But that's no reason to forgo sunscreen during winter months, says Dr. Quenby Erickson, a dermatologist and skin cancer surgeon at St. Louis University Hospital.
Slathering sunscreen on exposed body parts such as the face is especially important when participating in outdoor activities, Erickson says. And even when you're not.
"God forbid you're stuck outside unprepared," she says. "If you get a flat tire or are waiting in a parking lot for someone to come, you could get a sunburn."
Erickson, the Skin Cancer Foundation and the American Academy of Dermatology offer these tips and facts about the sun and our skin in winter:
- The sun produces two types of ultra violet rays: UVA and UVB.
- UVA rays, which account for up to 95 percent of UV rays that reach the Earth's surface, penetrate deeper into skin, cause wrinkles and have been associated with melanoma, the most deadly type of skin cancer.
- UVA rays are almost equally intense during all daylight hours throughout the year; they can penetrate clouds and glass.
- Runners, cyclists, hikers, ice skaters and other athletes who workout outdoors year-round lose some sun protection as trees lose leaves.
- Skiiers are exposed to an extra 8 percent to 10 percent of UV radiation for every 1,000 feet of altitude. "On top of that, 80 percent of those rays are reflected from the snow so it's a double-whammy," Erickson says.
- Wear wraparound sunglasses that provide UV protection to skin near the eyes and fight damaging glare, especially while skiing.
- Protect your lips with a balm that has sunblock. Sun exposure can decrease the immune system and bring out cold sores, from herpes 1 or 2.