What Causes It + How To Treat & Prevent it

Given the issue here is lack of moisture, leading to a compromised skin barrier and inflammation, really the solution should come as no surprise to you: Hydrate, soothe, and strengthen the barrier. You can do this all with a combination of the three types of moisturizers. “Look for a moisturizer that contains humectants to hydrate, emollients to support the skin barrier, and occlusives to lock in the moisture,” says King. 

She goes on to explain that, “Humectants, like hyaluronic acid and glycerine, are mostly low molecular weight substances that bind water into the stratum corneum, but they need to be used along with the other components in order to retain the water content.”

From there, you’ll additionally need emollients: These are ingredients that prioritize your barrier. “Emollients are saturated and unsaturated variable-length hydrocarbons, which help in skin barrier function, membrane fluidity, and cell signaling, leading to overall improvement in skin texture and appearance,” she says. “Examples include cholesterol, squalene, fatty acids, and ceramides.” She also adds that you can use ingredients to temper inflammation: “Use soothing ingredients like aloe vera or oatmeal,” says King. 

Then, seal it all in so water and these nutrients don’t escape into the cold air. “Occlusives are oils and waxes that form an inert layer on the skin and physically block transepidermal water loss. Examples include beeswax, oils, silicones, lanolin, and zinc oxide,” she says. 

Prevention, the experts note, is all about physical protection. Be mindful to wear a mineral sunscreen, like zinc oxide formulas, to create an occlusive barrier that will also aid in sun protection. You should also be mindful to wear proper face and body covering: “Prevent windburn by wearing protective clothing, like a scarf around your face,” says Hatfield. Given we are all wearing masks while outdoors at the moment, the latter point should be much easier. 

Finally, if you notice you are suffering from a bout of windburn, be extra gentle with your skin for the time being: “Don’t pick or peel the skin,” says King. “And avoid ingredients that may be irritating—like alcohol, or ingredients like salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, retinoids, or glycolic acid—until the skin has healed.”

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