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Can You Tan Through a Window?

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Who doesn’t love getting some color on their skin for that gorgeous bronzed look? Tanning can make us look and feel amazing, but it does come with its cons. Spending too much of your time in the sun, with UV rays directly touching your skin, can burn your skin, reduce its natural elasticity, and even lead to premature aging. Studies have also shown how long-term direct exposure to sunlight can cause skin cancer (of course, there are some benefits of sun, too!)

If you prefer staying indoors during those hot months anyway, that’s great! However, if you’re someone who enjoys sunbathing by the pool or going to the beach to get a nice tan on their skin – this would come as bad news.

To avoid sun damage to your skin, you might be wondering, can you tan through a window? It could work in theory, right?  The windows could act as a filter between you and the UV rays and you’d be able to achieve your perfect summer tan while sitting comfortably in your living room and minimizing the possible damage to your skin.

Let’s find out whether it actually works and everything else you should know before you start tanning through your windows.


Can You Tan Through a Window?

As surprising as it may sound, you absolutely can get a tan through a window! There really is no need to spend all those hours under the blistering sun for it.

Have you ever laid down by the window sill and just let the sun’s rays envelop your body on a cool winter afternoon? If you have, you may have noticed your skin looking a little less pale after a while.

That’s the effect of tanning through the window.

But, there are some important elements to consider which will determine how well you tan, if at all.

The first is the window you’re sitting by, and the material it’s made of.

Secondly, how long you sit for also plays a huge role in whether you can get a tan.

And lastly, the length of the sun’s rays can also have an effect.

The American Cancer Society’s research shows that our homes, car windows, office glass walls, etc., are build of a material that blocks out almost 97% of the UVB rays. On the other side, they aren’t quite as effective in blocking UVA rays, and let 63% pass through and reach our skin.

In many ways, windows function like tanning beds, which also typically only use UVA light.

You may be wondering what UVA and UVB rays are right about now. After all, we’ve always learned about the general UV rays causing harm to our skin. Unfortunately, both UVA and UVB rays will damage your skin, but they do so in different ways. Here is the difference.

UVA Rays

UVA rays penetrate deeper into the inner layers of your skin. This triggers the melanocyte cells and causes them to start producing excessive amounts of melanin – the dark brown pigment that makes your skin look tanned. That sounds like a good thing, right? 

Sadly, it isn’t. As it tans your skin, it will also cause wrinkles, premature aging of the skin and even lead to some forms of skin cancer.

UVB Rays

These are the rays that cause our skin to become red and blotchy after a long day at the beach. UVB rays only penetrate the topmost layers of the skin, thus causing sunburns, inflammation and sunspots. These rays are responsible for a large majority of skin cancers that people can develop.

However, UVB rays increase production of Vitamin D, which is critical to health. There’s always a trade-off!

So, by sitting near a window that gets strong direct sunlight for long hours, you can get a tan from all of the UVA rays that pass through the glass. However, keep in mind that UVA will also cause sunspots and fine lines on your skin.

That is why skin specialists recommend wearing a high-quality sunscreen every morning, even if you plan on staying indoors all day long.

To make matters worse, UVA rays can also hinder the functioning of your immune system and damage the nerves that are present right under your skin.


Types of Glass That Allow UV Rays Through

Firstly, we need to understand that there are multiple types of glass. Some types of glass are created to let certain wavelengths of UV rays through, while others try to block a maximum percentage of all UV rays.

For example, the neon tanning bed bulbs that are found inside sunbeds are made of glass. If they didn’t let UV light through, their purpose would be useless. These glass tubes utilize sand during the production phase and are made of quartz glass, which allows the UV to pass.

What Determines UV Permeability

Another factor to think about, when wondering, “can you tan through a window?”, is the amount of contamination in the glass. This can lower the UV permeability rather significantly. Since glass melts at extremely high temperatures, it is nearly impossible to manufacture the pure form profitably. Most glass has these imperfections.

The normal glass that you find in most old homes allows more UV to pass through, hence offering less protection.

In most new homes, though, this has been taken care of by double or even triple pane-ing the windows.

Some windows are even coated thoroughly with UV blockers or filters to minimize the UV rays that cross through into the home.

What about Car Windows?

When it comes to cars, your windshields are made of laminated glass to prevent it from shattering in case of an accident. These laminated windshields block out more UV rays than the door windows or sunroofs as those are made of tempered glass.


Is It Possible to Get Sunburns Through Windows?

Now that we know it’s possible to tan through a window, and the types of glass that let you do so, let’s tackle another issue that occurs when tanning – sunburns. 

Sunburns are always a risk when it comes to sun exposure. And the more you can minimize your sunburns, the better. Even if you do choose to take the risks and tan outside, you should do your best to avoid sunburns.

Unfortunately, you can get a sunburn when tanning through the window as well. It largely depends on the window’s material, the time of the day for tanning, and the intensity of the rays. 

You are more likely to develop sunburn if you sit by the windows around noon and for over two to three hours. Longer exposure to the sun when the UV index is high, especially around 10 am to 4 pm, can be particularly damaging to your skin.

Did you know your backyard view could also increase the chances of getting a sunburn? Yep, you read that right! UV rays can bounce off some objects and surfaces, which would double or even triple your exposure to the rays.

So, if you have a beautifully decorated backyard with lots of lawn furniture, chances are your tanning session will probably come with some pain.

Frequently Asked Questions

We’ve seen how you can tan through a window, what times you should avoid to prevent sunburns and even the kinds of windows that work best for your tan. Now, it’s time to answer a few of the most frequently asked questions about tanning from your homes, offices or even cars.

Can You Get a Tan Through a Double Glazed Window?

Double glazed windows are like sunscreen or even the ozone layer. They block out the most damaging UV rays, letting only the least-damaging rays to pass through. While this is better for your skin, it does mean that you would need to sit by the windows every day for extended hours to get the slightest tan.

It is important to note that UV rays can also damage your furniture and other upholstery around the house. When you draw the curtains to bask in the sunlight and hopefully get a tan, you are also risking furniture degradation. Soon enough, you’ll start seeing faded paint, discoloration and even cracks on your wooden tables and dressers.

How Much Vitamin D Can be Absorbed Through Glass

Almost none! As we mentioned above, Vitamin D is formed when your skin gets exposed to UVB rays for extended periods of time. Most windows block out a maximum amount of UVB rays, so your body doesn’t get it in sufficient amounts to start the process.

When your skin is exposed to UVB rays, it converts certain cholesterol molecules on the skin to vitamin D. So, to prevent Vitamin D deficiencies, it is important that you allow some time in your busy schedule to take an early morning walk to perhaps a late afternoon jog. Try to avoid the hours when sunlight is at high intensity and always wear a sunblock with sufficient SPF.

A good practice is to limit your exposure time to 30 minutes in one go and try to reveal at least a third part of your skin during them. Wear tank tops and shorts when you go on your walk or run and do it at least thrice each week.

For people with darker skin, this exposure time should be doubled. The higher amount of melanin in dark skin reduces UVB absorption into the skin, thus lowering the amount of Vitamin D produced. 


The Bottom Line

So, there you have it, the answer to your question, “Can you tan through a window?”

Windows are like low-SPF sunblocks, filtering out some but not all of the sun’s rays. Therefore, you can get a tan and even a sunburn through your windows. 

If you’re looking for the golden goddess look, however, that probably won’t be possible from across your window (similar to tanning in the shade). Tanning indoors can give some color to your skin and make it look healthy, but for a deeper tan without the sun damage, you can try out a self-tanner or even spray tans!

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