Can You Tan Through Glass? An Age-Old Question, Answered

  • Justin Woo
  • September 8, 2020
  • Energy Efficient Windows
  • Window Glass

Whether or not the answer to “can you tan through glass?” is yes or no is important, but a lot of people also want to know whether or not the sun can harm you if there’s glass in between the two of you. Frankly, UV rays can be harmful, and through direct exposure, you may fall victim to a wide array of nasty illnesses. But can we say the same for glass protection? Will standing behind glass help you avoid those ailments? And can you get a suntan? All are questions we have answers too.

First of all, it’s super important to figure out just how sun rays actually work. The sun emits three types of UV rays. The first being UVC rays. UVC rays are definitely the most dangerous out of the three, but fortunately for humanity and all the other creatures on the planet, UVC is filtered by our atmosphere and becomes virtually harmless. The second is UVB rays, which can definitely do some damage. The size of the rays allows them to enter your skin, and actually cause some nasty sunburns. UVA on the other hand is much more dangerous, and definitely the most dangerous out of the three. UVA can penetrate your skin to a much further degree than UVB. Rather than stopping at the surface layer of your skin, UVA can actually reach all the way down to your epidermis and cause a wide array of issues. Everything from freckles, aging, and even melanoma. One super important thing to keep track of is UVA rays won’t actually cause sunburns. Since they pass through the top layer of your skin, they won’t burn you. Instead, they’ll pass that area relatively harmlessly, only to wreak havoc upon the lower layers.

So how does glass affect these rays? Well to start off, we can completely write off UVC rays. Since the majority of them are filtered off by the atmosphere, we don’t have to worry about them at all. UVB rays, which are the main cause of sunburns, are almost entirely stopped by the glass. To be exact, 97% of UVB rays don’t make it past the glass. This is great because the remaining 3% won’t do much damage to your skin at all as long as you don’t absorb it over a large period of time. UVA rays on the other hand are barely stopped. Only 37% of the rays are stopped by the glass. Fortunately, you won’t get sunburns, but you can still get melanoma and other cancer like ailments.

All in all the answer to “can you tan through glass?” is no. It’s unlikely that any of the UVB rays that make it through the glass will be plentiful enough to manipulate your skin or even burn you. UVC rays may be more plentiful, but they won’t tan your skin. Instead, they’ll sink deeper and cause a lot more damage. To clarify our stance on tanning through a window a little more, let’s talk about how tanning actually works. When UVB rays hit your skin, they release a chemical compound called melanin. Melanin is what’s responsible for darkening your skin in the sun. Since only three percent of UVB rays get through the glass, very little melanin is being produced. Therefore you’re not going to be tanning all that well!

What’s super interesting is that the glass in cars is actually quite different. Not only does it block virtually all UVB rays, but it actually blocks about 80 percent of UVA rays as well. This is because we spend a lot of time behind the wheels of our cars. If we were to be soaking up the sun that whole time, we’d be suffering from a whole bunch of dangerous ailments. Do keep in mind that these percentages are applied to the front and sometimes the rear windshields only. The side windows aren’t typically made from the same glass.

Another thing to keep in mind is that you can’t actually absorb vitamin D through the glass. This means if you want to get a healthy dose of vitamin D, you’re actually going to have to go outside! Go for a walk. Walk the dog! Even just half an hour outside will provide you with all the vitamin D you’ll need for the day. Another interesting thing is sunlight’s role as a natural bacteria killer. That’s right, the sun doesn’t just provide us with light, it actually kills off all the harmful bacteria in your home. The more sunlight that gets in, the more healthy you will be! It’s basically a natural disinfectant!

For more information on how sunlight affects what’s on the other side of a glass window, feel free to reach out to us and we’ll do our best to answer all of your questions. If you feel as though the sun has been making you fall victim to any health issues, be sure to visit a medical facility immediately. Thanks for sticking with us, and we hope this article answered all of your questions about what the sun can and cannot do behind glass.

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