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10 Ways Canadian Winters Are Killing Your Complexion

If the change in seasons is causing your skin to misbehave, your routine might be to blame. Find out how to tweak your skin care regimen for the cold Canadian climate, so you can prevent it from coming between you and your perfect complexion.

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The problem: You forget about the winter sun

Getting ready in the dark doesn’t exactly scream for sunscreen, but the truth is, you can’t go one day without it (even in these eerie, dreary months). Melanie Cooper, cosmetic manager for Shoppers Drug Mart warns that “sun reflecting off the snow increases the risk of sunburn and skin cancer due to the additional UV radiation.”

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The solution: Get a great moisturizing sunscreen

Cooper suggests La Roche Posay’s Anthelios Ultra Fluid SPF 60 ($28), which contains patented Mexoryl technology that provides superior UVA/UVB protection. Apply sunscreen every single day, right before you apply your makeup.

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The problem: You go through drastic temperature changes

Not only does the Canadian climate go from hot and humid to below freezing in a heartbeat, but we’re often going from cold to warm incredibly quickly when we seek shelter from those frosty temperatures. Going through such extremes can wreak havoc on your skin, making your face flaky, red, irritated and dry.

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The solution: Use a cream that seals in moisture

Cooper recommends using a cream that seals in moisture and acts like a barrier to protect your skin from external aggressors. To help maintain and replenish the hydration, she suggests using Biotherm Aquasource Cocoon Moisturizer ($50). Another one of her expert tips: use a silicone primer before you apply your makeup which will help lock in skin’s moisture.

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The problem: You pump your heat

We get it: there’s nothing more comforting than coming home to a cozy cove after braving winter’s wrath. The problem is that we don’t realize the negative effects heated air can have on our bodies. Cooper suggests thinking of heated air and your skin the same way you’d think about the sun and evaporation. It removes moisture from the skin causing dryness and irritation.

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The solution: Use hyaluronic acid

Cooper suggests using products that contain hyaluronic acid which will help to hold on to water in the skin, like Dr. Roebuck’s Ultimate Hydrating Serum ($80). Not only does this serum contain hyaluronic acid, but it’s packed with vitamins A, C and E that will help to reduce the appearance of sun damage, fine lines and wrinkles. Another expert tip: Try using a humidifier at night. It’ll add extra moisture to the air, which your skin can soak up while you sleep.

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The problem: You take steaming hot baths and showers

There’s nothing more relaxing than a hot bath on a snowy day, but the hot water is doing more bad than good. Cooper explains that “hot water actually dissolves essential oils, which in turn, can make the skin very dry and irritated.”

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The solution: Be fast

Cooper’s advice? If you need to warm up, do it quickly. “It’s suggested that bathing in lukewarm water for no more than 10 minutes is beneficial for your skin, then apply a moisturizer right after.” Body cream will be better absorbed by warm, moist skin and will also help prevent dryness and irritation. Cooper recommends looking for a cream with extra virgin coconut oil— it’s super hydrating and fast absorbing. Or try a fast-absorbing body oil like Bio Oil ($20) to seal in moisture.

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The problem: You get stuck in wet clothing

Walking through a snowfall might be romantic, but getting that wet snow all over you and your clothing is not doing your skin any favours. Cooper warns that the wetness can lead to “dry and cracked skin” and can cause eczema to flare up.

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The solution: Get your soak on

Since your hands and feet bear the brunt of the moisture from wet gloves and socks, Cooper suggests soaking both in lukewarm water for a couple minutes before applying emollient creams that have healing properties. For feet, she recommends Glysomed Foot Balm ($9.50) since it contains shea butter, peppermint oil and olive oil, which she calls “a trifecta of ingredients that keep your feet soft.” For hands, Cooper suggests using Avène Cicalfate Restorative Hand Cream ($18), which is infused with thermal spring water to soothe and calm irritated skin. (It also lasts through five hand washes.)

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The problem: You stick to your skin care routine

We’re all creatures of habit but if there’s one occasion to kick your customs to the curb, it’s when winter rolls around. Revamp your routine, and pack your product bag with rich creams and masks that contain extra hydration to help you skin get through the harsh weather.

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The solution: See a skin care specialist

It’s hard to switch things up when you’ve found a regimen that works, but seeing a specialist will ensure a seamless transition. Raise your concerns— an expert will help you find products that will address them while also protecting your skin from the cold. Book a consult with an expert at Dermalogica for customized skin recommendations.

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The problem: You bundle up in warm winter fabrics

Sweaters are ultra cute and cozy, but some of the warmest materials can be incredibly irritating. Be cautious about what you spend your days in, scratchy material can ultimately cause skin to become irritated and possibly cause eczema flare ups.

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The solution: Protect, protect, protect

If you’re not ready to give up your favourite sweater that causes a slight skin irritation, the key is protection. Cooper recommends lathering up with “a body cream that will help lubricate the skin but also help soothe the areas that become inflamed from harsh materials.” She suggests using A-Derma Exomega Emollient Balm ($33), which will hydrate the skin, providing instant relief and long-lasting protection against dryness and irritation.

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The problem: You use alcohol-based or super smelly products

When used correctly, alcohol can do a lot of good things for your complexion. It can kill bacteria and help active ingredients get under the skin’s barrier, but it can also dry out your skin. The same goes for that sweet-smelling face cream you can’t get enough of. Fragrances can irritate your skin, turning your already sensitive face into a flaky, dry mess.

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The solution: Just don’t

Opt for alcohol- and fragrance-free products through the winter, which will help keep skin soft and supple. If you can’t live without some sort of scent, look for natural ingredients like coconut oil, shea butter, cucumber and aloe vera. Try Weleda Skin Food ($21) with sunflower seed oil and rosemary leaf oil.

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The problem: You over-exfoliate

When beauty experts talk about having too much of a good thing, they’re usually talking about exfoliating in the winter. While getting your scrub on is a key component of a quality skin care routine, it can cause some serious damage when the temperature drops below zero.

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The solution: Use a washcloth

Skip the harsh exfoliators this season, and pick up a wash cloth and some moisturizing face wash like Fresh Soy Face Cleansing Milk ($47). Gently buff away dead skin cells, but leave your skin’s protective layer in tact, which you’ll need to protect against those winter UV rays and to help lock in that heavy-duty cream.

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The problem: You’re skipping the H2O

The last thing you want to reach for on a freezing cold day is a cool glass of water, but it’s important that you do. It might be tempting to go for a warm festive beverage instead, but the best way to keep skin hydrated is from the inside out.

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The solution: Tea and hot water

Next time you need to boost your body temperature, ask for a cup of tea or hot water with lemon. They’ll warm you right up and keep you hydrated, which will just make all those moisturizers and serums that much more effective. Try Tetley Ayurvedic Balance Poise – Vata Tea ($4).