Can You Get Sunburn on Cloudy Days? 7 Basic Tips

Sunburns are common during the summer season. But can you get sunburn on cloudy days is a matter of debate among many people? This article tries to answer the question of can you get sunburn on a cloudy day, what the symptoms of sunburn are, and how to avoid being sunburned. It will also look into sunburn risk factors. different measures to get protected.

Even on a cloudy day, a person can get sunburned. Clouds allow a large portion of the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays to pass through. People should continue to protect their skin in the same way as they would on a sunny day.

Prolonged sunlight causes sunburn. Skin malignancies like basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma are all caused by this exposure.

UV rays from the sun can penetrate the skin’s outer layer and produce changes that result in burns. Sunburn has been shown to hasten the aging process of the skin. There are three types of UV light  UVA, UVB, and UVC. Each has a different wavelength and affects the skin differently.

Sunburn can be avoided by limiting one’s exposure to ultraviolet light and protecting one’s skin.

Can You Get Sunburn on Cloudy Days
Fig 1: Sunburns

Can you get Sunburn on Cloudy Days?

The sun emits UV rays, which penetrate clouds and can cause sunburn, even on gloomy days. A light cloud cover allows over 90% of UV rays to penetrate through and induce sunburn.

UV levels are usually at their peak, Beneath a cloudless sky, and cloud cover reduces a person’s exposure. However Light clouds, on the other hand, provide little shielding and, in fact, increase UV levels due to a scattering effect.

Many surfaces also reflect UV light, which adds to a person’s overall UV exposure:

  • Less than ten percent of UV light is reflected by grass, soil, or water.
  • Sands reflect roughly 15% of the sun’s rays
  • Seafoam reflects around a quarter of the sun’s rays.
  • A person’s UV exposure is nearly doubled when they are exposed to fresh snow.
Can You Get Sunburn on Cloudy Days
Fig 2: Effect of UVA and UVB on skin

UV Radiation Types

UV light is divided into three categories, each with a different wavelength. They are as follows:

  • UVA is a kind of radiation with a wavelength of 315–399 nanometers (nm) that has been linked to skin aging.
  • UVB (ultraviolet B): UVB has a wavelength of 280–314 nm and is linked to sunburns.
  • UVC (ultraviolet C) light has a wavelength of 100–279 nanometers.

UVA accounts for 95% of all UV light reaching the Earth. Sunburns are caused by UVB light, which is the most common kind of UV light. UVC is entirely absorbed by the ozone layer.

UVA can pass through windows and cloud cover, causing tanning. UVA and skin aging have been linked, as has UVB and skin blistering.

Both UVA and UVB can cause DNA damage in skin cells. Skin cancer can be caused by prolonged exposure to either type of UV light.

Can You Get Sunburn on Cloudy Days
Fig 3: Spectrum of UV light

Sunburn can induce the following symptoms in persons of all skin tones:

  • A feeling of warmth or hotness.
  • Pain
  • Irritation in the skin
  • Itchiness
  • Peeling in skin
  • Blisters may occur.

Symptoms typically appear 4 hours following exposure to the sun. They normally worsen for 24–36 hours before improving for 3–5 days.

Sunburn appears red and inflamed on lighter skin, making it easier to spot. In People of Color, slight redness or pinkness from sunburn may be more difficult to detect.

The skin in the damaged area of a sunburn may peel away as it heals. Though the sunburn should recover on its own in a few days, it is crucial to look after the skin as it heals.

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Risk factors for sunburns

According to the USDA, clouds can allow up to 80% of UV rays to pass through. Also, sand, concrete, water, and snow can reflect up to 85% of sunlight. Between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., 60% of daily UV “B” (UVB) reaches the Earth’s surface. It’s advisable to stay out of the sun during these hours. But who is at the risk of sunburns? Some of the risk factors are given below:

  • Light skin, blue eyes, and red or blonde hair are all desirable characteristics.
  • Living or vacationing in a bright, warm, or high-altitude location
  • Working in the open air
  • Swimming or sprinkling water on your skin is not a good idea because wet skin burns faster than dry skin.
  • Combining outdoor activities with the consumption of alcoholic beverages
  • Exposing bare skin to UV rays from the sun or artificial sources such as tanning
  • Taking medicine that increases your chances of burning (photosensitizing medications)

What is the Importance of Sunscreen?

