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How To Prevent and Treat Windburn, According to a Derm

Unless you live under a rock without a phone (and without social media apps on said phone), you’ve likely heard of the “I’m Cold” makeup trend making rounds on TikTok and Instagram. With over 193 million mentions of #imcoldmakeup on TikTok, it’s safe to say people all over the world are in love with the look of flushed, wind burnt cheeks. But as pretty as a pink cheek-and-nose combo can look, it’s important to remember that it’s only advisable when created with makeup. After all, windburn can be seriously damaging to the skin. With that in mind, we chatted with NYC-based board-certified dermatologist Dendy Engelman, MD, FACMS, FAAD. Ahead, learn how to prevent and treat windburn, along with what causes it in the first place.

What is windburn?

Where breezy air can feel nice and refreshing, full-fledged gusts of wind can be anything but—especially when paired with low temperatures.

“Windburn is a red, burning sensation on the skin that can occur as a result of exposure to an environment with a low temperature and low humidity,” Dr. Engelman explains. “The combination of cold and dry air depletes the skin’s protective natural oils and pulls moisture from the skin barrier, making us vulnerable to dryness, redness, and discomfort.”

What’s the best way to prevent windburn?

To prevent windburn, one must first understand that it can be caused even if heavy winds aren’t present. According to Dr. Engelman, the lower the temperature—particularly when it gets below freezing—the more likely you are to experience windburn. With that in mind, there are a few ways to prevent the uncomfortable complexion concern.

“You can prevent windburn by fortifying your skin’s defenses, and also by protecting it with warm clothing that shields your skin from the elements,” says Dr. Engelman. “Improve your skin barrier’s ability to defend itself by following a skin-care routine that nourishes and strengthens it.”

To do so, she says to look for skin-care products infused with ceramides, peptides, epidermal growth factor (EGF), and nourishing, non-comedogenic oils.“These ingredients fortify your skin barrier, protecting its moisture levels and preventing transepidermal water loss,” she explains, recommending the Glo Skin Beauty Bio-Renew EGF Cream ($175), which she helped to create.

As helpful as preventative skin care is, Dr. Engelman emphasizes the importance of also bundling up to protect your skin from the chilling, moisture-sucking temps. “The quickest and easiest way to prevent windburn is simply by wearing protective clothing any time you are exposed to cold temperatures and dry air,” she assures us. “When you go outside in the winter, bundle up with a warm coat, gloves, scarf, and hat, covering up any areas of skin that could be exposed to the elements, as much as possible.”

While these tactics absolutely cut down your chances of contracting windburn, Dr. Engelman admits that the absolute best way to prevent windburn is to limit your time in harsh conditions, so consider this your excuse to cozy up by the fire instead of spending all day outside.

What’s the best way to treat windburn?

If you manage to get windburnt, don’t worry—it’s happened to the best of us. Just remember that windburnt skin is ultimately compromised skin. As such, you’ll want to do whatever you can to restore your skin’s barrier function so that it’s better able to protect itself against outside elements and allergens. “To treat windburn, give your skin plenty of moisture and create a protective barrier on the affected area to prevent further moisture loss and irritation,” says Dr. Engelman. “Applying soothing, reparative, and occlusive ointment—like the LANO Original 101 Ointment Multipurpose Superbalm—will help.

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The good news is that most cases of windburn resolve within a day or so. That said, if your skin feels parched, painful, and looks angrily red, for days on end, you may want to schedule an appointment with your doctor for the best next steps.

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