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Windburn Tips - How to Prevent and Treat

by Will / April, 9 2014 01:30

This past weekend I went on what is likely my final ski trip of the year.  It's one of my favorite things to do and with the bright sunny skies I heavied up on the sunscreen.  Even so, there is another skin issue I forgot to account for - windburn.

Normally I ski with a mask on because it's so darn cold out.  It keeps me warm!  But with spring skiing no mask is needed and this can lead to windburn.  I like to think it's my expert skills on the hill that lead to high speeds and the potential for windburn...but I'll be honest, I'm not that good, ha!


What is Windburn?

Essentially it's skin irritation caused by fast moving cold air.  It's said that the wind can remove oils from your skin which leads to a chapped or dry feeling.  Often it shows up as a redness to the skin as well.  While this irritation can be painful and can last several days, it seems to be less dangerous long term to your skin than a sunburn.  Now in my research, some claim windburn and sunburn are the same thing while others say they are two different things.  Based on my experience, and I am not a doctor, they seem to be two different things although it is possible to get both at the same time if you don't use sun protection and you expose your skin to cool, fast moving air for a long period of time.


How do I Protect Myself from Windburn?

First off, sunscreen is a must.  You have to protect your skin from the suns UV rays plus the moisturizer in sunscreens will help replenish what the wind whips away.  If it's on the snow or in the winter, our article "Winter & Sunscreen - Why It's a Must" explains how you may be exposed to a double dose of UV rays making sunscreen even more important.  I must admit that while I put sunscreen on in the morning, I forgot to reapply until much later in the day so this may have contributed to my case.  Even more so than sunscreen, covering up exposed skin is the most effective way to prevent windburn.  I know from experience, when I wear a ski mask I don't get windburn.  Applying a moisturizer beforehand may help as well and some recommend not shaving or washing your face right before going out as these activities will strip the natural oils from your skin.  Make sure you wear sunglasses or goggles and use chapstick too.


How do I Treat Windburn?

Because part of what causes windburn is the removal of moisture from the skin, a good moisturizer applied a few times a day can help the issue.  In general, look for a moisturizer that doesn't have citric acids in it as these can be painful on windburned skin.  I've heard that ones with hydrocortisone help as well although I haven't tried that yet. You may want to try an anti-inflammatory like ibuprofen (Advil or another brand) or aspirin.  These can reduce the pain as well.  Definitely try to avoid things that would irritate your skin further, like scratching and shaving.  Beyond that it seems to be simply giving your skin time to heal. Of course it's always good to consult a physician before trying anything if you are concerned.


That's the extent of what I've discovered about windburn.  If you know more or have any questions, I'd love to know!

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