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Can Wind Make You Sunburn More Easily?

Can Wind Make You Sunburn More Easily? featured image
Sven Hagolani / Getty Images

While we all know that higher UV indexes can make you sunburn more easily and warrants elevated sun protection, have you ever thought about what other factors can increase your risk of getting burnt? While I was scrolling through the news last week, I stumbled across an article about the correlation between wind and sunburn and it got me thinking.

Despite my role as a beauty editor, the headline prompted a good deal of questions I didn’t know the answer to: Can wind make you sunburn more easily? What is windburn? Are windburn and sunburn the same thing? Can you prevent windburn? If you’ve ever pondered the same questions, continue reading for answers from the experts.

Featured Experts

  • Joel Schlessinger, MD is a board-certified dermatologist in Omaha, NE
  • Daniel Schlessinger, MD is board-certified oculoplastic surgeon in Omaha, NE
  • Jeanine Downie, MD is a board-certified dermatologist in Montclair, NJ

Wind and Sunburn: How They Relate

While some sources have noted that excessive wind can increase your risk of sunburn, Dr. Downie clarifies that when it comes to element-based burns, there is a difference. “Take for example when you are skiing—the sun is bouncing off the snow resulting in a tanning index of a 10 and the wind is vaporizing your sunblock quicker. This is because the wind is constantly blasting your skin and may erode the sunscreen faster than normal.” While windburn and sunburn are two separate things as Dr. Downie notes, the fact that wind can erode your SPF and windy conditions often coincides with higher UV indexes (i.e., when skiing), leading to a quicker and more significant sunburn.

How Can You Prevent Sunburn in Windy Conditions?

Now that you know the truth about how the wind can exacerbate sunburns, it’s important to understand what precautions you can take to keep your skin safe in windy elements. “I recommend three layers of sunblock, preferably with an SPF of 30 or more and with a sports sunblock and moisturizer underneath to protect you from the wind and the sun. Frequent reapplication is essential, too,” says Dr. Downie.

“My biggest piece of advice to patients going to a windy destination like a ski trip: don’t forget about the lips,” says Dr. Daniel Schlessinger, “The lips see a lot more sun because they stick out from the rest of the face, and they lose moisture very easily. I always tell these patients to bring FixMySkin Healing Balm ($14) because its moisturizing barrier protects from windburn, and its 1 percent hydrocortisone helps soothe the inflammation associated with a sunburn. For a lip product with built-in SPF, my patients also love the EltaMD UV Lip Balm ($17).”

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Heliocare ($31) is something I always recommend to my patients before they go into windy or dry, sunny climates as it protects against sunburn and worsening of melasma, a condition that happens with heat and sunlight,” adds Dr. Joel Schlessinger. “Additionally, if and when the ‘expected’ happens and there is a sunburn, I ask my patients to take a few ibuprofen immediately when they realize they have been burned as it will lessen the burn significantly. One other barrier protectant I recommend is the Epionce Medical Barrier Cream ($50) as it helps to restore the barrier and is a great ‘base’ when in windy climates.”

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