Shade is a practical, user-friendly form of sun protection. Well-designed and positioned shade can significantly reduce UV exposure as well as create cool, comfortable spaces for physical activity and recreation. Research shows that if shade is available people will use it.
For the best protection when the UV is 3 and above, use all five forms of sun protection – clothing, sunscreen, a broad-brimmed hat, shade and sunglasses.
Shade can be natural (trees, shrubs or shadow cast from nearby buildings), built (pergola, shade sails, etc.) or portable (shade umbrellas, marquees, etc.).
There are a number of factors that impact how effectively a shade structure provides sun protection. These include the type of fabric used, the density of the shade, the size of the shade and whether the structure has side protection.
Recommendations for effective shade
- Use a combination of built and natural shade for people to use during sun protection times.
- Create shade that provides a barrier to direct and indirect sources of UV radiation.
- Ensure shade is easily accessible, attractive, in good condition and regularly maintained.
- Use surfaces that don't easily reflect UV, e.g. natural, dark or rough surfaces such as grass, soil and tanbark.
To assess the quality and need for shade in your location, use our shade comparison check.
Things to think about when using portable shade
- If using a large number of umbrellas or small tents, group them together to form a single larger shelter for better protection.
- The use of guy ropes to hold up canopies may create a tripping hazard for people walking past.
- Shade structures should not be placed where it may block emergency access for people or vehicles.
- Umbrellas can be very unstable on windy days.
- Always make sure portable shade structures are put up properly, according to manufacturer’s directions.
Since 2015, the Victorian Government has offered the Shade Grants Program. The program aims to reduce community exposure to UV radiation by increasing shade in public places such as school grounds, community spaces and sporting clubs.
Please visit the Victorian Government website for details.
Shade tips for parents and carers
- Babies under 12 months have very sensitive skin and should always be kept out of direct sunlight and in dense shade.
- The shade moves with the sun, so be prepared to move around and follow the shade.
- Trees with dense foliage with a dark, even shade patch are the best types of natural shade.
- Take portable shade with you to make sure you don’t caught out. Consider a beach or market umbrella or shade tent.
- Use a shade visor or hang a light blanket over the side windows in the car. Side and back windows don’t offer as much protection as the front windscreen.
- When buying a pram, check that the hood can be adjusted, so that it can be moved to block out the direct sun. For the best protection, pram shade covers should completely cover the pram and be made of densely woven fabric that combines a mesh section – so the baby can see and air can circulate – and a shade fabric section. The fabric section should block close to 100% of UV radiation (UPF50+) and the mesh section should block at least 70% of UV radiation (UPF3.3).