Sunscreen protection is vital to skin cancer protection all year long, not just when you head to the beach in the summer.  The winter isn’t the best time to break out the board shorts and bikinis and head to the beach for a day of fun in the sun.

Even in a subtropical climate such as South Florida, the temperatures can dip during the winter months, and people trade in their halter tops for light jackets.

But don’t let the early evenings and the brisk mornings fool you: the sun is out. You can never be too careful when protecting yourself from its harmful rays. You might think winters the right time to lay off the sunscreen and bundle up rather than slather up, but you’re wrong.

Here are six reasons why it’s more important to wear sunscreen in the winter than the summer.

1. The Sun is Dangerous in Every Season

You might think because the weather is hotter in the summer months that the sun’s rays are more powerful, but that isn’t true. The truth is that ultraviolet rays, or UV rays, are just as powerful in below-freezing temperatures as they are in the midst of a heat wave.

So don’t think because you can’t feel your feet that the sun’s rays can’t get you. If you have primo seats to the big college football game you probably grab your hat, scarf, parka, boots and thermal underwear.

What you forget to bring is your sunscreen, and that’s your most important accessory. Your body will be warm and toasty when you get home, but your exposed skin will have paid the price.

2. Winter Sports Make Sun Exposure Dangerous

Quick, name the most popular winter sports.

You probably said skiing, snowboarding, sledding, and — of course — the luge.

The one thing all these winter activities have in common? They are all done on the tops of mountains or hills. The higher altitudes and elevations are actually a skin disaster waiting to happen.

The higher the altitude, the more powerful the UV rays. Not wearing sun block of at least 15 SPF when spending a day on the hill can cause real problems down the road.

The next time you’re at the top of the mountain ready to be the cool guy snowboarding without your hat and without any sunscreen, think about how cool it is to have skin cancer. Maybe you’ll put the hat on then.

3. Sunburn Danger

Just because you’re not sweating doesn’t mean you aren’t burning.

As we’ve already established that the UV rays retain their power no matter the temperature, you should realize they burn too.

Standing out in the hot July sun for six hours will do damage. The December sun can burn you just the same, and worse.

At least in July you have enough common sense to apply sunscreen. In December you’re lucky if you remember to dress warm enough to prevent hypothermia.

Ideally you’d be wearing a hat with a wide brim when you go outside. You should be wearing something to cover your ears, nose, and neck. And here you thought the big funny hats your grandma always wore were a sign of her losing her mind.

Looks like you were the crazy one.

4. You’re Not Watching The Weather

In the summer, the temperatures mean something to you if you’re particularly fair-skinned.

When it’s 95 degrees, you need to consider a day in air-conditioned comfort.

Winter temps often mean nothing to you, but they should. UV rays can be more potent on certain days, any time of year.

In the summer you are assuming the high temps are more dangerous for you. In the wintertime you pay attention to the wind chill when you should pay attention to the sun.

A day in January making snow angels and playing tackle football could be far more dangerous than a mid-August day at the beach in little more than your self respect.

5. Don’t Forget The Wind

Don’t you just the love the feeling of the wind whipping at your face on a frigidly cold day? How it feels to wish you didn’t have to suffer through the freezing cold wind pummeling you?

Everyone talks about sunburn, but no one ever talks about the nice tomato-red look you can get from wind burn.

How do you prevent this ugly winter look? That’s right; a proper sunscreen will help ward off the effects of wind burn. While it might seem silly to lather on sunscreen to ward off the wind, just think of how silly you’ll look if you don’t apply it.

6. The Ultimate Moisturizer

There is nothing crueler to your skin than the cold of the winter. It ruins your face and leaves you with dreaded dry skin.

You might think of jumping in a hot shower to soothe it. Terrible idea. That only makes it worse. The temperature of the water and the dry air in your house will only deepen the problem.