A little air outside may seem harmless at first, but exposure to high winds can cause skin burns, irritation, and redness. Like too much time out in the sun can result in sunburns, windy days are associated with wind-burned skin. And also like sunburn care, the best wind burn treatment is prevention.

Whether you are outside for work, exercise, winter sports, or simply to enjoy the view, protecting your face and body from wind-burned skin is crucial during colder months. Otherwise, you may need to have some wind burn treatments on hand when dealing with the aftermath.

Understanding Wind Burns

Wind-burned skin occurs after a prolonged period of time outside in a cold, windy environment. When winds nip away at the top layer of skin, the result is red, flaky, and dry skin that is irritated. Redness from wind burns is usually caused by dilated blood vessels. This usually happens in conditions that are low in temperature and humidity yet high in wind speeds.

Symptoms of a wind burn are similar to that of a sunburn. You may feel a burning sensation, and skin may be tender to the touch. Like sunburns, wind-burned skin can peel as the area improves. Although wind burns and sunburns often have similar results on the skin, it's best to prepare for both with proper wind and sun protection.

Preventing Wind Burns

Wind burns can be prevented with proper clothing and skin care. To avoid wind-burned skin, face coverings made with materials that protect against the cold can prevent skin from taking the brunt of those intense winds.

For extra protection, utilize skin care products that form a seal around the skin. Cleveland Clinic recommends applying a layer of petroleum jelly or another ointment to facial skin, even under protective clothing, to reduce the risks of wind burn. This creates a layer on top of the skin, guarding it against the elements.

Another critical form of protection when coping with wind burn comes from wearing broad-spectrum sunscreen. The Skin Cancer Foundation states that wind can reduce the natural sun protection in the skin, increasing the skin damage associated with harmful ultraviolet rays. They advise reducing your exposure by staying indoors, protecting the skin with layers of clothing, and using sun protection products daily.

Wind Burn Treatment

If you suffer the effects of this condition, there are some wind burn treatments that can help after the fact. To help skin heal quickly, you can turn to over-the-counter pain relievers that can alleviate discomfort and reduce swelling.

Secondly, it's important to replenish your skin's moisture, so combat dryness with a moisturizer or lotion. A facial moisturizer like the EltaMD Skin Recovery Light Moisturizer encourages supple skin and protects against free radical damage with powerful antioxidants. EltaMD Moisturizer is another deeply moisturizing choice to soothe inflamed, irritated, or flaky skin.

Further, prevent exacerbating irritation by avoiding harsh products like exfoliators and cleansers that can strip the skin. Stick to gentle cleansers and moisturizing products that soothe wind-burned skin and encourage recovery. When skin is compromised from the wind or other elements, it's best to maintain a simple but nourishing routine.

Skin Care for the Elements

The bottom line is that harsh environments of all kinds can affect skin health in a multitude of ways. Harsh winters can cause frostbite and wind-burned skin while scorching summers are associated with sunburns and sun sensitivity. Year-round, skin is exposed to aggressive elements like air pollution, hot and cold temperatures, high and low humidity levels, and more.

As the weather becomes more aggressive, you must answer with persistence in your skin care regimen. This means wearing sunscreen no matter the season and using skin care products that reduce irritation associated with exposure to wind, snow, sun, and other conditions.

For example, EltaMD Skin Recovery Serum is formulated with amino acids to help repair a damaged skin barrier, calm inflamed skin, and reduce skin irritation. This serum is highly concentrated, so it can be an effective way to speed along skin repair.

If you treat your skin well, it will return the favor—so make a point of protecting it from the elements and nourishing it with great products regularly.


  • Lacey Muinos

    Lacey is a Southern California-based freelance writer who combines her passions—fitness, health, and a vegan lifestyle—with her work to help readers feel and be their best. Her work has been featured in Healthline, Livestrong, Verywell Fit, Eat This Not That, KinderBeauty, and more.

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