ZenMed's Robert Kemp explains the dos and don'ts of winter skin care

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Thanks to our temperate oceanic climate, our skin doesn’t take quite the same lashing as that of our winter-ravaged sisters east of the Rockies. But that doesn’t mean we should just flake out when it comes to protecting our skin from the elements. On the contrary, if we’re not careful, Jack Frost—that crazy ol’ coot—will do a number on our complexion. We’re talking chapped, patchy, pruned, discoloured skin—a far cry from the radiant West Coast glow that harshly puttied Toronto chicks have come to hate us for.

That’s why we went to Robert Kemp—president of the highly successful B.C.-based skin-care company ZenMed—for the dos and don’ts of winter skin care.

“The first thing to remember is to exfoliate,” say Kemp, calling from his Victoria headquarters. “Most people do this in the summer because their skin gets oily from the heat. But then they don’t think they need it in the winter as much because their skin tends to be a little on the drier side. Not true—you need to exfoliate all year long. Simply by washing away that top layer of dead, dull-looking skin, you can create a natural luminance that can’t be duplicated with makeup.”

With that in mind, he recommends using his ZenMed Renewing MicroDermabrasion Complex ($48 for 120 millilitres) three to five times a week. He also strongly suggests easing up on the use of astringent lotions during the colder months.

“A lot of people strip their skin by overusing toner in the winter,” says Kemp, who sells his specialty and regular skin-care products via his website. “What happens is the skin tries to heal itself by producing more oil, which can cause acne. So toner should be used in moderation or not at all if you have dry skin.”

If you have combination skin (which most people do), Kemp recommends dabbing some gentle, alcohol-free toner like his AHA/BHA Complex ($24 for 120 millilitres) only on troubled areas and leaving the rest of your face alone.

Another common skin-care myth is you don’t need SPF products in the winter. According to Kemp, even if the sun isn’t shining, you need to protect your skin from UV rays. As a daily moisturizer that works well under makeup, the ZenMed Oil Free Moisturizer with SPF 30 ($30 for 120 millilitres) doesn’t leave your skin feeling greasy.

As for the all-important ingredients of skin-care products, admittedly, they can be hard to decode without a PhD in chemistry. But the basic rule is anything with alcohol or sodium is going to dry out your skin; anything petroleum-based is going to clog your pores. Also, if the label boasts an antioxidant ingredient like acai, for example, make sure it’s one of the first few things listed—otherwise, Kemp warns, the amount is probably of little or no significance (i.e. a marketing ploy).

And it’s not just our faces that need extra hydration in winter. Our bodies can get quite parched as well, because many people tend to take longer, hotter baths and showers this time of year. So the next time you’re gearing up for an epic soak, make sure to add some moisturizing oils to the water.

We also tend to wash our hands more during cold and flu season, so to combat Skeletor fingers, Kemp suggests keeping a good hand moisturizer at your fingertips. After all, if there’s one tell-tale sign of a woman’s age, it’s her hands. Just ask poor old Madge.

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