Like most of us, you’re working from home. You want to get a little sun without going out. You find this nice little spot INSIDE your home.
Questions run through your mind… You wonder: “Is it possible to tan through a window?”
If you’re hoping to tan through glass windows, sorry to burst your bubble! The simple answer is NOT REALLY.
We’ll spill the beans on this one! So read on!
What Happens If You Tan Through Glass Windows?
Have you ever seen a faded carpet near a window? It’s proof that the sun’s harmful radiation passes through ordinary window glass.
Double glazed windows act as a sunblock. It blocks out the majority of harmful rays.
So, What are the Chances of Getting a Tan Indoors?
Let’s say it’s super hot outside, and you sat in front of a window. Your chances of tanning through that glass window are MINIMAL.
BUT… you risk getting harmful effects of sun-damaged skin… if you think you’re tanning indoors.
You would only get tanned after a VERY long period of exposure.
How Do You Get Sun Damage Indoors?
Most types of glass block out UVB rays. This means your body won’t get sunburned from a road trip on a sunny day.
However, most types of glass DO NOT block out UVA rays. Meaning, you may still get harmful UVA radiation through your window.
Just because you can’t see the damage doesn’t mean it’s NOT there.
There’s a false sense of security when it comes to glass in cars or at home. They think it’s harmless heat but they penetrate glass and reach a deeper layer of skin.
Are Some Windows More Protective Than Others?
Here are some common types of glass used for windows:
1. Double-Paned Windows
These are used for homes and businesses. Traditional glass is double-layered soda-lime glass. These are regular windows.
These block out most UVB rays but hardly protect you from UVA rays.
2. Laminated Glass
You usually see these in car windscreens. It’s a plastic layer between two layers of glass. It blocks 98–99% of all UV light. This plastic layer is capable of some protection.
Don’t worry about getting high-risk damage through a car’s front window. But side windows are a different story.
3. Tempered Glass
The side windows of your cars apply this glass type. It only blocks 60-70% of UVB rays, but NOT UVA rays. It’s not enough to protect against skin damage while driving.
Both car and home windows block shorter UVB rays that cause sunburn. But longer UVA rays still pass through.
High risk for skin aging and skin cancer.
If you are sitting next to a window getting direct sunlight for many hours of the day, wear sunscreen.
Your Skin and Ultraviolet Rays: Learn the Basics
It would be wishful thinking to hope that you can get a tan if you sit near a window.
Sure, it feels warm on your skin, and you can see the sun through ordinary glass.
But What Really Happens When You Do That?
A lot of us would love a tan since we’re stuck inside our house. However, the sun’s UV rays are harmful without protection.
Studies found that people who spent a long time driving in cars were more likely to develop tan and skin cancers on the left side of the body.
That is because it is exposed to an open window when driving.
In the United States, it’s called a “Trucker’s Tan” or “Trucker’s Arm.” This is because most glass blocks UVB rays and UVA rays, but they don’t block ALL OF THEM.
Let’s be geeky for a moment and explain what we’re talking about here.
What are UV Rays?
UV Rays are a form of electromagnetic energy. It is radiation energy as a result of a nuclear reaction at the sun’s core. This radiation travels the earth via the sun’s rays.
They’re classified according to wavelength.
- UVA (longest wavelength)
- UVB (medium wavelength)
- UVC (shortest wavelength)
Both UVA and UVB rays are the ones that can damage the skin in different ways:
UVA (Ultraviolet A) Rays
- They can penetrate windows and clouds.
- They go deep into the layers of your skin.
- UVA rays damage collagen, causes wrinkles, premature aging, and some cancers.
- It triggers melanin production. Melanin is the brown pigment that gives your skin that tan.
- The longer wavelength causes indirect damage to your DNA
- It’s not affected by a change in altitude or weather
- They are the main type of light used in tanning beds. That’s why you should still use sunscreen in a tanning bed.
UVB (Ultraviolet B) Rays
- UVB rays DONT penetrate a glass window and are more likely to be FILTERED by clouds.
- It is the sunlight responsible for causing sunburn and most cancers on the top layer of your skin.
- Overexposure leads to sunburns. Effects are often delayed or appear a few hours after exposure.
