Can You Still Get A Sunburn When It’s Cloudy Out?

Can You Still Get A Sunburn When It's Cloudy Out?If you’re like most people, you had no idea it was possible to get a sunburn on a cloudy day or while you were skiing on the slopes.

That is… until you ended up sporting a farmers tan from working outside in a T-shirt when the weather was “nice”…

Or, a lobster face with a ski goggle outline.

So the answer is…

YES!  You can most definitely get a sunburn when the sun isn’t out.

It’s normal to associate hot, sunny days with sunburns.

Who doesn’t?

But you can get severe sunburns during the winter months too.  In fact, 87% of the sun’s rays penetrate through clouds, fog and mist.

The worst sunburns happen when you least expect them.

UV rays (ultraviolet radiation) are emitted by the sun and are responsible for the change in our skin color.  This results in creating a tan, a  burn, or skin cancer from overexposure.

There are two types of UV rays to be aware of:

  • UVB ray exposure is the cause of the immediate change in skin color.  Depending on the degree of exposure, we either get a tan or a burn.
  • UVA ray exposure penetrates deep into the skin.  These rays are a product not just of direct sun but of all natural light, capable of reaching the skin through glass, clouds and smog.  These are the rays that can be found in tanning beds.


If you’re going to spend an overcast day outside you should pay attention to the kind of clouds in the sky.  Different types block more UV rays than others.

Grey clouds allow 32% of rays to shine through.  White, fluffy clouds are worse.. .they allow 89% of rays through!

So even if it’s cloudy, cover up.

The other common misconception is that cold, snowy-winter days keep you safe from the sun.

However, the Environmental Protection Agency says that sunlight reflecting off snow can double the strength of UV rays.

Think you can run from it by hanging out in the hills?

Unfortunately, altitude has an effect on sun exposure, too.  The higher the elevation, the greater exposure you have to UV rays.

In fact, the strength of UV rays increase 4% for every 1,000 feet of elevation.

If that doesn’t give you a good enough excuse to wuss out on the black diamond than you’re on your own.

So how can you avoid getting a sunburn on a cold day?

Unless you plan on being a recluse, and living inside with the curtains drawn for the rest of your life, you can’t escape the suns UV rays.

But, what you can do is be pro-active and preventative.  You should apply sunscreen generously and not just on sunny days, but EVERY day.  And, if you’re going to work outside on an overcast day be sure to cover up and wear a proper hat.

Since you’re relying on self tanners to give you your glow, there’s no reason to damage your skin out in the sun.

Regardless of where you are or how “sunny” it is outside :)

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Category: Self Tanning Safety

About the Author

Emily Andrews is the Editor-In-Chief of As you can imagine, Emily loves anything and everything having to do with self tanning! She's also a big fan of shopping (duh), tiny Yorkies and football.