Cold comfort Winter sux! (Anyone else sick of this whole “living in Canada” thing?) But here’s my Rx for soft, smooth, flake-free skin

snow girl Winter sux! (Anyone else sick of this whole living in Canada thing?) But heres my Rx for soft, smooth, flake free skin

I like winter in theory. Snow is pretty (and cold air does wonderful things for rosy cheeks). You get to wear cute boots, and lots of layers, and black tights are a girl’s best friend. (Just imagine the upkeep—in terms of hair removal, self-tanning and gym sessions—if it were 30°C year-round and you had to go bare-legged.)

However. Every year, at about this point in the process, I am DONE. For reasons that include: salt-stained boots, slush-stained pants and temps so freezing (try -17°C here, today) that I have to abandon even attempting to look stylish. (Out comes the North Face snowman coat and yes, the Ugg boots—sorry Ugg haters, but when it’s -17, I want to insert my feet into warm fluffy clouds.)

And oh yes, SKIN. Dry, flaky, cracking, chapped, wrinkly-looking skin.

Winter, you bitch.

But perhaps there are some skincare things that you are currently not doing, but should. So here, from one winter-hater to another, are my suggestions. Hint: it’s all about the layers…

1. Cleanse

So whatcha using? If it’s a foam or gel or bar of soap, that might be too drying and/or irritating, yo. If your skin is suffering, you want to be kinder, gentler.

SpectroDerm Winter sux! (Anyone else sick of this whole living in Canada thing?) But heres my Rx for soft, smooth, flake free skin

I’ve personally made the switch to the puppy above: SpectroDerm Cleanser for Dry Skin… but its dermatological cleanser twin, Cetaphil, would work just as well. (And okay, both are technically gels, but they’re the moisturizing—instead of sudsy—kind.) Both can be rinsed off with water or wiped off with a damp cloth.

Another option: a cleansing milk. Tons of brands, including NARS, Shiseido and Lancôme, make them. They tend to be creamier and may lather a bit more, but they work essentially the same way since they’re highly moisturizing and you can rinse or wipe off. A lot of the fancy brands say you can “tissue off” with Kleenex, but to me that never feels like it’s doing a great job (and you don’t want to risk clogging your pores), so I strongly recommend the damp cloth instead.

If you feel like it’s not cleansing enough, do the double-cleansing method: cleanse, rinse and repeat. You can follow it up with an alcohol-free toner as well. I like Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Toner, which is suitable for all skin types.

2. Exfoliate

Flake-O-Rama. That’s what usually happens to patches of my face, and definitely lips, come January. And few things are more unattractive. (It makes makeup application, as reader Pria mentioned in the comments here, a real challenge… but we’ll deal with that in a sec.)

NeoStrata Skin Renewal Peel Solution Winter sux! (Anyone else sick of this whole living in Canada thing?) But heres my Rx for soft, smooth, flake free skin

Now, you don’t want to go too crazy with exfoliation, as overdoing it will only make your skin MORE irritated and sensitive. But some gentle flake-removal can not only a) make your skin look and feel smoother, but also b) make it easier for those hydrating skincare products to penetrate, thus preventing the entire flake production cycle. Yay!

For the face, do one or two exfoliation sessions per week to start, if your skin can handle it. I like chemical exfoliants best, so I recommend something like NeoStrata’s trusty Toning Solution Level 1 or Skin Renewal Peel Solution (above), both of which contain glycolic acid. OR you can kill two birds with one stone and use a glycolic acid-based moisturizer, such as NeoStrata Smoothing Cream Level 3.

For the lips, try not to peel off the flakes—ouchie!—and instead buff with a lip scrub. I like The Lip Scrub by Sara Happ, but you could easily make your own with some coarse sugar or salt plus Vaseline.

PS – Olay just came out with the Professional Pro-X Advanced Cleansing System, which is an alternative to the Clarisonic. They say it’s gentle enough to use for daily exfoliation, but proceed carefully, especially if you’re combining with the chemical exfoliants.

olay cleansing system Winter sux! (Anyone else sick of this whole living in Canada thing?) But heres my Rx for soft, smooth, flake free skin

3. Moisturize

Now it’s time to get loved up by your serum. Creams and lotions contain active ingredients, yes, but they’re diluted with things like glycerin and oils. Serums, on the other hand, are able to carry a higher, more potent and deeply-penetrating percentage of actives—and that’s EXACTLY what your skin needs to repair and protect itself from harsh weather. I’m talking about things like vitamins C and E, which can restore hydration and improve skin texture.

