New study finds that beach umbrellas actually aren’t protecting you from the sun at all, so thanks for nothing?

For those of us who live at the beach during the summer, umbrellas are our saving grace. They save our spot while we take a dip, and they help us find our spot when coming back to our blankets. Most importantly, beach umbrellas protect us from that hot summer sun — or do they?

JAMA Dermatology conducted a study that showed that apparently beach umbrellas actually aren’t saving our skin from harmful UV rays. The study pitted beach umbrellas against SPF 100 sunscreen. 81 participants in Lake Lewisville, Texas spent three and a half hours (during peak sun time) at the beach, either under an umbrella or lathered in sunscreen.

The 81 participants each followed a list of controlled stipulations during the three and a half hour time period. When the time was up, researchers found that 78% of participants using an umbrella ended up sunburnt, whereas only 25% of participants burned while using sunscreen.


During the study, researchers monitored participants under umbrellas to make sure they remained in the shade and covered up if they needed to leave the umbrella for any reason. The bottom line is, the umbrella didn’t do diddly squat.

Researchers for JAMA Dermatology concluded, "Shade, recommended by many groups for prevention of skin cancer, is effective in reducing the amount of exposure to UV rays in general, but the magnitude of reduction and clinical effectiveness may be less than expected." They continued, "Beach umbrellas, as convenient shade structures that are widely used in summer, are designed to block direct UV rays but do not block scattered or diffused UV rays, which could be significant at places such as a beach. "

The scientists who conducted the study reinforce the fact that although the SPF 100 sunscreen did protect the skin better than umbrellas, neither form of sun protection prevented sunburn completely. This study is a great reminder that it’s important to use several forms of sun protection while exposed to UV rays to get the most bang for your skin’s buck.

So don’t toss that beach umbrella quite yet. Just make sure you lather up in some high SPF before hunkering down in that cool, cool shade.

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