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Can You Get a Sunburn Through a Window? Facts & FAQs

woman sitting by the window

Getting a sunburn is usually inevitable unless you use the right kind of protection, such as sunscreen, polarized sunglasses, or protective clothes. While you are sitting inside your home getting sunlight through the window, believe it or not—your skin can get harmed. Although you cannot get a sunburn through the window, the sun still causes skin damage.

In the article below, you can find out which types of harmful UV rays are there and why you can’t get a sunburn through a window.

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Why Do People Get Sunburns?

Sunburn happens when people are exposed to harmful ultraviolet (UV) for too long. UV rays penetrate the deepest layers of the skin, and they can cause severe skin damage over time. Even though most people believe you can get a sunburn only on the brightest days, when there are no clouds, you can get a sunburn even on cloudy days, and surfaces like water, sand, and snow also reflect the UV rays. There are three types of UV rays—UVA, UVB, and UVC rays.

UVA Rays

95% of UV rays that reach the Earth belong to the UVA rays. These rays penetrate the second layer of the human skin and can be the primary cause of skin aging and wrinkles. The UVA rays can contribute to skin damage and even cancer.

UVB Rays

The UVB rays penetrate only the top layers of the skin, although they can easily cause sunburns and skin reddening. After 15 minutes of exposure, unprotected skin can become severely damaged and be at risk of cancer.

Woman with sunburned skin at home
Image Credit: New Africa, Shutterstock

UVC Rays

UVC rays are the least harmful to humans because the ozone absorbs them before they reach the Earth; therefore, they don’t carry a risk of cancer. They can be found in welding torches, mercury lamps, and old tanning beds.

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Can You Get Sunburned Through a Window?

Almost all windows—especially double-glazed—block some types of UV rays, but you can still get UV exposure while sitting close to the window. Most types of glass are good protection against UVB rays, which are responsible for sunburns, although glass cannot block the UVA rays. That means that sitting close to a window for a prolonged time can’t cause you to get a sunburn but can still damage your skin, even when you may not see the damage. The UVA rays reach a deeper level of the skin, causing harmful skin damage, including aging, wrinkles, and discoloration.

Can You Get Vitamin D Through a Window?

Vitamin D is received from direct sun exposure, and it plays a crucial role in calcium absorption and maintaining bone strength. It is suggested that each person spends at least 10 minutes three times a week directly exposed to the sunlight to get the recommended dose of vitamin D. Spending time exposed to the sun but through a window is not going to help you acquire any vitamin D. Windows usually have protection against UVB rays, and vitamin D comes from exposure to UVB rays only.

Can You Get a Sunburn Through a Car Window?

Regarding car windows, not all cars and car parts carry the same protection. Windshields are usually the ones that carry the most protection, blocking out both the UVA and UVB rays. While windshields offer excellent protection, other windows on the car block only the UVB rays, leaving you unprotected against the UVA rays, which can cause severe skin damage. While you might not get a sunburn while driving your car, chances are great that UVA rays will harm the deeper levels of your skin. Some research showed that people who spend most of their time driving a car were more likely to develop skin cancer on the left side of their body than on the right.

man driving car during sunset
Image Credit: serjan midili, Unsplash

How to Prevent Sunburn

Sunburning is a common occurrence that is unavoidable during summer, especially for those that are frequently exposed to the sun during the day or those who don’t wear sunscreen. There are many efficient ways to prevent sunburn, whether in direct sunlight, indoors, or driving your car. Wearing sun-protective clothing and wearing sunscreen daily will help protect against sunburn. Polarized sunglasses are another great way to stay protected while driving your car, along with adding protective film to your car’s windows.

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Final Thoughts

Being exposed to the sun daily can have many harmful effects on your skin and body. While many people may believe that to get a sunburn, you’d have to be exposed to the sunlight directly, that isn’t always the case. Whatever the situation, it is vital to put on sunscreen and wear protective clothing to ensure the health of your skin.

Featured Image Credit: Alexandre Chambon, Unsplash


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