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The truth about windburn

Friday 22 July, 2016 by Laura

Look, we get it.

It's cold, you can't spot a single ray of sun and it's practically blowing a gale. So when you look in the mirror at the end of the day and see a bright red face staring back, it's easy to believe you're the victim of windburn.

But just like the mythical pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, it's time to acknowledge that windburn doesn't exist.

Sure, the wind may dry your skin a little, but the redness, stinging and peeling of the skin is actually sunburn.

Don't let the name fool you – sunburn is caused by the ultraviolet (UV) radiation that comes from the sun, but it doesn't mean the sun needs to be visible for UV rays to reach you.

The tricky thing about UV radiation is that (unlike the wind) you can't feel its effects or see it in action. It's important to realise that UV radiation isn't related to heat.

Ski bunnies are particularly partial to falling into this trap. When confronted with powder-covered slopes and icy temperatures, the misguided snow visitor will apply a salve of Vaseline or moisturiser to "protect from windburn".

No matter how fancy your brand of ski goggles, you won't be able to see the UV radiation hitting your exposed skin, or those UV rays being reflected onto your skin from all that fresh snow. This double dose of UV rays means any skin that's left unprotected can quickly be damaged.

The more UV damage you do to your skin, the higher your risk of skin cancer. Skin cancer claims more than 2,000 Australian lives each year, but the good news is it's also one of the most preventable cancers. So it's well worth doing what you can to avoid sunburn and tanning.

If you're headed to the snow, cover up your skin, slide on some sunglasses or goggles with UV protection, and slop on SPF30 sunscreen – tucking some in your ski jacket to keep re-applying throughout the day.

If you're milling about town, you can always check the SunSmart app to find out whether you do or don't need sun protection.

Still unconvinced? Check out this video that explains how an 80-year-old experiment was one of the first to bust the myth of windburn.


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