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To say the Canadian winter is harsh would be putting it mildly. In the war on winter-induced dryness, exposed skin is our front line of defence. Come February, however, our epidermal soldiers are battle weary.

"We're all in trauma mode," says Charmaine Cooper, education manager at Dermalogica Canada. Cooper explains that the lack of environmental humidity coupled with gusting winds and low temperatures can cause skin to turn red or develop an itchy, burning sensation. "That's the first indicator that the skin is under attack," she says. Alternating arctic blasts with forced hot air from your car's heater and you're essentially shocking your skin, resulting in a sensitized complexion, which Cooper says can develop signs of aging more quickly.

The best battle plan against Old Man Winter is a consistent skin-care regimen positioned to combat dry, dehydrated and sensitized skin. As Prussian statesman Otto von Bismarck knew well, balance is the key to peace and happiness, and his philosophy applies as much to skin as it does international relations.

To rebalance your own winter-torn skin, Cooper recommends applying a few drops of a botanical oil after you cleanse and tone with a calming facial mist. "That oil is getting into the layers of the skin to mimic what our skin should have been able to do," she says. Finally, your daily moisturizer will lock in hydration, preventing additional moisture loss brought on by the hostile environment. Better get working on your victory dance.

What to try

Dermalogica Calm Water Gel, $65 through

This water-gel formula transforms into a skin-quenching film upon application, forming a barrier that helps protect skin against environmental assault.

Biologique Recherche Masque Visolastine +, $110 through

To give thirsty skin a fast-acting drink, this treatment mask reinforces and protects hydration using a combination of oils and moisturizing sugars.

Sigrid Comfrey Healing Salve, $21 through

If you're already feeling the effects of winter, take comfort in this all-natural healing salve from Wilno, Ont., which contains the soothing herb comfrey, as well as beeswax to hold moisture in. It can also be worn overnight.

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