It’s a more sensible thing to stay indoors when the sun is blazing hot outside if you don’t want to get a sunburn. But it’s hard to enjoy the sunshine fully when you’re stuck indoors. However, can you tan through a window and can your skin absorb enough vitamin D to reap the benefits of the sun’s rays?
Everyone knows that overexposure to sunlight exposes you to dangerous UV rays that can cause sunburns or even worse skin cancer. But also not getting enough vitamin D can lead to a deficiency which can cause your bones to become soft and weak.
So you need just enough sunlight that is healthy for both your skin and health. But what is the possibility of getting a tan through a window and will the glass completely protect you from the sun’s harmful rays? Let us first understand what it means to get a tan.
What is tanning?
The human body is very good at adapting to a new stimulus like when you get an infection, your body reacts by releasing antibodies to deal with the problem. The same happens when you expose your skin to UV radiation. Your skin reacts by producing melanin which is your skin’s pigmentation.
The more melanin your skin produces, the better because it will protect you from the UV rays. Your skin also increases the production of melanin a few days after you’ve been exposed to UVB rays. This effect can last for a few weeks and in some people even longer.
The second tanning process occurs when your existing melanin is stressed which will cause a darkening of your skin in response to being exposed to UV rays.
This is a sudden kind of tanning that happens quickly and disappears the same way. Genes also play a part in how your body produces melanin.
If you’re a redhead or a fair-skinned person, you’ll most likely burn faster than an olive-skinned person.
Relationship between your skin and the sun’s rays
First of all, the sun is the best source of vitamin D. having said that, it doesn’t directly give your body vitamin D.
Your body produces vitamin D when the UVB rays help to activate the 7-dehydrocholesterol chemical in your skin. The intensity of the UVB rays will depend on many factors like the time during the day, location, and season.
That’s why you see many people get vitamin D deficiency during the winter season, but there are foods you can eat that will provide you with enough vitamin D.
There are different types of UV rays which include the UVA rays, UVB rays, and the UVC rays, but your skin is only exposed to UVA and UVB rays.
The UVA rays are the major ingredient when you want to get a tan by activating your skin’s production of melanin and also consist of 95% of the UV radiation that reaches the earth. Although these rays remain the same throughout the year, however, exposure to it for different durations will either give you a tan, sunburn or in extreme cases melanoma.
Exposing your skin to too much UVB rays can give you a sunburn, cause skin reddening, and contributes to skin cancer in the long run.
These rays will also give you tan by producing melanin in your body. This is the reason why you need to use sunscreen when you’re outdoors so that you protect yourself from these two rays. It’s recommended that you use a sunscreen with an SPF of 10 or 15.
Does the window glass protect you from the dangerous sun’s rays?
Since ordinary glass can’t filter out the UVA rays, the sunlight that passes through a window can still expose your skin to the harmful rays from the sun which can give you a tan and freckled skin.
However, how much sun protection you need from the harmful rays will depend on how much rays pass through the glass.
If you work in an office, most likely the office windows are double glazed windows that act like the ozone layers that prevent most of the sun’s rays from penetrating inside, but some still get through.
But when you come to ordinary glass, it will only block the UVB rays from getting inside your home or office, but it won’t shield you completely from the UVA rays.
UVA rays being the primary ingredient in tanning whether indoors or outdoors, it will cause damage to your skin and health over time.
Remember that your body’s way of protecting itself after sunbathing is by producing melanin. Melanin is the dark pigment in your skin that converts most of the radiation energy to harmless heat which helps to prevent damage to the genetic makeup of your skin cells.
Having a tan doesn’t mean your skin is healthy enough to protect you from getting a sunburn. A tan is as a result of your body trying to defend itself from against the harmful rays, so it releases melanin to counter its effects.
Melanin can breakdown the UV energy so it doesn’t damage your skin, but that doesn’t mean you won’t get burnt.
Can you tan through a window?
This will all depend. As explained earlier, you can’t get a tan through a double glazed window and although some amount of UVA rays gets through ordinary window glass, UVB rays can’t get through, so your chances of getting a tan through a window are very slim.
You will need to expose yourself for a long time to the sun’s rays coming through the window before you can get a healthy tan. The UVA rays can easily pass through the glass, but the intensity of your resulting tan, burn, or harm on your skin will depend on the type of skin you have, season, location, etc.
People with fair skin have a very high sensitivity to the sun’s rays no matter its intensity. Instead of getting a tan, they will develop reddish patches or get sunburnt.
It will take longer to develop color and by that time the harm will be done and you can end up with a very nasty burn. If you love driving with your left arm exposed to the sun, you will notice a color change in your arm after placing it next to the window of your car after a long drive.
This discussed principle applies here. For fair-skinned people, you only need a short exposure to the sun at least twice a week for your arms, hands, face, and back to get enough vitamin D. For dark-skinned people, it will take much longer because you have more of the melanin pigment.
Some factors that come in play include:
- Your skin type
There are 6 layers of pigmentation and different people have different types of skin from olive skin, fair, dark, or light skin. All these types of skin tan differently and some take longer or shorter times to tan. If you have the lightest skin, you will rarely tan and that also affects people with very dark skin because you already have a deep brown or black skin. However, for fair-skinned people, you will tend to tan faster than a dark-skinned person.
- Time of the year and intensity of the sun
If you live in the northern hemisphere, the sun is very intense around June. A few hours before the midday sun and after are the most intense. But if it’s mid-fall to mid-spring in your area, very little UV rays penetrate through enough to cause a tan.
- Features of the glass window
30-70% of UV rays can penetrate through standard panels and this can increase tanning by a significant margin.
Should you wear sunscreen indoors?
You should wear sunscreen when you’re indoors because even though the glass window will block the UVB rays from seeping through, the UVA rays will penetrate. If you expose your skin to UV rays over a long period, it can have a deeper toll on your skin, but you might not even notice it because it takes time to see the effects. For you to protect your skin from these harmful rays, you should wear sunscreen if you’re going to expose yourself to UV rays. Sunscreen can protect your skin from both the UVA and UVB rays, so you need to always remember to use it no matter where you are. If you’re a driver by profession or you spend most of your working hours near a window, you should ensure that you take care of your skin and protect it from the sun as much as you can.
So, can you tan through a window?
Your skin reflects the overall health of your entire body, so you need to protect it even by wearing sunscreen when you’re spending time behind glasses. Knowing or unknowingly, your skin can get tanned even by sitting in your home or office.
Tanning through a window takes time, but it’s possible to tan your body through a window. However, there are high chances that you will get an uneven tan.
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