Western Australian registered nurse, Jillian Intini, with 35 years’ experience in skin cancer, has developed Sunbella – an alternative to existing sun protection options – offering UV umbrellas that are lightweight, wind-resistant and UPF50+ rated to protect skin from up to 98% of UV rays.

Sunbella was born after Jillian had a conversation with one of her skin cancer patients about hat-hair. In 2011, she was part of the medical team caring for a female skin care patient who was in hospital for multiple skin cancer surgeries to the top of her head.

“Skin graft, upon skin graft, the medical staff were working to rid her of the disease. Whilst chatting with this particular patient in the postoperative recovery room, the lady divulged to me that she had spent her entire life outdoors and she despised wearing hats because they gave her hat-hair. She told me how she wore only a visor to avoid squashing her hair,” she said.

“I’m active and love our outdoor lifestyle but, up until this point, sun protection was always an afterthought in my daily routine. If I wore sunscreen under my makeup, I couldn’t reapply it like I should. If I wore a hat, it was a small visor that wouldn’t give me hat hair. If I was out fishing, I would wear my long sleeve fishing shirt, but if I was going out for coffee with friends, I had nothing appropriate to cover my arms.

“All existing sun protection options were hot, uncomfortable, impractical or unattractive. I needed an elegant, effective, and easy option. Inspired by my patients’ words, and keen to avoid the harrowing results that I was treating, I decided to purchase a sun umbrella and use it whenever possible.”

After searching on Google, Jillian only found lace parasols, which were ineffective against harmful UV rays, or ostentatious umbrellas, that were too “out there” for her style.

“I couldn’t believe that there wasn’t something out there that I would use, so, I decided to make myself one. I bought a couple of old rain umbrellas from the local swap-meet and dismantled and reassembled them, hand-sewed a canopy using curtain block out fabric from Spotlight and had a handle turned from wood by the Men’s Shed. I straightened the spokes so it looked more elegant and added a frilly wind-vent to help it cope in the Summer sea breeze. The result was an elegant and effective sun parasol,” she said.

Jillian received positive feedback and realised that many women would love fashionable sun protection so Sunbella was launched in 2012 based on a philosophy that women should be able to enjoy an outdoor lifestyle safely and with style. Sunbella won the 2020 Fashion Ausmumpreneur Award and was runner up in the 2020 Product Innovation category.

“Our motivation hasn’t changed but our business has certainly evolved. We’ve created new ranges of sun parasols in response to customer feedback and broadened our stylish sun protection offerings to include Sun Gloves and SunStyle Wraps.”

Photo Credit: Kryta Guille