Can You Get a Sunburn Through a Glass Window?

Written by darla himeles
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Can You Get a Sunburn Through a Glass Window?
Window glass protects against UV-B rays. (Image by, courtesy of dlco4)

Most people cannot get a sunburn through short-term exposure from a closed window, because the glass usually filters out harmful UVB rays. However, over a long period of time, exposure to the sun through windows can be harmful without adequate protection.

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Sun Damage

Though the windows in our homes and cars filter out the UVB rays that are known to burn skin, they do not filter out UVA rays that penetrate deeper, contributing to the development of wrinkles and age spots and increasing risk of skin cancer.


If you have unusually fair skin or are on medication that increases your sensitivity to the sun, practice extra precaution when spending time near glass windows on sunny or partly cloudy days, as you have a higher chance of tanning or even burning over time. Medications that increase sun sensitivity include the antibiotics doxycycline (vibramycin) or sulfamethoxazole (bactrim).


Sunscreen will help prevent sun damage, but be sure that your sunscreen protects against both UVA and UVB rays. If you are driving or by a window for more than 20 minutes in most of the United States, or even less time in the southern United States, apply sunscreen to all areas of exposed skin.

Can You Get a Sunburn Through a Glass Window?
Use a sunscreen that protects against UV-A and UV-B rays. (Image by, courtesy of Robert S. Donovan)

Glass Treatment

Window tinting that adds protection against UVA rays is available for most windows. However, federal and state regulations limit the amount of tinting you can apply to your windshield and front windows.


You are much more likely to get a sunburn through a glass window if the window is open, even slightly. If you spend most of your day by a sunny window (such as a truck driver), you are at more risk for sunburn; UVA rays can technically burn the skin, though they do so more slowly than UVB rays.

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