Whether you’re taking a long drive or just running to the store, it’s important to remember that your car is not protection against the sun’s harmful rays. In fact, you can even get sunburned through a car window. Since car windows do not offer adequate protection from UV radiation, understanding how and why this is possible can help you protect yourself from getting burned.

UV rays are divided into two categories: UVA and UVB. UVA rays are less intense but penetrate deeper layers of skin than UVB rays. Both types of UV radiation cause damage to your skin cells and can result in sunburn or skin cancer over time. Car windows allow some UVA rays to pass through, while blocking most of the more intense UVB radiation – so if you spend extended amounts of time in direct sunlight in your car, make sure you protect yourself accordingly!

What Causes Sunburn

Sunburn is caused by overexposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun. This can happen if you are out in the sun for extended periods of time without any sunscreen or protection, or if you expose yourself to intense sun exposure for a short period of time.

While you may think it’s not possible to get sunburned through a car window, it actually is possible. Keep reading to learn more about what causes sunburn and how you can prevent it.

UV Rays

Ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun is the primary cause of sunburns. UV rays are present in sunlight and can also be reflected off other materials such as sand, water, and snow. In addition, some surfaces like concrete or car windows can intensify UV radiation, resulting in increased exposure to the skin.

There are two types of UV radiation that can cause sunburn: UVA and UVB. UVA rays have a longer wavelength and make up most of the UV rays that reach us because they can pass through glass more easily than shorter wavelength UVB rays. Overexposure to UVA rays causes tanning, wrinkle-formation, and age spots while overexposure to UVB radiation leads to burning and a higher risk of skin cancer.

Although glass can block some types of UV radiation, car windows do not provide sufficient protection against both UVA and UVB ray exposure when you are out in the sun for any length of time – especially if you’re sitting next to a window that is facing direct sunlight for long periods at a time. To stay safe from potential sunburns through car windows it is necessary to:

  • Wear sunscreen lotion with an SPF level of 15 or higher.
  • Wear appropriate protective clothing such as hats or sunglasses when traveling in your vehicle.
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Intensity of the Sun

The intensity of the sun is one the main causes of sunburn. The Sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays can damage your skin in as little as 15 minutes. Burning due to UV radiation is caused by brief exposures over extended time, or by intense bursts of exposure on a single day.

The intensity at which you are exposed to UV radiation can be affected by many factors, such as latitude, altitude, and season. Generally speaking, the nearer to the equator you are and the higher altitude you are at, the stronger the UV radiation from direct sunlight will be. UV radiation is strongest during certain times of day (noon to 3 pm), and during certain times of year (summer).

Further contributing factors include cloud cover and atmospheric pollution. While clouds block visible light from reaching Earth, they do not always block all UV rays—Studies have shown that small amounts of UVB rays can actually pass through thin cloud coverings. While clouds reduce direct sunlight rays in quantity (the number emanating from a source) they do not lower intensity per ray—Cloud cover does not decrease the damaging effect of UV exposure on skin. Atmospheric pollution interacts with both UVA and visible light from direct sunlight in order to decrease visibility even further when looking towards a polluted horizon (e.g., when there’s smog build-up around urban areas). The scattering effect caused by these pollutants also affects how much radiation reaches Earth’s surface—some studies suggest that this can account for 10% to 39% reduction in global solar irradiance on an hourly basis near polluted sites compared to pristine sites located far away where pollution has not had an impact yet.

Can You Get Sunburned Through a Car Window

Sunburns can be a painful, burning reminder of too much sun exposure. No matter how careful we are, the sun’s harmful UV rays can still affect us. We may think that driving in a car is a safe way to protect ourselves from the sun’s rays, but can we be wrong? Can you get sunburned through a car window? Let’s find out.

Types of Car Windows

Car windows can be made with a variety of materials, including plastic, glass, and tempered glass. Depending on the type of material used in the car window, and its quality, it may provide more or less protection against the sun’s UV rays.

  • Plastic Windows: Many older cars were manufactured with plastic windows on their sides, which provided little protection against UV rays. Plastic is easily scratched and scratched windows will further reduce any existing protection.
  • Glass Windows: Most modern cars are now manufactured with glass windows. These windows will likely provide better UV protection compared to plastic windows because of their increased density; however the level of UV ray filtration still varies among them.
  • Tempered Glass Windows: Tempered glass is a type of safety window glass that has been heat treated to make it stronger than regular glass. It is designed to prevent injuries by breaking into small pieces if shattered instead of large, sharp shards like regular glass does. It is also more resistant to ultraviolet radiation than regular glass and can provide a greater level of protection when driving in direct sunlight.
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Factors that Affect Sunburn Risk

Sunburns can happen both inside and outside of a car. For people operating cars, visibility is an important safety factor and windows should be kept clear of tint, stickers or other obstructions. However, even if you’re stationary or sitting in the shade, there are many variables that determine sunburn risk.

Among those factors are the type of glass used in the window, the temperature outside the vehicle, whether there is direct sunlight on the window’s surface and how long you are exposed to it. Some types of glass filter out some of UV radiation but not all, so you can still get a painful burn even when sitting in a car with closed windows. In most cases you should assume that some UV radiation will penetrate through glass—so be sure to apply sunscreen and limit exposure accordingly!

Other things to consider include:

  • The type of material used in your vehicle’s interior (fabric vs. leather seats and carpet). Certain materials like fabrics can amplify the intensity of UV rays that reach occupants seated inside and put them at greater risk for sunburns;
  • The angle at which sunlight strikes exposed skin; and
  • Whether or not windows are cracked open slightly or fully open which affects amount of light entering vehicle.

By taking these factors into account when determining your risk for sunburn while inside a car, you can help prevent painful damage to your skin due to excess UV exposure!


With summer now in full swing, it is important to be aware of the risks of sunburns, even when you are inside a car. Despite the common misconception, you can in fact get burned through car windows. However, with the right preventative measures, you can protect yourself from the sun’s harmful UV rays. Let’s go over some tips to prevent getting sunburned through a car window:

  • Use sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30.
  • Wear protective clothing, such as hats and long-sleeved shirts.
  • Keep the windows closed and use the air conditioning to cool the car.
  • Make sure the sun visors are in the proper position.
  • Invest in window tinting to reduce the amount of UV rays entering the car.

Wear Sunscreen

Although you are in the car, it is still important to wear sunscreen when driving. Sunburns can be caused by both ultraviolet (UV) radiation and visible light. While some of the light rays from the sun are blocked by car windows, you may still be at risk for sunburn if the window does not provide complete protection against UVA and UVB light rays.

Car glass typically filters out most UVB and some UVA rays. However, it may not totally block out all skin-damaging UV radiation from the sun. To prevent sunburns while driving, apply sunscreen with at least an SPF (sun protection factor) of 15 or higher. Before getting in a car, coat skin with a broad spectrum sunscreen that has an SPF of 30 or higher and reapply after every two hours or sooner if needed. Wear protective clothing such as hats and long sleeves while spending long periods of time in a car to further minimize exposure to potentially damaging rays of sunlight that may penetrate through windows.

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Wear Protective Clothing

When it comes to preventing sunburns, one of the most important steps you can take is to wear protective clothing. Make sure you always wear a wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses and long sleeves when driving or spending time outside. It is also important to look for clothing that is labeled as UV-resistant or UV-protective. These garments will offer more protection than other fabrics and help reduce your exposure to ultraviolet rays. When possible, opt for tightly woven materials in light colors because they are more effective at reflecting the sun’s rays away from your body.

Additionally, apply a broad spectrum sunscreen with at least SPF 30 before going out in the sun and reapply it every two hours.

Limit Sun Exposure

It is possible to get sunburned through a car window, even on a cloudy day. Most glass used in car windows blocks the majority of UVA radiation, but not all of it passes through. Additionally, glass does not block any UVB radiation, which can cause sunburns. As such, it is important to limit your exposure to the sun’s rays and wear sunscreen when spending time in a car for extended periods.

Although car windows do provide some protection against UVA and UVB rays, it is not enough to completely prevent sunburns or other forms of skin damage. To further reduce your risk and find relief from discomfort caused by skin that has been exposed too long to the sun:

  • Limit your time spent driving in direct sunlight.
  • Use sunscreen with a high SPF rating whenever spending extended time outside and particularly when driving.
  • Stay covered up with clothing specific for sun protection such as hats and sunglasses when outdoors for prolonged periods of time – even through car windows!
  • Investigate window films, tinting, or UV shields that offer additional protection against both UVA and UVB rays.


In conclusion, while ultraviolet rays can pass through your car windows, their effects are minimized by the glass filters. With that being said, you can still get sunburned through a car window if you are spending more than an hour outside of optimal sunscreen protection and sun avoidance.

If you are spending extended periods in a car, be sure to protect your skin with liberal applications of sunscreen for the best prevention against sunburn and ultraviolet ray damage.

By Reiki

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