Seeking shade is a widely used practice to avoid direct sun
exposure. People often assume their skin is fully protected as long as
they are under the shade of an umbrella. Few clinical studies have
examined the UV protectiveness of a beach umbrella or compared it
directly with sunscreen.
How did sun protection compare for people who spent 3― hours on a
sunny beach with some under an umbrella and others wearing SPF 100
sunscreen? A new article published online by JAMA Dermatology
reports neither method used alone completely prevented sunburn, although
the SPF 100 sunscreen was more efficacious in the randomized clinical
‘The SPF 100 sunscreen was more efficacious than the beach umbrella, but neither method alone prevented sunburn completely under actual use conditions.’
Hao Ou-Yang of Johnson & Johnson Consumer, Inc.,
Skillman, N.J., and coauthors used actual conditions to monitor the sun
protection of a standard beach umbrella compared with the high SPF
sunscreen. Johnson & Johnson Consumer Inc. is the parent company of
Neutrogena Corp. and manufacturer of the sunscreen tested in this study.
The study - conducted over a few days in August 2014 in Lake
Lewisville, Texas - included 81 participants, with 41 who used an
umbrella and 40 who used SPF 100 sunscreen for protection on a sunny
beach at midday. The beachgoers were examined for sunburn on their
bodies (face, back of neck, upper chest, arms and legs) about a day
after sun exposure.
Authors report 78% of participants who were under the shade
of a beach umbrella developed sunburn compared with 25% of
participants who used SPF 100 sunscreen. There were 142 sunburn
incidences in the umbrella group and 17 in the sunscreen group,
according to this side-by-side study.
Limitations of the study include that only one type of beach umbrella was evaluated.
"Umbrella shade alone may not provide sufficient sun protection
during extended exposure to UV rays. Although the SPF 100 sunscreen was
more efficacious than the umbrella, neither method alone prevented
sunburn completely under actual use conditions, highlighting the
importance of using combinations of sun protection practices to optimize
protection against UV rays," the article concludes.