Cold, winter air can be harsh on lips. If you’ve ever experienced burning, red, chapped lips after spending time outdoors in the winter months, you may have experienced wind burned lips. But how can the wind “burn” something – and what are the symptoms of windburn lips? Keep reading for everything you need to know to identify, soothe, and prevent wind burned lips.
What Are Windburned Lips?
Windburn is the temporary damage of skin or lips by the wind. Symptoms of windburn lips are:
- A burning sensation
- Very dry skin
- Flaky skin1
What Causes Windburn?
Exposure to wind can cause your stratum corneum (the outermost layer of skin) on your lips to dry, weaken, and slough off. When this layer is compromised, your lips may lose some of their natural oils. This can make it harder for them to protect themselves from UV rays and sun damage.2
Windburned and sunburned lips often go hand in hand. In fact, some dermatologists think a windburn is really just a sunburn by another name. Other experts argue that they are similar, but different. Windburn and sunburn can both lead to similar symptoms.3
What Are Sunburned Lips?
If your lips are exposed to direct sunlight without any protection for too long, they may become sunburned. You may recognize some of these symptoms if you’ve ever had sunburned lips:
What Causes It?
Sunburned lips can occur after exposure to the sun, naturally. Your lips can also become sunburned in cold weather – remember, UV rays still exist in cold weather. Wind can make your lips even more vulnerable to UV rays. In the winter, snow and ice can reflect UV rays, which may also increase UV exposure.5
How To Care For Windburned And Sunburned Lips
No matter how your lips ended up red and chapped – whether by wind or sun, the path to improvement is similar. Here are a few things you can try at home to care for chapped lips and keep them moisturized this winter.
Restore Moisture To Your Lips
First thing’s first: when your lips are chapped, you’ve got to moisturize. Look for a lip balm with high-quality ingredients, like hyaluronic acid – which attracts and holds in moisture – or ceramides – which can restore your skin’s protective barrier.6-8
Apply your lip moisturizer several times a day or as directed on the product instructions.
Avoid Harsh Lip Products
Common symptoms of windburn lips are peeling and flaking of the skin. If you’re experiencing this, resist the urge to pick at your skin or use exfoliating products. Your pout’s protective barrier has been damaged by the elements. It’s a good time to be gentle and let your lips heal themselves naturally.
So put those lips scrubs, exfoliants, and hands away, and try to let the damaged skin shed on its own. (There will be plenty of time for those products once your stratum corneum is restored.)9
Try A Cold Compress
If your lips are feeling hot and tender, a cold compress may help. To make one yourself at home, simply take a soft washcloth and hold it under a stream of cold water. Gently hold it up to your lips for some quick relief. Take care not to ice your lips directly – cold water is enough.10
Try Over The Counter Pain Relief
If your lips are feeling painful and swollen, you may want to try a medication like ibuprofen. Ibuprofen can provide pain relief from the inside-out.11
Keep Applying SPF To Your Lips
Windburn can make your lips more vulnerable to UV rays. It’s always a good idea to remember your lip sunscreen, especially when your lips are damaged. Many lip balms contain some form of sun protection. Check the label of your products for details, and remember to re-apply it throughout the day.12
Try A Hydrocortisone Cream
If you’re dealing with redness, itchiness, and irritation on your lips, you may want to try a 1% over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream. It’s always a good idea to speak with your dermatologist before trying a new topical medication.13
Drink Plenty Of Water
Water seems to help with all sorts of ailments, doesn’t it? Windburned lips are no different. Drinking water hydrates your body, which can trickle down to your lips and skin.14
An Ounce Of Prevention Is Worth A Pound Of Cure
As with most things, the best solution for wind burned lips is to, you know, never have it happen in the first place. If you’ve suffered through the symptoms of windburn lips, here are a few tricks to keep in mind for next time:
- Always wear SPF on your skin and lips – and don’t be shy about reapplying throughout the day.
- If you plan to spend time out in the elements, layer up on a lip moisturizer that contains a humectant, like hyaluronic acid.
- Routinely exfoliate and moisturize your lips so they are in tip top shape when you face the elements.
- Physically cover up your lips with layers of a scarf, mask, or turtleneck if you’re out in windy conditions.
- On cold, windy days, limit the time you spend outdoors with your skin exposed.15,16
So, there you have it. Winter is a great time to venture outside and get some fresh air. But don’t forget to protect the health of your skin and lips so they’ll be ready to face the elements on your next adventure.
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