Can You Tan Through Clouds?


When summer sets in and the sun is high in the sky, we all get to feel the heat. These are the days we love donning our tank tops and summer shorts and get intimate with the sunrays.

Unfortunately, it is also on days like these that our skins could turn from golden brown to lobster red. Good news is that people have started taking the issue of sunburns and UV rays more seriously and are now adding more sun protective clothing pieces to their beach day checklists, hiking and backpacking trips, park picnics and the like.

However, on cloudy days, not many of us think about UV protection. Does this mean that we should not be worried about the cloudier days? We know the sun tans us, but can this happen through clouds? Let’s find out!

About UV Rays

The (UV rays) from the sun is what makes you to tan. Surprisingly, we have duplicated these rays in tanning beds and other instruments, but the almost unlimited source is being sent down to us on a daily basis. Using these rays to tan your body can make you look and feel good, but too much of these can be dangerous.

Sunrays give us vitamin D, which helps us to feel and sleep better. However, spending too much time in the sun without a tanning lotion or any protective clothing can put you at risk of sunburns, heatstroke, or even skin cancer.

The reason why UV rays are a bit tricky is that they are not visible to the naked eye. They will be picked up by instruments but you won’t see them. This means that you cannot gauge their intensity until a professional takes a reading and passes that information to you.

Types Of UV Rays

UV radiation can be broken down into three parts: UVA, UVB, and UVC.

UVB rays attack the top layer of the skin and are the main cause for sunburns and skin cancer. They also damage the DNA in your skin. A UVB ray can burn naked skin in as little as fifteen minutes!

UVC is absorbed by the atmosphere and thus doesn’t reach the earth’s surface. As such, it is not considered a risk to your skin. UVC rays are not abundant and will mostly be noticed between 10 am and 4 pm.

UVA rays account for about 95% of the total radiation produce by the sun.  They penetrate your skin’s surface through the epidermis layer right down to the bottom of the dermis. These are actually the rays that cause skin wrinkles and premature aging.

How Do You Tan?

When UV radiation penetrates your skin, your body responds by producing melanin, a dark-toned pigment that gives your skin its color. The longer you stay in the sun, the more melanin your body produces.

People with darker skin generally have more melanin than those with a fair skin. This means that a darker skin will have a nice richer tan, while a fair skin will burn more easily.

No matter your skin color, there can be a real risk of burning if you stay in the sun for too long and without any protection. Repeated sun exposure or burns can lead to problems later in life and could even mean developing skin cancer. This is why you should always wear some tanning oil, sunhat and any other sun protection whenever you head out in the sun.

Many people like to tan during summer or create a base tan before going on holiday. We have talked about the dangers of the sun burning your skin, and how you can prevent this by donning the right protection. The best way to build the perfect tan is to do it slowly by limiting the amount of time you spend in the sun.

You will want to apply a sunscreen. A sunblock will allow through some UV to get your skin to tan but at the same time prevent it from burning.  However, how fast you tan will depend on your skin tone. The fairer you are, the longer it will take to tan.

When your skin has been exposed to UV rays, your body produces melanin for 48 hours. You should not expect your tan to show straight away. It is best to try and build it up gradually over a few days. If at any time you feel your skin burn, you should come out of the sun and use a UV gel. Wait until your burn is gone and then go back out to tan.

Can You Tan Through Clouds?

Quick answer? Yes, tanning through clouds is possible. Sure, there are times during the day when you may not see or feel the sun but that doesn’t mean you are not exposed to the UV rays. According to research, at least 90% of the UV rays penetrate the clouds and may put your skin at risk of UV radiation-related problems. In other words, almost all of the UV rays responsible for skin tanning and burning can still reach you, even on cloudy, foggy, or misty days.

That is why you need to be prepared every time you go outside during the hot months of the year. It does not matter how cloudy, hazy, or even rainy the day is there is still a chance of getting a tan, and even worse, a burn. Thick grey or black clouds will absorb some of the rays and not allow as much UV light through, but some will still get through and into your skin. Take that into account when putting together your backpacking or beach bag essentials so you can have a safe adventure.

How About Winter?

Nobody tans in winter because the sun is not powerful enough, right? Wrong! It’s true, the sun may not be as strong, but as we have just mentioned UV radiation can penetrate the clouds. Tanning through clouds in winter is as dangerous as toasting during summer.

Whether you are going backpacking in the rain, snowboarding, or surfing in winter, make sure to apply enough sunscreen on your skin before heading out. Why? Snow reflects the sun’s rays back up toward you. This means that the UV radiation will be hitting you from multiple directions and penetrating deep into your skin.

Going on winter hikes or taking part in activities that place you at a higher altitude also increases your risk of a tan or even a burn. The intensity of the sun may not be as high in winter as it is in summer but the UV rays are still present. Always make sure to check the UV levels with your local weather station.

