A Complete Guide on How to Treat Windburn

Red, burning skin after exposure to cold wind? This is known as windburn. Contrary to sunburn which occurs as a result of UV exposure, windburn is said to develop when our skin is exposed to dry, cold wind. However, this has been heavily debated among specialists for as long as the condition was first named.

While windburn can be quite painful and uncomfortable, there are lots of ways to treat it. So if you find yourself constantly having to deal with a bad case of burnt skin secondary to wind exposure, then you’ve come to the right place. Here, I’m talking about everything you need to know about windburn and what you can do to treat it.

The Big Windburn Debate

Although many of us have come to accept that windburn is caused by wind, experts are having a harder time trying to pinpoint its actual causative factor. There are a lot of skin specialists that say windburn is no different from sunburn. The distinction is that windburn more commonly occurs in cold places, as opposed to sunburn which we often experience in hot environments.

One mechanism that could explain windburn suggests that sunlight bouncing off large surfaces areas such as snow or sidewalks reflect onto the skin and cause the same damage as sunburn. This is then aggravated by cold, dry air that saps the skin of moisture, thus exacerbating the results.

Then there are others that suggest that windburn is caused exclusively by wind. The dry gusts clear away the skin’s natural oils. Continuous exposure to cold wind then causes friction on dry skin which causes redness, soreness, and inflammation.

Some studies claim that windburn might be caused by a combination of these factors. With that, it’s best to protect yourself from both sunlight and wind when you expect aggressive exposure in order to prevent windburn from occurring.

What are the Symptoms of Windburn?

How do you know that you have windburn? It’s important to understand its symptoms so you can better identify when it is present and thus take the appropriate steps to treat it.

  • Redness
  • Soreness
  • Irritation
  • Peeling
  • Dryness

Keep in mind that windburn develops on areas of your skin that are exposed to the environment. So if you experience any of these symptoms on parts of your body that have been covered in clothing, then it might be a different skin condition altogether. Seek the advice of a dermatologist to make sure what you’re experiencing is windburn.

How to Treat Windburn

There are a variety of treatments that you can do in order to resolve a case of windburn. Some involve nothing more than the ingredients you might have sitting around in your kitchen, while others could require a trip to the pharmacy. Finding the right one depends on understanding your own body, as each person responds differently to treatment.


A thick, pasty serving of oatmeal can be a simple yet effective treatment for windburn. Oatmeal is naturally rich in antioxidants and has powerful anti-inflammatory properties. Slathering a fresh serving on your skin can help soothe the irritation and pain that windburn might cause.

To treat windburn with oatmeal, simply take two tablespoons of the oatmeal mix and prepare it according to the instructions on the label. Make sure to leave out any sugar, milk, or added ingredients so as not to dampen the effects of the oatmeal itself. Leave the oatmeal to cool down to room temperature before applying it over the affected areas.

Use it as a paste, slathering generously over the parts of your skin affected by windburn. Leave it on for 15-20 minutes, then rinse thoroughly while gently massaging the oats into your skin with small circular movements. Repeat up to 3 times a day.

Aloe Vera

As one of nature’s most effective soothing agents, this gelatinous substance is cool to the skin, and works to reduce inflammation, irritation, itching, and a variety of other skin issues that we often face. While aloe vera is available in the form of cosmetic products, acquiring it as raw as possible straight from the aloe plant is ideal if you want to leverage its properties for windburn treatment.

Take a generous spoonful of aloe vera and slather all over the affected areas of your skin. Leave it on until it dries out, and pat away any excess with a cool, moist towel. Repeat three times a day or as needed, when windburn becomes painful or uncomfortable.


There’s a reason why we often see people with cucumber slices over their eyes during beauty treatment. This mild, cooling vegetable offers analgesic and antioxidant benefits that help soothe the skin and reduce irritation and pain. It has also been observed to help speed up the healing of skin related issues.

To use cucumbers as a windburn treatment, slice up a whole cucumber and blend it until pasty. For improved efficacy, you can also opt to add aloe vera into the mix. Once you get a smooth, paste-like consistency, slather the mixture generously over your skin. Massage the cucumber paste gently over the affected areas and leave it one for 10-15 minutes. Rinse with clean, cool water and repeat up to 3 times a day.

Virgin Coconut Oil

Virgin coconut oil is a substance that’s often used in a variety of beauty products. Sweet and fragrant, this natural oil possesses powerful antimicrobial and antioxidant properties that work wonders on a variety of skin conditions like eczema and acne. Applying virgin coconut oil on windburn rashes can help speed up healing and moisturize the skin.

To make use of VCO for windburn, simply coat the affected region in a film of virgin coconut oil, massaging it gently into the skin until partially absorbed. Leave the excess on and reapply as necessary. Because virgin coconut oil is 100% natural, it’s also safe to apply around the eyes and lips.


If you’re particularly prone to developing pronounced windburn rashes, such as in people with conditions like atopic dermatitis, it would be best to grab a solution that’s lab tested. In this case, Cetaphil Restoraderm works wonders to help relieve irritation and dryness by restoring moisture and soothing the skin.

Apply Restoraderm lotion liberally over the windburn rashes and repeat 2-3 times a day. The formulation works best when used after showering with a mild soap.

Can You Prevent Windburn?

Is there a way for you to bypass a windburn all together? If you expect to be exposed to environments that might cause windburn, you can prepare your skin in order to minimize or prevent the skin irritation altogether.

Petroleum Jelly

Petroleum jelly is a thick, gelatinous substance that doesn’t get absorbed into the skin. Placing thick layers of jelly over exposed surfaces of your body will help deflect harsh, cold wind and sunlight to prevent them from directly making contact with your skin.

Protective Clothing

Another effective way of preventing windburn would be to cover up. Reducing the surface area of your skin that’s exposed to the environment will limit the effects of windburn. Thick clothing material that covers up most of your face and arms leave little skin exposed to the elements. It also doesn’t hurt to wear a pair of protective eyewear to protect the skin around the eyes.


There is a lot of debate regarding the cause of windburn, but since a lot of experts correlate the problem to sunburn, it doesn’t hurt to use protective agents that would prevent both. Sunscreen provides a barrier between your skin and the sun’s harmful UV rays. Because this harsh light can bounce off of large surfaces like packed snow, it helps to keep your skin protected even if you don’t expect to be directly exposed to sunlight.

Lip Balm

The lips are the most affected area of the face when it comes to windburn. This is because lots of the protective measures we can take often leave out the lips. With that, it’s advised to coat your lips and the skin surrounding them with a thick, long-lasting lip balm before you step out into the sun.

This works the same way as petroleum jelly, and helps keep your lips moisturized despite being in a dry, cold environment. It also doesn’t hurt to reapply lip balm as you go through the day, so be sure to carry your chosen product in your pocket for those necessary touch-ups.

In Conclusion

Don’t let the fear of windburn cause you to coop yourself up and miss out on the fun –especially during winter time. While it might be an unwanted skin problem, there are lots of easy at-home treatments you can try in order to resolve the issue fast and simple.

If you want to skip the skin issue altogether, you can protect yourself from the sun and cold before you even step out. This way, you can take part in all the snow-filled fun without the need to worry about the wind cramping your enjoyment.