How to Prevent and Treat Damaging Windburn


Have you ever suffered from windburn?

For most of us, harsh winds don’t feel good on the skin.

But even if you don’t have outright windburn—which involves red and inflamed skin—you could still damage your skin by failing to protect it in harsh weather.

What Is Windburn?

Windburn is a condition similar to sunburn in which the skin is red and inflamed because of exposure to the wind. It often occurs in environments that are cold and dry—the combination of the two strip the skin of its natural oils, pulling moisture away and leaving skin vulnerable to dry, uncomfortable effects.

Some dermatologists feel that windburn is no different from sunburn since it’s often seen in skiers after spending a day on the sunny slopes or in boaters who were on the water all day where the sun’s rays were reflected onto their skin.

But it is possible to develop windburn simply because of exposure to the wind. The cold air can alter the slightly acidic pH of the skin, making it more vulnerable to irritation and moisture loss. Wind gusts increase moisture evaporation while creating friction against the skin.

The Skin Cancer Foundation notes that wind can also reduce the natural sun protection in your skin, “letting more of the sun’s ultraviolet rays penetrate and cause damage.” Wind, according to the foundation, most likely has a “double impact” on the skin, irritating it directly and then leaving it more vulnerable to damaging UV rays.

What Are the Symptoms of Windburn?

If you spent some time outside on a windy day, then notice the following symptoms, you may have windburn:

  • Redness
  • Irritation
  • Skin that feels hot or painful
  • Inflammation
  • Soreness
  • Dryness
  • Chapped cheeks
  • Peeling or flaking

Windburn occurs only on skin exposed to the elements. If you notice any of these symptoms on skin that was covered by clothing, they were caused by something else.

WIndburn Woman

How Does Windburn Differ from Sunburn?

Though these two conditions are very similar, there are some differences you can look for.

First, consider when you developed the symptoms. Windburn almost always develops during periods of cold, windy weather. It’s a result of extreme skin dryness and irritation.

Sunburn, on the other hand, usually develops after unprotected exposure to the sun. Though it’s possible to get sunburn at any time of year, windburn is less common in the summertime when the winds are calmer.

Second, windburn can occur even if you’re wearing sunscreen. Whereas sunscreen (when applied correctly) can protect you from sunburn, it lacks the same protection against windburn.

How to Protect Yourself from Windburn

Though rosy cheeks may seem attractive in some settings, dry, windburned skin is usually not—plus it’s not good for your skin.

To prevent it, follow these steps:

Protect the Outer Barrier

The outer barrier of your skin must remain strong to protect you from daily assaults like pollution, UV rays, wind, and more. Wind exposure can damage this outer barrier, weakening it so that it can no longer protect the skin as well. When that happens, the skin is more vulnerable to everything that hits it, including UV rays.

To build a strong outer barrier, always:

  • Stay consistent with your skincare routine. Cleanse, tone, and moisturize every day.
  • Make sure your skin is getting enough moisture. Some products only coat the surface of the skin, robbing it of the moisture it needs in the lower layers. We recommend using our Calming Moisture and Body Repair Lotion, as they both have ingredients that more deeply penetrate to provide lasting moisture.
  • Tame inflammation. If you notice any redness or irritation in your skin, address it right away. Inflammation damages the barrier, and redness is a sign of a compromised barrier. Try our Rescue + Relief Spray, which has natural ingredients that cool the skin down and reduce inflammation.

Protect Your Skin from the Wind

Get into the habit of protecting your skin on windy days. Use clothing, scarves, gloves, and hats, as well as any athletic gear that may help. Then be sure to wear sunscreen as well, knowing that wind can make your skin more vulnerable to UV damage.

Keep in mind that windburn most often occurs when you’re skiing, snowboarding, running outdoors, biking outside, motorcycling, boating, jet skiing, or doing other outdoor activities that expose you to the wind (and typically, to the sun). Use extra precautions when engaged in these activities.

Windburn CV Skinlabs

How to Treat Windburn

To treat windburn, replenish your skin’s moisture while reducing any pain or discomfort. If you’re unlucky enough to arrive home with a painful case of windburn, use these tips to speed healing:

  • Start with our Rescue + Relief Spray. Since you mist it on rather than rubbing it on, it’s perfect for painful, reddened skin. It will go to work right away cooling and moisturizing. It’s formulated in an aloe vera emulsion, which makes it ideal for soothing the pain of burns while helping to jump-start healing.
  • Resist the urge to rub or scratch.
  • Apply moisturizer several times a day. Use our Calming Moisture and Body Repair Lotion several times a day to help restore moisture, reduce peeling, and tame redness and irritation. Consistent moisture will also help the skin regenerate and heal more quickly. Plus, both products contain anti-inflammatory and healing ingredients.
  • Drink plenty of water. Both windburn and sunburn rob the skin of its natural water content. Drinking can help rehydrate the skin from the inside out.
  • Wash with lukewarm water only. You can still wash your skin but avoid using hot water.
  • Use gentle products. Avoid using any exfoliants, acids, retinol, and other anti-aging products until your skin has healed.
  • Stay out of the sun! Use sunscreen daily.
  • Consider using a humidifier. If you live in a dry climate, this can help restore moisture to your skin.