Being at a higher altitude puts you closer to the sun, making the UV rays more intense. It may not seem like you are making much of a difference in the distance between you and the sun when you are on a leisurely hike but for every 1000ft you go up, the intensity of the UV rays increases by 4%.

Can You Tan Through A Window?


Ever been on a long road trip and the next day you found that one of your arms (one next to the window of your car) was burnt and the other was not? UV rays can pass through glass easily and even though you were inside the car the whole time, you still got too much radiation exposure.

Glass does have some ability to block out UV rays. However, you will not tan or burn as quickly behind some glass as you would out in the sun. If you are behind glass on a sunny day, you need to have some UV protection the same way you would if you were outside.

You might also like: How To Tan Fair Skin Without Burning

How To Protect Yourself Against The Sun


It does not matter if you have a fair skin, dark skin, or a great base tan; you need to think about UV protection whenever you head out. The lighter your skin, the more susceptible you will be to burns, and long-term damage. However, people with darker skins can still have problems if they are not careful.

The best way to avoid a burn, and any problems which come with it, is to stay out of the sun completely. That is great advice, but obviously, no one would want to lock themselves in a room while everyone else is enjoying the sun. We love to sunbathe and let the rays sooth our skins, but unfortunately, this can have serious consequences on our skins. So, what can you do to have an adventurous day in the sun but still stay protected?

Wear sun protection. The most popular UV guard is sunscreen, and it comes with a sun protection factor (SPF). The higher the SPF, the more the cream is able to block the UV rays from entering your skin and the longer it takes your skin to tan.

For instance, if you were to stand in the sun with a SPF 30 sunscreen on and another person stands in the same radiation intensity without a sunscreen, it would take 30 times longer for you to burn than the person without a sunblock. That’s why it is always advisable for people who burn quicker to use a sunscreen with a higher SPF.

Sunscreen limits the UV rays that enter your skin, which helps to prevent burns, but this also means that your body is not going to produce as much melanin, and you are going to tan slower. If you want to bronze, then you should use a lower SPF and only stay in the sun for a short period.

Remember this; sunscreen is not a guarantee that you are not going to burn. It only slows the process. Therefore, it is important that you limit your time in the sun if the UV levels are high and your skin is prone to sunburns.

Before using a sunscreen, check the instructions to find out how long it lasts on your skin. Make sure to re-apply before the time is up.

If you are heading to the beach, you should get a waterproof sunscreen. We recommend a reef safe one, as this will not harm the marine organisms. If you are not sure about how to choose and wear a reef safe sunscreen, have someone who has used it before explain the basics to you.

Read the instructions to find out how long the sunscreen lasts on your skin. If you sweat a lot, then you should apply it more regularly. Make sure to cover the ears and all the parts of your body that will be exposed to the sun.

Another option for staying safe in the sun is to find a shade or wear sun protective clothing. If you are heading to the beach, bring your beach tent and set it up for when you need to take cover. A beach canopy or a beach umbrella could also be great shade options.  Don’t be tempted to sit under trees no matter how large the leaves look. Leaves may seem like a great alternative to setting a tent or an umbrella but there are often spaces in between them through which the UV rays can travel.

For clothing, make sure to bring the basics. For instance, always have something for your head. A hat with wide brim will be your best bet. This will not only protect your head but your face and neck as well. A beach shirt, maxi dress, and beach shorts, will also go a long way in keeping the UV rays at bay.

For hikes and backpacking trips, get a nice pair of hiking pants and hats designed for hiking and these will be a great add-on to your sun protection too.

Polarized sunglasses are also a must. They will help prevent UV rays from damaging your eyes and putting you at risk of surfer’s eye. Just make sure to do your research properly before purchasing a pair so you can get something that actually does block out the UV rays.

Pay special attention to your feet too. If you are at the beach, have your water shoes on. If you will be wearing sandals or flip-flops, make sure to apply some sunscreen on your feet so you don’t end up with a burn.

Globo Surf Overview

So, yes, tanning through clouds is definitely possible. Of course, if you do not want to, there are steps you can take to block the sun’s rays. But if you really do want to get your skin bronzed, then make sure to take the necessary precautions to do so safely.

During summer, we are going to be out there on our surfboards, boats, and kayaks, or even climbing hills in the backcountry. A little grey cloud (or even black cloud) is not going to keep us from enjoying ourselves. However, we should be aware that there are dangers that come with the sun on cloudy days.

We are less likely to cover up and wear sunscreen when it is cloudy, but as we now know, the UV rays can make it through the clouds to tan and burn our skin. If we are not careful, we can have both short-term and long-term problems.

Taking the time to be informed about the UV radiation and what you can do to block it can prevent you from burning but at the same time help you achieve the perfect tan. The only thing you should take into consideration when going out in the sun is safety. Never underestimate the benefits of UV protective clothing. The power of the sun is the same on a cloudy day as it is on a sunny day so stay safe and be prepared by wearing the right protection.

More Beach Tanning Guides: