Wind burn presents itself in form of redness of skin. It is caused by an extended exposure to strong cold. When there is sunburn effect obtained in cloudy and cool conditions, the effects of exposure to strong cold winds can cause the condition rather than the sun itself. Wind burn remains a misconception because many people do not realize that even in cloudy conditions; they are still susceptible to the ultraviolet radiations of sun. When people fail to protect themselves from the sunburn because they feel it is cold, there is increased risk of having sunburn, which in turn may falsely lead to the wind burn.
The relationship between wind and sun in causing wind burn
Wind burn occurs because there is irritation caused by the cold winds. The speed of wind in low humid conditions tends to remove a thin layer of oil or fat molecules from skin, which are supposed to moisturize it and help in filtering UV light.
During cold air, the skin is dryer something that allows the wind to cause break down of the fat molecules easily. This causes the skin to be more vulnerable to effects of both the UV light and wind. As the winds get stronger and colder, so do the effects of harm increase. Therefore, wind burn can occur in both cloudy and sunny conditions because even during cloudy days, there may be radiation from sun.
In addition, wind burn occurs on snowy weather because when you are outside, the sun is able to reflect back about 80 percent of UV light of the snow. Some arguments hold that wind burn only occurs due to drying effects of skin caused by wind but others claim that sunburn also leads to the redness of skin during the cloudy days.
While wind burn is simply sunburn, there is a contributing factor of wind to the sunburn effect. The cooling effects caused by wind usually reduce the perception of sunburn and people are unlikely to seek shade or protect themselves from UV light therefore, they stay exposed to effects of ultraviolet rays for extended periods.
When coupled with cooling winds, the drying effects on skin can aggravate symptoms of sunburn. The natural oils on skin, which help moisturize it, are also reduced when the one is exposed to the cold conditions that increase drying effect caused by the wind and the UV light on skin. People tend to burnt more easily in such conditions because they aren’t expecting to have sunburn yet it is occurring without their conscience.
The outer layer of skin has molecules called lipids, which keep it moisturized and protected from effects of sun and wind. During the cold air, the skin has less moisture and the elements (sun and wind) can break down the lipids thereby causing harm to the skin. The combination of friction caused by wind on the exposed skin areas and the ultraviolet rays, which may be present in cloudy days, could cause skin irritation and redness— which is commonly known as wind burn.
Signs and symptoms of wind burn
Wind burn causes irritations on skin and it is characterized by redness of areas such as the face. Other areas like neck and hands may experience the redness. Wind burn may also feel like an individual is having a sunburn with signs such as dry, red hot, and painful skin, which at times flakes off. At times, the skin may seem like it is swollen and feels very itchy or sore.
The wind burn is not likely to last for long like typical sunburn. It will clear within a short time probably in a few days since it usually causes less skin damage. However, when the symptoms persist for longer, you need to check with a healthcare provider to rule out the possibility of having another skin condition like rosacea that often mimics wind burn conditions.
People who are exposed to colder, dryer, and windy weather may experience wind burn. Also people involved in winter sports are susceptible to this condition including ice skaters, snowboarders, and skiers because they move around in sun and wind. Whenever there is exposure to dry, cold, brisk wind in high altitude, it increases the chances of having severe wind burn.
Moreover, people living in warm climates are not susceptible to wind burn because they aren’t exposed to extreme cold and dry air, which is associated with the condition. However, if they suddenly get an exposure to cold winds from abrupt weather, they may still experience it especially when they have been on vacation.
Treatment and prevention of wind burn
Preventing wind burn can be achieved the same you prevent a sunburn— by wearing protective screens, which are rated at least 15 SPF. You can use non-irritating moisturizers since they help moisturize the outer layer of skin thereby protecting it from effects of cold winds. Avoiding skin treatment prior to conditions which cause wind burn may also help reduce the chances of having the condition.
Chemicals applied on skin can cause skin peeling. Microdermabrasion which removes the surface layer of skin may increase chances of having wind burn. Treatment of wind burn can be done through use of moisturizers. Using pain medications such as aspirin, anti inflammatory drugs and ibuprofen may also help in the healing process.
When eyes are effects, an individual may use eye drops to moisturize them. Lips can be treated using lip balm. You may need to stay away from taking hot showers for a couple of days to keep the areas affected away from fires and heat. Any swollen or blistery skin should be examined by a doctor.