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Windburn on face: Skincare tips to avoid winter windburn

Cold weather skincare tips to avoid the winter itch

Curology Team Avatar
by Curology Team
Updated on Jul 6, 2023 • 4 min read
Skier skiing down skincare cream
Curology Team Avatar
by Curology Team
Updated on Jul 6, 2023 • 4 min read
We’re here to share what we know — but don’t take it as medical advice. Talk to your medical provider if you have questions.

Feeling the burn, even in the coldest time of year? Windburn may look and feel like sunburn, but it’s its own beast. A combination of low temperatures, dry air, and strong winds can weaken the top layer of your skin, making it look red, dry, and scaly, and feel itchy, stingy, or overly sensitive.

To ditch the winter itch, the key is to moisturize, moisturize, moisturize — and, as always, top it off with sunscreen of at least SPF 30. However, not all moisturizers are equally effective against the winter weather. Read on for our recommendations and more pro skincare tips.

Is it windburn or sunburn?

It’s possible to have windburn and sunburn at the same time — ouch! But often, what one thinks is windburn is actually a sunburn. If you spend an extended amount of time outdoors in cold weather, you’re at risk for both — this includes ice skaters, snowboarders, and skiers.

You should protect your skin with SPF year-round, especially if you do winter sports or spend any extended period of time outdoors. Check out our list of face sunscreens for every skin type, and our ultimate guide to sunscreen. A moisturizing sunscreen can help protect your skin from both sunburn and windburn.

How to deal with windburn

The basic cause is dehydrated skin, so the best way to treat windburn — and prevent it from happening in the first place — is by keeping your skin moisturized.

1. Resist the urge to exfoliate dry, flaky skin.

Even if the cold air makes your skin dry and flaky, exfoliating extra will only make matters worse! Cut back on anything that tends to dry or irritate your skin, such as exfoliation (physical or chemical), over-the-counter products containing retinol, or prescription topicals containing retinoids. This would also not be the best time for treatments such as microdermabrasion or chemical peels.

2. Use a hydrating cleanser.

Consider using a hydrating cleanser — such as the Curology cleanser! We also recommend Pai Skincare Camellia & Rose Gentle Hydrating Cleanser and Neutrogena Ultra Gentle Hydrating Cleanser. Avoid anything harsh that leaves your skin feeling tight, shiny, or dried-out. Check out our Cleanser Guide for more product recommendations and tips.

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3. Choose your moisturizer wisely

Before you go outside, apply a moisturizer that’s an emollient (such as shea butter or mineral oil) and/or humectant (such as hyaluronic acid or glycerine). Translation: emollients deliver water directly into the skin using a carrier oil, while humectants draw water into the skin to lock in moisture. (We explain this more in our Moisturizer Guide!) The Curology moisturizers contain a combination of emollient, humectant, and occlusive moisturizing properties, which makes it a great option in winter (and any time of year). Our new rich moisturizer is especially potent, making it the most ideal to treat extreme dryness from winter winds.

4. Use skincare products with ceramides

Some skincare products, such as moisturizer, contain ceramides — these are naturally occurring lipids (fats) in the skin. Ceramides are a treat for sensitive skin!

Moisturizers with ceramides:

5. Try a thicker moisturizer in colder months

Heavier, petrolatum-based moisturizers can help lock in moisture and provide a defensive barrier to shield your skin against cold wind. Curology’s rich moisturizer is a thick cream containing 6 deeply hydrating ingredients including hyaluronic acid and glycerin, which help your skin draw in and retain moisture.

6. Turn down the water temp

We know that long, hot showers feel great when it’s cold out, but hot water strips your skin of its natural protective oils, leaving it dried-out and vulnerable. Wash with lukewarm or cool water to help protect your skin against the elements (and to prevent acne, irritation, and redness).

7. Layer different moisturizing products for extra protection

Try adding a hydrating serum or oil, such as rosehip oil, into your skincare routine for extra moisture. Serums or oils should go on first, before a thicker moisturizing cream or lotion. (Just be sure to avoid coconut oil, as it can clog pores!) Top it all off with sunscreen, and you’re good to go!

8. Avoid products with alcohol in them

Skincare products that contain alcohol in the base will irritate compromised skin even more — yikes! Check your products’ ingredients for anything irritating. makes it easy to find out if a product’s ingredients may be irritating your skin. You can also check out our guide on how-to read and understand product ingredients.

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Product Links: Empowering you with knowledge is our top priority. Our reviews of other brands’ products in this post are not paid endorsements—but they do meet our medically fact-checked standards for ingredients (at the time of publication).

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Curology Team

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