Honestly, it’s a mystery as to why moisturizers get all the credit, because serums are the REAL workhorses. For dry winter skin, look for one that’s specifically “hydrating,” and apply it after you finish cleansing and/or exfoliating. Ones to try: AmorePacific Moisture Bound, SkinCeuticals Hydrating B5 Gel, Dermalogica Skin Hydrating Booster or La Roche-Posay Biomedic Hydrating Serum.

Amore Pacific Moisture Bound Rejuvenating Serum Winter sux! (Anyone else sick of this whole living in Canada thing?) But heres my Rx for soft, smooth, flake free skin

Let it sink in for a good five or 10 minutes before you layer on your face cream or lotion. The type you use will depend on how dry your skin is. If you’re very dry, go crazy with the rich creams… but if your skin is more finicky (like mine), go with something oil-free, like Sephora Instant Moisturizer.

Sephora Instant Moisturizer Winter sux! (Anyone else sick of this whole living in Canada thing?) But heres my Rx for soft, smooth, flake free skin

I also really like the non-greasy Linacare Transforming Face Cream Light. You may want to apply a separate eye cream too, but it’s not absolutely necessary unless your eye area is sensitive—you can just use your regular moisturizer all over and you’ll be fine. For random dry patches, as I mentioned last winter, Weleda Skin Food is simply AMAZE for repair work.

Weleda Skin Food Winter sux! (Anyone else sick of this whole living in Canada thing?) But heres my Rx for soft, smooth, flake free skin

UPDATE: The Weleda Skin Food is getting a LOT of love, as it well should, but I just want to clarify: I use this as a spot treatment only (on dry patches… like when I had a cold last year, it seriously cured my red, flaky nose in 24 hours). BUT it’s quite rich, so unless you have very dry skin, I would not use this as your all-over moisturizer. Instead, if you’re looking for something equally rich (and natural), but less potentially breakout-inducing, I suggest Martina Gebhardt Black Mud Facial Cream. Available at Pure + Simple, it’s specifically for sensitive skin and also helps calm inflammation and breakouts. Thanks to Arianne (a.k.a. Glitter Geek) for the question and reminding me about this oldie but goodie. (Oh, and I also stole your image…)

Martina Gebhardt Black Mud Cream Winter sux! (Anyone else sick of this whole living in Canada thing?) But heres my Rx for soft, smooth, flake free skin

Optional last moisturizing step if your skin is SOOPER DRY: A facial oil. Pure + Simple’s Kristen Ma is a HUGE proponent of this, and I love the way she explains it here: “[...] Our skin cells need water to maintain their healthiness – but oil helps retain this water.  It also helps protect our delicate skin against the elements as it acts as a barrier.” As I can attest after my Oil Cleansing Method disaster, not all oils are created equal, so check out Pure + Simple’s selection to be on the safe (and non-comedogenic) side.

Don’t forget to masque up once or twice a week to give your skin a treat. Two excellent ones that I use all the time are: Origins Drink Up Intensive Overnight Mask and Elemental Herbology Biodynamic Facial Soufflé. (UPDATE: Lesa informs me that Elemental Herbology is no longer sold in Canada—boo! Wonderful line, so definitely worth a look if you ever find yourself at a SpaceNK.
Elemental Herbology Biodynamic Facial Souffle Winter sux! (Anyone else sick of this whole living in Canada thing?) But heres my Rx for soft, smooth, flake free skin

4. Protect

So just because it’s freezing outside doesn’t mean you can skip the sunscreen. You still need, at minimum, your SPF 15 protection, whether it’s in a sunblock or your makeup. (Suggestions for sunscreen slackers right over here.)

