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What is windburn?

You do your best to protect your skin from the sun. But did you know that Mother Nature increases the stakes on windy days? Outdoor recreational activities can be fun and healthy, but they can also take a toll on your skin.

The most common cause of a red face after outdoor sports is sunburn, but wind can also contribute. It is a direct irritant that causes the upper layers of the skin to slough off, and that shedding leaves the newly exposed skin more vulnerable to damaging UV rays. The outermost layer of your skin, the top part of the epidermis, is called the stratum corneum, and it plays an important role. It provides a protective barrier while still allowing in certain things, such as air, light, and your moisturizer. This top layer of your skin also contains urocanic acid, a natural sunscreen that helps absorb some of the UV light that can lead to skin damage. Being exposed to wind may reduce this natural skin protection by causing the outer layer of the skin to dry out and weaken. The force of the wind can then make these dry, fragmented skin cells fall off. Losing some of that outer layer of skin reduces the sun protective effects of the natural urocanic acid.

If wind can reduce your natural sun protection in your skin, it can also affect the topical sunscreen you apply to your skin. When you apply sunscreen, it coats the surface. If your skin is exposed to prolonged wind, the topmost layer will dry and slough off and your topical sunscreen will go with it, making you more susceptible to UV rays and the damage they cause. Therefore, practicing sun protection is more important than ever when the wind is blowing.

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