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Windburn: What It Is, How to Prevent It, and How to Treat It

Windburn: What It Is, How to Prevent It, and How to Treat It
Though spring is right around the corner, there may yet be some cold and blustery days to come. Winter weather can be rough on your skin but even if you’re taking steps to protect yourself, a single day spent outside can be damaging. With dry gusts of wind blowing on your skin, you're much more likely to get windburned. Windburn is a condition in which the skin becomes red and irritated after spending time outdoors in cold, windy conditions. While there is some debate whether windburn is actually sunburn, it’s an unpleasant situation in either case and one worth taking steps to prevent. In this guide, we’ll explore the subject of windburn to determine what it is and how it differs from sunburn. Then, we’ll delve into some simple tips for preventing it and treating it.

What is Windburn?

Though your skin is designed with some self-protecting features in place, it’s still vulnerable to the elements. When the temperature drops in winter, so does the humidity level and that makes your skin more prone to dehydration. Add in windchill and a stiff breeze and you’ve got a recipe for dry, red, and irritated skin. Windburn is a type of environmental damage that affects the outer layer of skin. This becomes an issue because the outermost layer of skin performs a protective function, acting as a barrier to defend the lower layers. When it’s exposed to cold temperature and strong wind, however, the natural oils that make up that protective layer can wear away. The result is dryness, irritation, and inflammation – windburn. The central portion of your face – specifically the nose and cheeks – are the most prone to windburn. These are the areas less likely to be covered up by a scarf or sunglasses. While there are certainly some similarities between windburn and sunburn, the differences are worth noting. Windburn on the face often looks similar to sunburn with the redness and inflammation that develops, but skin that is windburned typically feels chafed rather than warm and swollen. Sunburn has the potential to cause lasting damage and increased risk for skin cancer while windburn tends to fade after a few days. Keep in mind that it’s entirely possible to develop windburn and sunburn at the same time. This is why it’s so important to take extra measures to protect your skin during the winter.


Tips for Preventing Windburn

The key to preventing windburn is to build up the protective barrier in the top layer of your skin. When your skin is healthy and strong, it’s better able to defend itself against environmental aggressors. Covering your face with a scarf and sunglasses is a great way to protect your skin during short periods of time spent outdoors, but you’ll get the best results from an intensive skincare routine. Hydration is important all year round, but in the winter, you may need to use thicker creams or layer moisturizing skincare products for added protection. The following products can help you hydrate the skin and support its protective moisture barrier:
  • Hydra No. 1 Collection – Inclusive of a serum, crème, and fluid, the goal of the Hydra No. 1 collection is to deliver hydrating relief to dehydrated skin. The collection also contains an intensive hydrating mask for use whenever needed.
  • Nutri Defense – Nourish and protect the skin with this intensely comforting and repairing cream. Infused with omega fatty acids and nourishing pre- and probiotics, this formula replenishes the skin and restores its natural defenses.
  • Excellence Code Crème – Formulated for mature skin, this anti-aging cream features three proprietary botanical complexes to fortify the moisture barrier while firming and enhancing skin.
  • Defense+ Booster – Add a pump or two of this antioxidant booster oil to your daily moisturizer to deliver protective benefits to your skin.
  • SPF 50 – Sun protection is important all year-round and this SPF 50 formula helps defend the skin against the sun’s aging UV rays while boosting skin health.
If you’re not sure which products are suitable for your skin type, consult the Yon-Ka Skincare Advisor or stop in to your local Yon-Ka Paris partner spa for personalized advice.

How Do You Treat Windburn?

Even if you take steps to protect your skin, windburn can still happen. The first step in treating windburn is to give your skin some immediate relief from redness and irritation – a healthy dose of hydration can help. Slather on a thick layer of moisturizer, ideally one that contains ceramides to help repair the skin’s natural protective barrier. As you’re working to heal windburn, it’s important to avoid further aggravating the skin. Keep your showers quick and cool – limit yourself to 10 or 15 minutes and use lukewarm water rather than hot. Apply moisturizer to damp skin immediately after showering to help lock in moisture. You may also want to take a break from skincare products that contain potentially irritating ingredients like retinoids, benzoyl peroxide, and salicylic acid.

It is important to be mindful of potentially irritating ingredients commonly found in skincare products, such as retinoids, benzoyl peroxide, and salicylic acid. These ingredients can exacerbate the irritation and discomfort associated with windburn. To effectively soothe windburn and support barrier repair, Yon-Ka Paris offers a range of products specifically formulated for sensitive skin. The following Yon-Ka Paris products may help soothe windburn on face and support barrier repair:


  • One such product is the Sensitive Masque, which provides intense calming and soothing properties, helping to extinguish redness and inflammation in the complexion.
  • For those with sensitive skin, the Sensitive Crème is recommended. This desensitizing cream soothes, calms, and comforts the skin, while a proprietary complex of pre- and probiotics works to rebalance the skin and fortify its protective microbiome.
  • To repair and soothe dry, damaged, and irritated skin, the Elixir Vital is highly recommended. This dual-phase serum aids in restoring the protective barrier and can be applied morning and evening after cleansing and toning.
  • Additionally, the Lotion Yon-Ka PS is an alcohol-free toner that provides hydrating moisture to the skin. Applied after cleansing and before moisturizing, it helps to replenish the skin's moisture levels while leaving behind a luxurious aroma.

It's important to avoid potentially irritating ingredients for windburn, it is crucial to also be aware of skincare products that contain alcohol in their base. Alcohol can further irritate compromised skin, making it essential to check the ingredients of products and avoid those that contain alcohol. By being diligent in ingredient selection and utilizing resources like to assess potential irritants, you can effectively address windburn and promote optimal skin recovery.

A daily skincare routine is essential for keeping your skin healthy, but regular facials can help as well. A professional spa facial is ideal for addressing temporary skin issues like windburn as well as long-term concerns like hyperpigmentation, skin sensitivity, and anti-aging.

What type of cleanser should I use for windburn?

If you're dealing with windburn, it's important to choose a cleanser that will provide hydration and avoid further drying out your skin. Opt for a hydrating cleanser specifically designed to address windburn, such as one from the Curology line. Additionally, you may consider using the Pai Skincare Camellia & Rose Gentle Hydrating Cleanser or the Neutrogena Ultra Gentle Hydrating Cleanser. Stay away from harsh cleansers that leave your skin feeling tight, shiny, or dried-out. For more product recommendations and tips on cleansing, refer to our Cleanser Guide.

What should I avoid doing if I have windburn?

When you have windburn, it's important to know what to avoid doing in order to prevent further discomfort and irritation. Here are some tips on what to steer clear of:

1. Excessive exfoliation: While it may be tempting to scrub away the dry and flaky skin caused by windburn, exfoliating too much can actually worsen the condition. Avoid both physical and chemical exfoliation, as this can further irritate your skin.

2. Retinol-based products: When you have windburn, it's advised to cut back on any skincare products that may dry or irritate your skin. This includes over-the-counter products that contain retinol, a commonly used ingredient known for its exfoliating properties. It's best to temporarily put these products aside until your skin has healed.

3. Prescription topicals with retinoids: Similar to retinol-based products, prescription topicals that contain retinoids should be avoided when dealing with windburn. These powerful ingredients can cause further dryness and sensitivity, making it more difficult for your skin to recover.

4. Intensive treatments: It's not recommended to undergo treatments such as microdermabrasion or chemical peels when you have windburn. These procedures can be harsh on the skin and may aggravate the already delicate condition caused by the harsh wind.

By avoiding these actions, you can give your skin the time and care it needs to heal properly from windburn.

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