- They DIRECTLY damage DNA and affect your immune system.
- A tanning bed uses a combination of UVA and UVB rays, so they’re not safe to use or recommended.
UVC (Ultraviolet C) Rays
These are the highest energy levels of the three types of sun rays. They cause serious damage to all life forms.
Luckily, UVC radiation is completely filtered out by the ozone layer. So UVC rays from the sun never reach the ground.
Although UVC rays are not considered a risk for skin cancers, they can cause:
- Body lesions
- Ulcers on the skin
How to Prevent Getting Sunburned Indoors:
Next time you are sitting by a window, have no fear of sunburn.
It’s not “sunburn” we’re concerned about. It’s the risk of getting sun damage. Going outdoors for this sole purpose is NEVER WORTH IT because of the unnecessary risks it poses to your health.
Use sunscreen even when you’re sitting inside a room.
Moisturizers with SPF (Sun Protection Factor) moisturize and protect your skin even while you’re sitting INDOORS.
And as a general rule, as long as you’re thinking about tanning, then use broad-spectrum sunscreens formulated for tanning.
2. Protective Film
Add a clear protective film to your window to filter out UVA rays. You can buy UV protective films from hardware stores. It reduces UVA transmission by more than 99 percent.
Check your local vehicle laws for car tinting.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Can You Get a Sunburn Through Car Windscreens?
Yes, it’s still a possibility.
Close your windows if you are driving for extended amounts of time unless you want a tan. On the left side of your face.
2. Do You Need to Be in Direct Sunlight to Tan?
Yes. When it comes to tanning, what’s OUTSIDE a window matters. UV rays bounce off surfaces like snow, sand, and water.
If you’re outside and have a sweet view of the actual sun rays, your chances of a tan are higher if you sit there long enough on a sunny day.
That’s why you need to wear a suntan that protects you when you’re outside.
3. Does Sunlight Through Glass Provide Vitamin D?
Sorry, but the answer is no.
Vitamin D is what they call the “sunshine vitamin.” It’s only accessible through the sun’s UVB rays. But most glass windows block it out.
If you want to reap the benefits of Vitamin D, do it the right way.
Sun exposure outdoors for the whole body is the best way to get Vitamin D.
4. How Can You Avoid Vitamin D Deficiency?
Vitamin D regulates calcium and phosphate to keep the bones, teeth, and muscles healthy. Moreover, Vitamin D eases chronic pain and prevents flu.
How much Vitamin D you need depends on age, skin type, and how strong the sun’s rays are in your area.
When your skin is exposed outside, your skin naturally produces Vitamin D. Exposing at least a third of your body (think shorts and a tank top) to sunshine is ideal.
Exercise outdoors for about 10 to 30 minutes three times per week is enough.
Vitamin D Supplements
You should eat foods rich in vitamin D like eggs, mushrooms, and fortified milk. If you cannot access a lot of sunlight where you live, you can opt for vitamin D supplements.
Vitamin D supplements are great because they don’t increase skin cancer risk.
5. How About Those Who Have Dark Skin?
If you have darker skin, this means you have more melanin. Having more melanin reduces the amount of UVB rays absorbed by the skin.
A person with dark pigment needs to spend a lot more time in the sun (30 minutes to 3 hours longer) than someone with pale skin.
Darker skin can still sunburn and develop skin cancer.
So make sure to still apply sunscreen. (Don’t worry, you’ll still get enough sunlight exposure to trigger vitamin D production with sunscreen.)
There are Alternative Ways to Tan!
If your goal is to get a healthy tan without going outdoors, there are other ways to do it.
- Besides going to tanning salons and using a tanning bed, you can achieve a fake tan by using indoor self-tanners.
- There are suntan lotions and self-tanners available in the market if you want to learn how to self-tan.
- Spray tanning is a safe way to tan while blocking the sun’s harmful rays.
The reality is that it would take FOREVER to achieve a tan through the glass windows. Some types of glass blocks the suns uv rays!
If you were worried about wrinkles…
Take the sun protection factor 50 route, and you’ll be just fine. You’ll be protected from both UVA and UVB rays!
September 6, 2021 – Updated article formatting and content
July 16, 2021 – Reviewed and updated article links