If you spend anytime at all outside during winter, you’re likely to suffer the wrath of the wind. (We’re especially looking at you ski bunnies and winter runners.) If your time outside results in a tad more than a flushed cheek or rosy glow, you might have become a victim of windburn. This condition can actually result in the reddening and tendering of the skin, which can not only leave you in pain but with a nasty red burn. If you find yourself kissed by Jack Frost this winter, take notes. We chatted with Dr. Dendy Engelman, a board certified dermatologic surgeon and associate at Manhattan Dermatology and Cosmetic Surgery, about how to treat windburn and even better, how to keep the problem from even occurring.
You might have guessed that windburn comes from wind, but it’s also the result of a nasty combo of things. “It’s actually the result of cold temperatures and low humidity that deplete the natural oils of your skin—causing redness, irritation, dryness and in some cases, skin peeling,” says Dr. Engelman. Although you’re likely to see windburn on the face, it can occur anywhere the skin is exposed to the elements.
Your first step to avoiding inflamed skin is to prevent it. Dr. Engelman suggests keeping exposed skin covered as much as possible with gloves, scarves, ear muffs, and a facemask. (It might seem silly, but you’ll thank us when your skin is safe and warm!) She also suggests slathering on a thicker moisturizer (bonus points if it has an SPF!) to provide a barrier to the elements, investing in a humidifier, staying hydrated, and avoiding long periods of time spent outside.
Alas if you actually end up with windburn, don’t panic. If you treat your burn timely and properly, you can ease the pain and hopefully avoid major flaking. “Windburned skin is essentially really dry, thirsty and irritated skin so the first thing you should do is give it moisture,” explains Dr. Engelman who favors drugstore classic Cetaphil Moisturizing Cream ($13, ulta.com), as well as oils like coconut, magnesium, and rose, and good old fashioned aloe. Just remember, windburn is essentially incredibly irritated skin so avoid aggressive exfoliators or acid cleansers, which can only make things worse.
If you do begin to peel, remember it’s just a natural, albeit unfortunate, part of the healing process. To ease flakes and redness, try a super-hydrating face cream like Tatcha Indigo Soothing Triple Recovery Cream ($120, qvc.com), which counts anti-inflammatory indigo extract as an active ingredient. But if all else fails, never underestimate the power of good old-fashioned Aquaphor Healing Ointment ($14, drugstore.com), which can be used all over the body and face to moisten and prevent flakes and cracks. Sometimes even the basics can go a long way.
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