.

Do Parasols Protect From Rain?

No, parasols are not designed to protect you from the rain. They are made of non-waterproof material which means your parasol would be quickly soaked after a few minutes in the rain.

Do You Still Tan Under A Parasol?

Yes, you still tan even when you stand under a parasol. As long as your skin is exposed to UV light from the reflections around you, then you will tan.

This is possible anywhere where you are exposed to sunlight, including mountain tops, cities and beaches.

Final Thoughts

A parasol is a type of umbrella that protects you from the sun and not the rain. Parasols have been around for thousands of years, although they are large out of fashion today.

Willa Price

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