Have you ever suffered from windburn?

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Ahhhh … exfoliation. Is there anything better than scrubbing off gross dead skin? Sure, it *feels* like you’re doing your skin a great service by sloughing off these old skin cells that are past their prime, and it can be very beneficial. More on that later. But overdoing it can cause harm to facial skin which is so so delicate (I think it’s easy to forget that sometimes)! Today, we’re going to talk about how to know when you’re overdoing it, what to do instead, and some of my favorite ways to get that new skin glow.

First thing’s first, if you’re struggling with dryness, irritation, broken blood vessels, bruising, and/or sensitivity, over-exfoliating shouldn’t be ruled out as the cause if it’s a regular part of your routine. Dermatologists recommend exfoliating 2-3 times a week, depending on how sensitive your skin is. If you’re curious if this is the culprit of any of the symptoms I described above, cut your exfoliation routine in half for 2-3 weeks and see if there’s a difference, or even better, talk to a dermatologist about your routine.

Did you know that cleansing brushes like Clarisonic are considered exfoliation tools? When I got mine years ago, I used it twice a day, which I thought was how it should be used. Had I done my research I would have known this wasn’t it, sis. At first, my skin looked great, but as the days went on, I noticed I was really breaking out and my skin looked dull. What I didn’t realize was that I was breaking down my skin’s natural barrier and it was having a hard time keeping bacteria out, hence the breakouts and dryness. When I was trained in skincare by Sephora years later, I became a lot more educated on this method of exfoliation and was able to use it with much better results when I used this tool sparingly.

So we know that overdoing it can cause problems, but the type of exfoliant you’re using can also be the source of skin woes. One example is nut shell scrubs, which have been vilified in the greater beauty community over the past few years. I know, I know, St. Ives Apricot Scrub has been the standby for A LOT of us, especially growing up, but hear me out. It’s been found that the nut shells used to make scrubs like these can’t be ground fine enough to create a round edge, which means you could be scrubbing jagged pieces made from a very hard material onto one of the most delicate areas of skin on your bod. These jagged pieces can create micro-tears in your skin, leaving it susceptible to bacteria and scarring (flashback to me scrubbing this stuff so hard into my skin it was beet red—ah, middle school skincare).

Speaking of scrubs, they are considered a “physical exfoliant” in the two main classes of exfoliants: physical and chemical. Physical exfoliants use a substance (like a scrub, oats, a sponge, etc.) and friction to remove dead skin cells. Chemical exfoliants use things like acids and enzymes that react with the skin to break down and remove dead cells. There are products in both of these categories that can be used safely and with A LOT of benefits, including a more even skin tone, cleaner skin, smaller pore appearance, and better absorption/function of other skincare products since you’re essentially clearing off a layer of dead residue, leaving new skin ready to take in the good stuff like essences, serums, and hydrating products.

If you’ve never used a chemical exfoliant before, it can sound a little scary. Acid? Dissolving skin cells? Sounds like a Samantha Sex and the City situation. BUT, it doesn’t have to be scary! This method of exfoliating is ever increasing in popularity because it’s very effective and a lot of times is easier on the skin than a physical exfoliant, leaving you with all the benefits. Occasionally, you may feel tingling or experience a flush when using chemical exfoliants—this is natural and normal and lets you know the exfoliant is working. What is not normal is experiencing major facial redness or feeling a burning sensation. As long as you follow directions carefully and pay attention to what you’re feeling, you’ll be good to go.

Here are a few of my favorite physical exfoliants (be sure not to “grind” the scrub into your skin—gentle circular motions will do the trick!):

1. Ground up oatmeal and mix with honey to create a paste—gentle AND inexpensive!

2. Zen out of Ten Bamboo Detox Scrub from Eight Saints.

3. Honey Love exfoliator from Leahlani.

Here are a few of my favorite chemical exfoliants (make sure to read the instructions thoroughly before starting a chemical exfoliant; usually they recommend starting off with less time and building up to more time):

1. Facial Radiance AHA Intensive Peel by First Aid Beauty.

2. Bioactive Rose Gommage from Odacite.

3. Blue Tansy AHA+BHA Resurfacing Clarity Mask by Herbivore.

xo, Keely

Credits//Author and Photography: Keely Rust. Photos edited with A Color Story Desktop.

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