There are two types of sunscreens on the market right now: physical and chemical sunscreens.

Physical sunscreens, often known as sunblocks, typically contain zinc oxide or titanium dioxide as active components.

Sunscreens with compounds that absorb UVB and UVA rays are known as chemical sunscreens. These typically contain one of the following active substances in the United States:

  • benzoic acid (aminobenzoic acid)
  • avobenzone
  • Octisalate\sOctocrylene\sOxybenzone

The Food and Drug Administration is now investigating the absorption of chemical sunscreen active components into the body, as well as the long-term consequences of absorption.

Blockers in broad-spectrum sunscreens absorb both UVA and UVB rays. The sun protection factor (SPF) of each sunscreen is usually listed on the container. The greater the SPF number, the better the protection from sunburn.

Sunscreen is important because it minimizes the quantity of UV light that reaches the skin, lowering the risk of skin cancer. A broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or more is recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, daily usage of SPF 15 sunscreen can reduce the risk of squamous cell carcinoma, a kind of skin cancer, by about 40%. Similarly, it has been shown to reduce the risk of melanoma by 50%.

Because UV rays can penetrate clouds even when the weather is overcast, individuals should use sunscreen even on cloudy days.

Can You Get Sunburn on Cloudy Days
Fig 4: Use of sunscreen

How do I keep Safe from Sunburn?

  • A person can protect their skin, decrease their exposure to UV radiation, and avoid sunburn through a variety of methods.
  • Avoid the outdoors between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when UV light is highest.
  • Wearing clothing that effectively covers the skin
  • Using sunblock
  • Wearing a hat with at least a 2–3 inch brim
  • Sunglasses that block UV radiation should be worn.
  • Consider wearing UV-protective clothing to shield yourself from the sun’s rays.
  • Sunscreen should be applied 15 minutes before stepping outside, as this is the time it takes for the sunscreen to soak into the skin.
  • Not all sunscreens, however, are waterproof or sweatproof. A person should reapply sunscreen every two hours, regardless of the SPF.
  • A person should apply sunscreen to portions of the body that are easily overlooked, such as:
  • The ears’ tops
  • The area behind the ear
  • The scalp’s parting line
  • The soles of the shoes
  • Back of the knees


Sunburn happens when the skin is exposed to the sun’s UV radiation for an extended period. UVB and UVA are two kinds of ultraviolet light that cause skin changes. Sunburns are usually associated with UVB, according to doctors.

Clouds can be penetrated by UV light. As a result, even on cloudy days or when the sky is overcast, a person can get sunburned. Hot or warm skin, itching, soreness, blisters, and peeling skin are all signs of sunburn.

Sunscreens with an SPF of 30 or higher, suitable clothing, limiting time in the sun, and avoiding sun exposure when UV light is strongest — between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. — can all help to lower the risk of sunburn.

When you’re sunburned, what should you avoid doing?

-Use petroleum jelly sparingly on sunburned skin.
-Ice or ice packs should not be used on sunburned skin.
-Blisters should not be popped.
-Scratching or attempting to remove peeling skin is not advised.
-Wear loose-fitting clothing over sunburned skin.

How long should you stay out of the sun after being sunburned?

After a burn injury, stay out of the sun for the first 18 months to two years, or until the skin has matured. Check the UV index for the day. The UV index determines how much sun you’ll get and what measures you should take if you’re going to be outside.

Why does a nighttime sunburn hurt so much?

Inflammation of the skin, as well as pain from nerve irritation, produce heat. “Because the skin’s barrier function, or it’s capacity to retain hydrated and protect itself from the environment, it feels tight and uncomfortable.”

Why did I become sunburned when it wasn’t even hot?

Sunburn and skin cancer are caused by ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun, not by heat. The idea that high temperatures are to blame is a fallacy. Even on chilly and gloomy days, UV levels can be high. UV and temperature levels are frequently highest at different times of the day. As a result, rather than relying on temperature, it’s critical to pay attention to the sun protection hours based on UV levels.

Is it possible to become burnt on cloudy days?

Yes, you certainly can! Clouds are unable to stop the UV rays. Because you are less aware of being exposed to the sun on a gloomy day than on a sunny day, you are more likely to get sunburned. You’re probably not even wearing sunscreen, which exposes you to UVA and UVB rays. The percentage of UV rays that pass through the cloud is also determined by cloud type.

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