You already know the importance of wearing sunscreen when your skin is under direct sunlight—but what about when you're indoors? Can you get sunburned through a window? Is there ever a situation when you need to wear sunscreen indoors?

We've got you covered. Here's everything you need to know about sun and skin damage while indoors.

Do Windows Protect You from the Sun's Harmful Rays?

The short answer to this is no. Still, to understand the full story, we must break down the two different types of ultraviolet (UV) rays: UVA rays and UVB rays.

The Skin Cancer Foundation explains that UVA rays have longer wavelengths that are associated with skin aging. UVB rays, on the other hand, have shorter wavelengths and are associated with skin burning. Both are harmful to the skin in different ways.

According to the American Cancer Society, the windows in your car, home, and office block most UVB rays. So, will you get sunburned through a window while indoors? Chances are very slim. However, these windows only block a small portion of UVA rays. This means that your skin is still susceptible to damage even if you don't feel like you're getting burned.

All this said, you likely don't need to worry about sun damage when going about your day indoors. The UVA radiation that comes through windows won't pose a great risk to most people unless you're sitting close to a window that gets direct sunlight for an extended period of time.

Can You Get Sun Damage While Driving?

There is evidence for a connection between time spent in the car and skin damage. In the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, it was found that patients with a history of skin cancer who spent a significant amount of time driving in a car were more likely to develop skin cancers on the side of their body that was exposed to more sunlight (a.k.a. the left side). A significant 74 percent of patients diagnosed with malignant melanoma had their tumors on the left side compared to the 26 percent who had them on the right. This suggests that sun damage can occur while driving, even if you don't get noticeably burned or tan.

What about tinted windows? The American Cancer Society explains that tinted windows do block more UVA rays than windows without tint will. It all depends on the type of tinting. (And if you opt to tint your car windows, be sure to check your local laws, as some states regulate which windows can be tinted and how much.)

If you drive a lot, especially during the day when the sun is strongest, be sure to think about sun care. Wear sunscreen when driving, and be especially aware of the sun exposure you get on the side facing the car window.

Should You Wear Sunscreen Indoors?

Yes. As a general rule, it's best to wear sunscreen every day—regardless of whether you're outside or inside, at home or in a car. This keeps you protected no matter where you may be throughout the day. The Skin Cancer Foundation says that UV radiation is proven to cause basal cell carcinoma (BCC), squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), and melanoma, and your best protection against these conditions is making daily sunscreen use a habit.

Just remember to follow good sunscreen application practices, like using a sunscreen with a minimum of SPF 30 and reapplying regularly. When it comes to UV protection, it's always best to be safe.

Author

  • Audrey Noble is a New York City-based reporter specializing in features, celebrity profiles, and beauty topics. Her work has appeared in Vogue, Harper's BAZAAR, Allure, Vanity Fair, Refinery29, and more. She is a University of Southern California alumna with bachelor's degrees in print journalism and creative writing.