Protection from Sun Damage: Can You Tan Through a Window?


People worldwide have realized the horrors of tanning and sun damage. After all, it can cause premature aging, skin cancer, and other potentially deadly health problems.

So, we lather on the sunscreen, avoid sun exposure during peak hours, and seek out shady spots.

But what about when we’re inside? Can we let our guard down? Unfortunately, no. Just because you’re not outside doesn’t mean you’re safe from the sun’s harmful rays.

Let’s take a closer look at this issue to see if you can tan through a window and how to protect yourself from the sun indoors (and do you need commercial window film?).

What are UV rays?

Before we can answer the question, “can you tan through a window,” we need to understand what UV rays are and how they can damage our skin.

UV rays are a form of electromagnetic radiation that comes from the sun. There are three types of UV rays:

UVA rays:

UVA rays make up 95% of the UV radiation that reaches the earth. They can penetrate deep into the skin and cause premature aging, wrinkles, and age spots. UVA rays can penetrate through glass, so you can be exposed to them even when you’re indoors.

UVB rays:

UVB rays make up 5% of the UV radiation that reaches the earth. They are the primary cause of sunburns and can also cause skin cancer. Unlike UVA rays, they can’t penetrate glass.

UVC rays:

UVC rays are the most dangerous type of UV radiation, but thankfully they are completely absorbed by the ozone layer and don’t reach the earth.

Can You Tan Through a Glass Window?

We’ve established that UV rays, specifically UVA rays, can penetrate glass. But does that mean you can tan through a window?

The answer is yes and no. Yes, UVA rays can penetrate glass and cause your skin to produce melanin, the pigment that gives your skin color. However, the amount of melanin your body produces in response to UVA rays is relatively small.

So, while you can technically tan through a window, it will not give you the same results as lying out in the sun.

Is tanning through a window safe?

Although tanning through a window may not give you the intense color you’re looking for, it’s still exposing your skin to harmful UV rays. That brown color you’re trying to achieve is actually a sign of skin damage.

When your skin is exposed to UV rays, it goes into defense mode and produces melanin as a way to protect itself. Melanin absorbs UV radiation and prevents it from penetrating deeper into the skin.

However, this process can also cause DNA damage that can lead to skin cancer. So, even though you may not get a deep tan from tanning through a window, you’re still exposing your skin to the risk of cancer.

Can you damage your skin through a window?

can you tan through a window 1

Sun damage is a different question altogether. In terms of whether or not you can damage your skin through a window, the answer is a resounding yes.

UVA rays can penetrate glass and cause wrinkles, age spots, and other signs of premature aging. They can also contribute to the development of skin cancer. And while UVB rays can’t penetrate glass, they can reflect off of surfaces like water and sand and cause sunburns.

So, even though you’re not directly exposed to the sun’s rays when you’re indoors, you can still suffer from its damaging effects just by being near a window.

Signs of sun-damaged skin

  • Wrinkles
  • Age spots
  • Dryness
  • Loss of elasticity
  • Sagging skin

How to Protect Yourself from UV Rays Indoors

1. Invest in commercial window film.

What is commercial window film? It’s a type of polyester film that can be applied to your windows to block out UV rays. It’s typically used in office buildings and schools, but it can also be used in homes.

By putting commercial window film on your windows, you can block up to 99% of UV rays and reduce the risk of sun damage. Of course, it’s not a perfect solution. The film can deteriorate over time, and it needs to be replaced every few years.

2. Use a portable UV filter.

Portable UV filters are small devices that can be placed on windows to block out UV rays. They typically use a combination of activated carbon and zinc oxide to absorb and reflect UV rays.

It won’t be as effective as commercial window film, but it’s a good option if you can’t or don’t want to install film on your windows.

3. Hang UV-blocking curtains.

Regular curtains and blinds can do a good job of blocking out light, but they won’t do much to protect you from UV rays. If you want to block out UV rays, the ones you need are UV-blocking curtains.

These curtains are made of a special material that reflects UV rays. They can block up to 99% of UV rays, making them just as effective as commercial window film. That said, they can be more expensive than regular curtains, so they might not be an option for everyone.

4. Install window tints to your car windows.

Even while driving, you can be exposed to harmful UV rays if you don’t have your car windows tinted. Automotive tinting is made of a special film that blocks out UV rays.

They can be installed on the front windshield, side windows, and back window of your car. There are plenty of types of car window tint, so choose one that best suits your needs. 

Check out sun damage on car to know more about the harmful effects of the sun.

5. Wear UV-blocking clothing.

If you can’t or don’t want to block UV rays with window film, curtains, or tints, then your next best option is to wear UV-blocking clothing. This includes shirts, pants, hats, and even sunglasses.

The key is to look for clothing that has a UPF rating of 50 or higher. This means that it can block out at least 98% of UV rays. UPF-rated clothing is readily available these days, so it shouldn’t be too hard to find what you’re looking for.

5. Use sunscreen properly.

Most people don’t apply the right amount of sunscreen or nearly often enough. That’s why it’s important to use sunscreen properly.

To start, choose a sunscreen with an SPF of 50 or higher. Then, apply it generously to all exposed areas of skin, including the face, neck, ears, and hands. Be sure to reapply it every two hours, or more often if you’re sweating or swimming.

Make sure the sunscreen is a broad-spectrum one, meaning it can protect against both UVA and UVB rays. And if you’ll be spending time in the water, choose a waterproof sunscreen for extra protection.

8. Take breaks from the sun.

When you’re indoors, it can be easy to forget that the sun is still there and that you can still get sun damage. So, make sure to take breaks from being in front of windows now and then.

If you can, try to spend some time in a room that doesn’t have any windows. And when you are in front of a window, make sure to keep your sun exposure to a minimum.

You can also reduce your risk of sun damage by avoiding being in the sun during peak hours, which are typically between 10 am and 4 pm.

Final Thoughts

The powerful rays of the sun can do a lot of damage, even when you’re indoors. There are also plenty of surprising ways you get sun-damaged skin. So, it’s important to take steps to protect yourself from them.

Fortunately, there are several ways to do this, including using commercial window film, portable UV filters, UV-blocking curtains, and window tints. 

By taking these precautions, you can help reduce your risk of sun damage and keep yourself safe from the harmful effects of the sun.

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