Difference Between a Parasol and an Umbrella

Parasols and umbrellas may appear the same at first glance, and, as such, many will tend to use the words interchangeably. This is a mistake, however, as the difference between the two is like night and day. But what exactly is the difference between a parasol and an umbrella?

The difference between a parasol and an umbrella is the purpose they are used for. While a parasol is typically used for blocking sunlight, umbrellas are used to divert rain, allowing the user to remain dry during a downpour. Because of this, umbrellas and parasols are made from different materials.

This article will take an in-depth look at the general overview of both parasols and umbrellas, their uses, and their intended purposes. Next, we will examine the two against one another to determine where exactly the distinction lies. By the end of this article, you will surely know everything about the difference between them, so keep reading.

Parasol on the beach

What Are Parasols?

A parasol is an umbrella-like accessory which is used primarily to block out the sun. Parasols come in many different shapes, sizes, and varieties. Some are handheld, and others are mounted in place so that users may sit or stand underneath while they mingle on hot, sunny days.

Another purpose for parasols is to be used for fashionable and aesthetic purposes. Parasols are made from a wide array of different materials, and a lot of emphasis on colors and extravagance typically goes into their creation.

Parasols come in just about any shape you could imagine. They can be square, triangular, flat, domed, round, or oval, making them extremely unique and individual.

Parasols are most commonly found on patios for restaurants and recreational ones, weddings, sporting events, barbecues, and near swimming pools or hot tubs.

Many parasols may also be branded with company logos when used for commercial purposes. This may include sports teams or event sponsors. For this reason, parasols act as a great promotional advertising placement and a sun buffer.

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Materials Used for Parasol Construction

When it comes to the fabrication of parasols, many different materials are often used, including polyester, cotton, acrylic, and Teflon.

A parasol frame is typically constructed from steel or aluminum, but other options may be preferred, such as wood, bamboo, or plastic.

Because waterproofing is not necessary when it comes to parasols, they are very flexible in what materials they can be made from, allowing the designer to become much more imaginative and creative.

Oil Paper Umbrellas

Another form of the parasol is sometimes known otherwise as an “oil paper umbrella.” These have a long ceremonial history in China and Japan, dating back hundreds of years.

Oil-paper umbrellas are designed mainly for fashionability and are known for exuding vibrant colors. They are usually very small and simple in their design structure.

One of the most common places you will find oil paper umbrellas is at traditional weddings, which are conducted with a strong cultural emphasis. 

What Are Umbrellas?

As most commonly defined, an umbrella is an object constructed from either wood, plastic, or metal and consists of a handle grip, a pole, a dome-like skeleton or frame, and a material that covers said skeletal structure to provide solace from the rain.

Most umbrellas are compact and retractable, which allows them to be carried and stored conveniently.

Another common style of rain umbrella is the cane style. Cane style umbrellas typically feature a hook-like handle, are long, open up large, and have a pointy spire on the top. While cane umbrellas are becoming less popular, they are still relatively common.

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Material Used for Umbrella Construction

For an umbrella to fulfill its intended duty, it must be waterproof, and to be waterproof, specific materials must be used.

The most common fabric used for modern rain umbrellas is nylon. Nylon is lightweight and completely waterproof. This means that no rain can penetrate or be absorbed by the umbrella, and the user will remain dry and comfortable.

Another material that is commonly used for the fabrication of rain umbrellas is plastic.

Beach Umbrellas

Another form of umbrella which is worthy of a brief overview here is the beach umbrella. Beach umbrellas are similar to parasols in that they block the sun but differ in their intended environment.

Beach umbrellas are designed to be transported to the beach, mounted in the sand on an angle, sat, or laid underneath. This is great for anyone who would like to lay on the beach and relax while avoiding sunburn due to direct UV exposure.

Beach umbrellas are commonly bright and colorful and can be easily identified by their striped design patterns.

Beach umbrellas can also be a great way to signify to people that you are inviting and open to socializing with others, and making new friends.

The Main Differences Between a Parasol and an Umbrella

While parasols appear very similar in form to an umbrella, they differ in some fundamental ways, primarily their purpose of the application.

Here we will first go over how they are different in how they are used; then, we will explain how they contrast in terms of their physical appearance.


The first and most readily apparent way in which umbrellas and parasols differ from one another is the intended application of their respective uses.

Umbrellas are designed to protect users from getting wet as a result of rain. For this reason, very particular materials must be used for it to be effective in performing this function.

Conversely, parasols are designed for a very different purpose, that being to block UV rays from the sun to keep users comfortable and protected from sunburns. At the same time, they relax and enjoy outdoor congregations.


Because umbrellas are designed to perform a convenient task that keeps users dry in the rain—the ability to style them is somewhat limited. The majority of umbrellas will be made from nylon and aluminum, round in shape, and usually (but not always) intended for solo use.

Parasols, on the other hand, are not usually waterproof (at least not to the extent which an umbrella is), and therefore have a little bit more flexibility in the styling potential they allow. Parasols are much more customizable and may feature: lace, tassels, and other decorative ornaments.

Parasols and umbrellas can be a great way to spruce up your wardrobe, and add character to your attire. Matching hats, shoes, shirts, and dresses can be selected to go with your umbrella, and send a fashion statement to your friends and colleagues.


In this article, we set out to identify what makes a parasol different from an umbrella. To do so, it is first necessary to look at how they are used and the materials they are constructed from.

Read more intriguing facts about umbrellas in this article.

Ultimately, we found that the main difference between a parasol and an umbrella is, the former is intended to shield the user from the sun, whereas the latter protects users from getting wet by the rain. 

All-in-all, while umbrellas and parasols may look selfsame at first glance, the two could not be more different in their utilization.

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