Windburn is a condition that refers to the burning and redness your skin can endure after prolonged exposure to cold, dry and windy air. Windburn symptoms are similar to sunburn, often resulting in your face feeling red and tender to the touch. Your skin may also begin to peel as the redness fades, a result of depleted natural oils in the thin outer layer of your skin (epidermis).
Identifying a cause
Many dermatologists point to sunburn as being a significant contributor to windburn, with some even using the terms interchangeably. Although cold and overcast weather isn’t often associated with sunburn risk, UV rays can still penetrate cloud cover and cause damage.
Other experts isolate windburn as its own separate condition, caused mainly by a reduction in the epidermis’ natural oils due to extremely cold and dry air. The Skin Cancer Foundation has found that the wind itself can reduce the skin’s natural protection against UV rays, making your skin more vulnerable to the sun on a cold, windy day.
Windburn can be further exacerbated by underlying skin conditions like rosacea and eczema. Undergoing dermatologic procedures like chemical peels and dermabrasion can have a similar effect, due to the way they impact your epidermis.
Treatment: relief and prevention
Treating windburn requires replenishing your skins natural moisture whilst also reducing any pain and potential swelling. Non-prescription painkillers like Ibuprofen and Panadol can be effective in reducing mild pain and swelling. To aid short-term moisture replenishment, avoid using gel and water-based cleansers when washing your face. Instead, look for cream-based cleansers or use Dermacuro’s Polish Cleansing Cloth with water only.
Apply moisturiser regularly throughout the day while your skin recovers. Avoid using any toners, exfoliants or astringents until your skin completely heals.
You should also limit further sun exposure whilst recovering. Avoid spending extended time outdoors and consider using a humidifier to prevent further drying out of your skin.
Last but certainly not least, ensure you drink plenty of water. Even if you don’t feel particularly parched, windburn has a strong dehydrating effect on your skin. Drinking water regularly will aid the moisture replenishing process.
While the best way to prevent windburn is to avoid outdoor exposure altogether, this isn’t always realistic. If you’re planning on being outside in cold, dry and windy weather, consider incorporating some of the following methods to avoid windburn:
- Cover your face with a scarf
- Wear a hat and gloves
- Use sunglasses
- Dress in layers
- Wear long sleeves and pants
Regardless of whether sunburn is a separate condition or not, always wear sunscreen, ideally with an SPF of 30+. Emollient-rich sunscreen can be particularly useful on cold and windy days, as it protects from both UV rays and the wind’s drying influence.