But there’s one more thing you might want to protect yourself from, and that’s wind. I’ve had great success with Dermalogica’s Barrier Repair, which is a handy little silicone-based gel that you can use either on top or instead of your moisturizer to strengthen your skin’s lipid barrier.

dermalogica barrier repair Winter sux! (Anyone else sick of this whole living in Canada thing?) But heres my Rx for soft, smooth, flake free skin

And for lips, a brand new discovery that is also new to Canada: Nip + Fab Lip + Nip Fix. Hands down the most moisturizing and long-lasting lip balm I’ve ever used… but unfortch it won’t be here until March, when it arrives at Shoppers Drug Mart. Definitely worth the wait though! (In the meantime, some other lip balm options here.)

Nip and Fab Lip Nip Fix Winter sux! (Anyone else sick of this whole living in Canada thing?) But heres my Rx for soft, smooth, flake free skin

5. Enhance

And finally, after all of that (I told you living in Canada sux), you can apply your makeup. You want to stick to liquid or cream-based foundations and blushes, because powders will only emphasize any dryness or flakiness. Although hopefully, after applying all of these darn products, you won’t have any!

Tell me…

Do you agree that winter sux?
What are your fave prodz for dealing with dry lips and skin?
Is it just me or do you agree that the fight to kill off Uggs is just not going to go anywhere in this country?


Monday, January 24/2011 at 3:48 pm

Egad. My face is red and blotchy and terrible. I cleanse, I exfoliate, I moisturize, I mist with Evian and I humidfy with a humidifier at night. And my face just doesn’t want to look nice. Cripes.

I wouldn’t judge you for wearing Uggs. I put my foot in one for the first time when my mom bought some last spring, and they are indeed quite heavenly. Once you go Ugg, you never go back.


Tuesday, January 25/2011 at 9:52 am

Lindsay, I’ve heard that Evian can be very drying because although it may contain minerals, the water also dries out your skin and actualy draws out moisture. Try AMOREPACIFIC Skin Energy … it’s a bamboo mist that hydrates/softens your skin and makes your moisturizers even more effective. I also use it after makeup to give my face a more natural look and glow!


Comment Avatar Michelle Villett
Tuesday, January 25/2011 at 4:56 pm

The Evian misting might be the culprit actually! Every time you mist, it evaporates and dries out your skin…kind of like how when you lick your lips all the time, they get really dry and chapped. So maybe try cutting back on that. A serum + oil in your routine might help too.


Monday, January 24/2011 at 3:56 pm

Ugh. So, so, soooooo over winter. It is so cold, I just want to hibernate. Great tips though – the cleansing milk particularly sounds like something worth trying!


Monday, January 24/2011 at 4:15 pm

Yes it sux and my latin skin just can’t take it anymore. However I have found great ways to fight dryness.
I love my banana, yoghurt and honey mask once a week. Your skin will thank you. You’ll find your sking soft and supple. This mask adds a lot of natural moisturizing ingredients to your thirsty skin. I exfoliate at least twice a week with Aquafolia enzymatic exfoliant (Canadian brand)
and use a Vit C serum every morning (Oxygen brand) for oily skin
The Pro-x Olay Advanced Cleansing System sounds amazing, I’ll try it out. Thanks Michelle!


Comment Avatar Michelle Villett
Tuesday, January 25/2011 at 5:01 pm

Would love the mask recipe if you can post!


Monday, January 24/2011 at 4:42 pm

I use Kiehls Midnight Recovery Concentrate this winter and it’s working so well!


Comment Avatar Michelle Villett
Tuesday, January 25/2011 at 5:02 pm

Yep – beauty editors love that one!


Thursday, June 16/2011 at 6:59 am

It is an amazing product! I have oily skin so first time I was a bit scared about the texture, but the sales girl insisted I would be fine so I gave it a try. I am so happy I did, I use it every night and my skin does look better.

I am curious to see what happens now in Summer (Spanish Summer, you get the idea about the kind of temperatures we suffer here…)


Beauty Reductionista
Monday, January 24/2011 at 5:58 pm

Totally hear you! I pull out the fake Uggs for awful weather days I can’t give a damn. And mine are fake because it would literally kill me to spend hundreds on boots that make me look 12 years old, but they do the job.

