Since windburn can affect any exposed skin, the simplest way to prevent it is to cover up. When you brave the elements in the winter, wear long pants, a jacket, gloves and a hat. You may want to invest in a ski mask that protects your entire face, especially if you're involved in recreational activities. And since UV rays shine year-round, you'll need sunscreen to protect your skin.
Your face, neck, hands and ears get windburned -- and sunburned -- most often in the winter. The sun can reflect up to 80 percent of UV rays back at you when it bounces off snow [source: US Air Force]. What's more, cold winds can exacerbate even the smallest sunburn. To protect any exposed areas, use a sunscreen and moisturizer that won't irritate your skin; pay special attention to the underside of your chin and neck, since light reflected from snow can burn the tender skin there. The sunscreen also creates a layer of moisture that will protect you against the wind [source: US Air Force].
Remember that your skin isn't the only part of your body adversely affected by the cold weather: make sure you protect your eyes and lips as well. Wear goggles or sunglasses that protect eyes from UV rays and apply lip balm as needed.
Finally, take some preventative measures in your skin care regimen before you head out into the cold. Don't use anti-wrinkle creams that contain retinal, anti-hydroxy acids or salicylic acid for five days before your planned outing [source: Baumann]. These chemicals remove oils and dry out your skin -- which is exactly what you don't need when you're facing sun and wind exposure. You should also avoid skin treatments like chemical peels or microdermabrasion for seven days before you head outdoors [source: Baumann]. If you take these precautions, you'll have a better chance of withstanding the effects of the sun and wind.
If you didn't take precautions this time around, read on to learn about the best ways to treat windburn.