Dutch design studio Belén has created a line of all-natural, textile-based products that are designed to be used in place of sunscreen lotions and polyester sunshades. 

Designed to harness the positive effects of exposure to the sun, the textile-based products include clothing, accessories, parasols and tents. They were all conceived as part of SUN+, a research project into sun protection. The products were presented at Alcova, a design show in a former panettone factory, during Milan design week.

“Overexposure to sunlight is harmful, but so is overprotecting,” explained Belén founders Brecht Duijf and Lenneke Langenhuijsen. “Sunscreen products currently on the market, however, come with serious disadvantages that outweigh their usefulness in the long run.”

“Chemical suncreams and lotions can damage the skin and are bad for the environment,” they added, highlighting that empty bottles of sunscreen often end up in the ocean where they form a plastic soup on the water’s surface, blocking the UV that is needed to support local maritime ecosystems.

The studio’s SUN+ research project aims to come up with design-based solutions for these problems. “We have started out with taking stock of the alternative ways — and alternative materials — we can use for a healthy and clean life in the sun,” said the studio. “Our planet and our body are the concerns that lay at the core of this project, which already has generated a number of products, including wearables, a tent and a UV translucent parasol.”

The sunscreen products include a hat, veil and tent made from lightweight fabrics such as linen. Belén calls this collection Factor 8. “The ‘ideal’ factor is UPF (Ultraviolet Protection Factor) eight,” the studio explained. “It provides protection and keeps the vitamin D production going.”

The standout Factor 8 design is SUNveil, a wide-brimmed hat with a sheer veil that envelopes the body. The featured print explores different cultural attitudes towards sun protection while also offering the wearer a degree of privacy. Langenhuijsen told Dezeen: “We studied the openness of fabrics. Nowadays they make everything from synthetics which are all the equivalent of factor 50, which blocks put the sun completely. We want to play with natural materials and transparency so that you can play with how you protect yourself.”


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