Creating a sun safe brand

Who, what, how, when, why interview

Creating a sun safe brand of clothing, accessories and skin care



ERUM ILYAS, MD, MBE, FAAD. President & Founder, Montgomery Dermatology, CEO & Founder, AmberNoon. QVC Spokeswoman, AmberNoon II by Dr Erum Ilyas and Tory Burch Fellow 2019.

WHAT did you do?

I created a sun safe brand of clothing, accessories and skin care.  I built this brand based on years of diagnosing and treating thousands of skin cancers and precancerous spots every year for over 15 years and recognizing patterns of sun damage that contribute to the development of these cancers.  I sought to build a brand based on what I have learned from the 30,000 patients in my practice and the barriers they face in finding effective and practical sun protection solutions.

HOW did you do it?

I studied textiles as it was well established that an average white T shirt only offers a UPF of about 3 which is not enough sun protection. I work with over a dozen textiles that I have studied to have a UPF of 50+ without UV chemical finishes. The weave of the fibers are interlaced to create textiles with decreased porosity to block UV rays.  The composition allows for the textiles to retain UV blocking capabilities through 40 laundry cycles.  This is the industry standard for chemically treated textiles that I was able to demonstrate without the need for additional chemical finishes. The sun protective clothing industry is relatively young and it is not regulated to reveal to consumers the finishes used in these products. There are very few studies evaluating the safety of UV chemical finishes from clothing on our health when the fabrics are wet from sweat or swim and few studies evaluating the environmental impact when these finishes enter the waterways through the manufacturing and laundering process.

I also developed design features focused on allowing people to reveal and conceal stylishly while still protecting their skin effectively. I evaluated body surface area (BSA) through non parametric and parametric modeling to determine design features for clothing that permit maximal UV protection through adaptable functional features and reduce the amount of sunscreen products needed to achieve sun protection.  The basis of these studies is understanding that numerous studies have confirmed chemical sunscreens when applied to the skin in recommended amounts are absorbed into the bloodstream at 4 times that safety limits after just 1 day of use.  By evaluating BSA for our clothing items and design features I demonstrated reduced quantity of sunscreen needed to protect the skin if clothing is effectively playing this role.  This permits the use of chemical sunscreens by reducing the quantity used and hence reducing the concentration of product that can accumulate in the bloodstream. With textiles in hand and designs developed I worked with manufacturers in Los Angeles to bring my concept to life. 

WHEN did you start your company?

I launch AmberNoon In August 2017. I launched my diffusion line, AmberNoon II by Dr Erum Ilyas made exclusively for QVC in May 2020.

WHY are you innovating with this product or service?

Most people that discover our brand purchase my designs simply because they look cute and stylish - and I love that we made it that easy to be sun safe! They are unaware of the studies, design processes, and purposeful integration of elements that are focused on providing beautiful sun safe solutions without compromising our health.  By creating a fashionable yet functional clothing line the goal is to allow our clothing to multitask and for our customers to re-evaluate their wardrobes and realize wearing sunscreen can be as simple as getting dressed.

WHERE are you from?

I’m from Maryland originally and now live in Pennsylvania. My parents are Pakistani American.