AskDefine | Define windburn

Word Net

windburn n : redness and irritation of the skin caused by exposure to high-velocity wind



  1. an irritation of the skin caused by exposure to the wind
Windburn is a skin burn condition where wind removes the top layer of oil from the skin. The lack of oil causes excessive dryness of the skin, leading to redness and a burning and maybe itchy feeling. Redness and burning are also common symptoms of a sunburn, so the two conditions are often mistaken for each other.
Pure windburn is usually not protected against by sunscreen effectively, since wind exposure will chap the skin even without the sun exposure. However, the moisturization agent in sunscreens does help windburns, and windburn does not seem to have the long term damage effect of the sun.

Common cause

On cold days, people will often confuse their sunburn as a windburn. Windburn is actually a distinct condition whereby the top layer of oil is removed from the skin, causing excessive dryness that leads to redness and a burning feeling.
People commonly believe that any burn that happens on a cold day is windburn, but this is not the case. Sunburns are caused as a result of ultraviolet light, not by the temperature, hence it doesn't matter whether high temperatures are present or not. The condition is commonly associated with skiing, where one can experience both windburn and sunburn very easily. This is because strong winds are frequent at higher altitudes, and snow is an excellent reflector for ultraviolet rays. Also, at higher altitudes you have a smaller cushion sphere above you; thus, the level of exposure on a mountain is much higher than it would be at sea level on a beach.


The prevention of windburn and sunburn should go hand in hand. Covering the skin, using sunscreen, and moisturizing are important prevention methods for both windburn and sunburn.
  • Sunscreen: For prevention of sunburns, one should not forget the sunscreen in the winter. The moisturizer in the sunscreen can help prevent windburn. Moreover, most people do not think they are receiving ultraviolet light when it is cold or snowing outside but, in fact, sunscreen acts as environmental protection against UV-UVB light as well as providing moisturizing agents. Suncreen needs to be replaced every couple of hours. Moisturizing with sunscreen while going up a ski lift will be good to protect your skin. Use highest SPF, 30 to 50, and preferably a zinc-based or avobenzone based sunscreen.
  • Lips: Also, the lips should be moisturized with a sun block lip protector.
  • Covering: A skier faces low humidity, direct wind, and cold temperatures. Ideally, one should wear fleece-based protection for the entire face to both comfort the skin and protect it from wind.
  • Goggles: Goggles are also extremely important.


Aloe-based moisturizer alleviates the symptoms of windburn. Cocoa butter works well too. Avoid scratching or rubbing the affected area too much.

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