Or, Why This Portlander Got an Umbrella… for Hawaii.
There are a few unwritten rules about being a true Portlander, and the first one is:
Real Portlanders don’t carry umbrellas.
Oh sure – you might “own” an umbrella. And if push comes to shove, you might even be able to find it to loan to visiting out-of-town relatives. (Tip: It’s probably hidden in the back corner of your garage.) But a real Portland native wouldn’t be caught dead actually carrying one around town, much less popping it open in the rain.
Tropical vacations, however, are another story.
Due to his strong Native American heritage, Mr. B is blessed with beautiful olive-brown skin that turns the color of warm caramel in the sun. I, on the other hand, with my Celtic and Germanic roots and pasty-white complexion to match, have no such luck: I practically burn just thinking about direct sunlight. (As a tween, I once fell asleep floating in the pool at Kah-nee-ta Hot Springs and ended up with second degree burns over almost 50 percent of my body.) So last winter when Mr. B and I started planning our recent Hawaiian vacation, sun protection was at the top of my list, and I knew a simple sunscreen wasn’t going to cut it. I needed a plan.
Many tips for avoiding sunburn simply do not work when you are on vacation. These include things like:
- Stay out of the sun during peak hours. Really? You want me to stay inside between 10am and 3pm on my vacation? Not happening.
- Keep covered up. Ok, maybe. But when the temperatures soar and the humidity is 70%? Also not happening.
Others work, but for those of us with extremely fair skin, they only go so far:
- Use sunscreen on any exposed areas. I do this religiously. Experts recommend an SPF of 45 or better, which will allow even the fairest skinned to stay out in the sun for a few hours. (I use 70 to 100 SPF.) Follow the instructions on sunscreen carefully, and reapply as directed. (Note that most “water-resistant” products require reapplication at least every 80 minutes.)
- Pay attention to hard-to-reach places. This may require the help of a buddy. Remember to cover the back of your knees and neck, tops of toes, and ears (even if you have long hair).
- Wear a hat, or put sunscreen on your head. (I know – eww. But a sunburned hairline is even grosser.) Some shampoos and conditioners contain UV protection too.
- If you are beach or water-bound, don’t forget your “fanny line“ – the place where your swimsuit meets your backside. This can easily be forgotten, especially if you apply your sunscreen before you go out, and then take off your shorts to go in the water, resulting in hot buns (and not the good kind) later in the day. [← Voice of Experience.]
Knowing that I would be spending an inordinate amount of time in direct sunlight, I knew I needed something that went above and beyond. And then I saw a silver lining: the closet eccentric in me has been dying for an excuse to get a parasol for years! (Because every girl needs a parasol some time, right?) But when I started looking, all I could find were lacy Gothic-inspired (or better yet, Hello Kitty) umbrellas, or drab “UV-protectant sunshades.” Blech. I wanted something age-appropriate, functional, and pretty.
That’s when I found Annie O’Connor Hughes of Umbrellas Hawaii.
After exchanging a few emails, Annie and I made a date to meet up in Honolulu on the first day of my Hawaiian adventure. A long-time Oahu resident and artist, Annie shared with me how she founded Umbrellas Hawaii in 2006, after searching out a UV-safe solution for her fair skin (much as I did) and finding nothing that met her needs.
Through our conversation, I learned that Annie is as passionate about the quality of her products as she is about health benefits they provided. Umbrellas Hawaii offers what is basically a high-tech parasol, with island-style designs that offer serious skin protection in a beautiful, tropically inspired product. Every umbrella is lined with Ultra Violet Protective Factor (UPF) fabric that has been tested and certified to block 95%-97% of Ultra Violet (UV) radiation.
When I got myprint sun-brella (as I like to call it) from Annie, I really didn’t anticipate how much of an impact it would have. However, in retrospect, I honestly believe it saved our vacation. Hawaii was very hot and humid the entire ten days of our trip, and without it, no amount of sunscreen would have saved me from being burnt to a crisp. (Even if you are like Mr. B and have never had a real sunburn, have you ever had to endure a trip with someone who is badly sunburnt? Does the term “cranky” ring a bell? A sunburn can ruin a trip for everyone.)
I took my sun-brella everywhere, with the obvious exceptions of snorkeling and kayaking. Needless to say, it is now a permanent fixture on my vacation packing list.
Annie’s sun-brellas are incredibly well made, with great attention to detail:
- The UPF certified fabrics block 95%-97% of UV radiation.
- Seams are tight, and the traditionally metal rods are all made with fiberglass, making it incredibly light and strong.
- The open/close mechanism works very easily. I must have opened and closed mine at least 200 times over 10 days, and I never once had a problem or pinched a finger.
- The colorful outer fabric, designed in Hawaii, is complemented by a natural faux-bamboo handle that looks at home in a tropical setting. I don’t feel like I’m carrying an “umbrella.”
- The little pieces at the ends of the struts are nicely rounded, so you don’t have to worry about poking anyone’s eye out with them.
- It seems to be perfectly sized. I could easily walk hand-in-hand with Mr. B while holding my sun-brella over my head and not get it into his space.
- The sun-brella itself is very light, and the handle fits comfortably in my hand, even after hours of use.
- It has durable water repellency, and can double as an umbrella to keep you dry in that unexpected summer shower. (If you’re into that kind of thing.)
In closing, I wish I could fully explain how grateful I am to be sitting here at my computer typing away, just two days after my vacation, and not suffering from post-vacation sunburn and all that goes along with it. Finally, an umbrella I can use!
Umbrellas Hawaii products are availabe in a rainbow of colors and can be ordered online by visiting their website.
Disclosure: I received my Umbrellas Hawaii sun-brella free to test drive, with no strings attached.