I have oily/sensitive skin, so I try to minimize the amount of products that go on the face, even during winter, but I had to succumb to the gentle cleanser/serum/moisturizer/protective barrier combination at last. To protect makeup from freezing/defrosting after a cold commute, I’ve also added a setting spray to the mix to seal the whole thing in better and it works really well! (MUFE Mist & Fix)


Comment Avatar Michelle Villett
Tuesday, January 25/2011 at 5:03 pm

Oh interesting – I didn’t know setting sprays could be used for cold-air situations… I always put them in the summer oil-slick prevention category. Need more info on this!


Monday, January 24/2011 at 6:03 pm

Oh Michelle, you may have saved me yet again. I am fighting a flaky patch on my forehead right now, which totally makes my foundation look like poo! I’ve switched to a richer moisturizer, but that doesn’t seem to be helping.

Serums. I really need to start using these. Some suggestions you gave me on my 30th bday were CoverGirl/Olay and Burt’s Bees. Are these moisturizing as well?

This may be a stupid question but I’m asking anyway: is using a facial brush the same as exfoliating?


Comment Avatar Michelle Villett
Tuesday, January 25/2011 at 5:09 pm

You might want to try the Weleda Skin Food for your dry patch – I don’t put it all over my face, but it’s incredibly healing… used it when I had a dry red flaky nose after a cold last year and it seriously healed it up in 24 hours.

As for serums – I think the CG/Olay one is more hydrating than BB (and it doubles as a primer so it’s kind of like 2 for the price of 1). The Dermalogica one is also good, I’ve used that a lot in the past.

Facial brushes are definitely exfoliating – they’re just a manual (non-rotating) version of what machines like the Clarisonic and the Olay Pro-X thingie I mentioned in the post do. I have The Body Shop brush too and it’s really good!


Wednesday, January 26/2011 at 10:00 am

Can you only get Weleda Skin Food online, or are there Toronto-area retailers that sell it?

And thx for clearing up the brush thing. I think I might be going overboard with it, so I’ll scale back on how often I use it.


Comment Avatar Michelle Villett
Wednesday, January 26/2011 at 3:33 pm

Yep – you can buy Weleda at or it should be at most health food stores. I’ve seen it at Whole Food’s and Noah’s.


Michelle (@Lipstickrules)
Monday, January 24/2011 at 7:02 pm

I’m so done with Winter too! So hard to look stylish when you’re wrapped up in big parkas and giant boots. Great suggestions! I struggle with dry skin in the winter and these tips are perfect.


Monday, January 24/2011 at 7:08 pm

It was -30 this morning in Montreal.. and of course, I never plan ahead cause I only rarely check the temperature, so all my leggings were in the laundry pile.. on days like today, I hate Canada too.. :P Extreme cold + humidity + snow tommorow… yay! Goodbye booties, hello ugly old salt-stained square-toed boots! (Note to self: need new warmer boots.)


Monday, January 24/2011 at 9:43 pm

Michelle, do you prefer Weleda Skin Food over Martina Gebhardt Black Mud Cream fro P+S? I finished my Black Mud cream and wanna hear your opinion on the two. :) Thanks!


Comment Avatar Michelle Villett
Tuesday, January 25/2011 at 5:16 pm

Good question! I haven’t used the Weleda all over my face – I use it more as a spot treatment for dry patches. It’s heavenly but I think a bit rich unless you have really dry/rough skin… I would be afraid if I used it as a moisturizer it would break me out.

I can’t believe I forgot to mention the Black Mud cream in this post! Still love it – it’s also super-moisturizing but the difference is that it’s specifically formulated for sensitive skin and it also helps to calm inflammation/breakouts.

So really – there is probably room for both in your winter skincare arsenal! :-)


Monday, January 24/2011 at 9:53 pm

Skin Food is THE BOMB.

Sad but true: no one seems to carry Elemental Herbology in Canada anymore (Holt’s got rid of it.)


Comment Avatar Michelle Villett
Tuesday, January 25/2011 at 5:17 pm

Noooooo! Why do all the good brands never make it here?!?


Tuesday, January 25/2011 at 1:33 am

I don’t know if I should envy you because I am living in this part of the world where everyday is 30 degrees! My skin is always oily and if I lather on too much oil controling stuff, my face with turn patchy!


Tuesday, January 25/2011 at 9:52 am

LOVE these tips. When the season changed I got a lot of dryness and tried to combat with Canadian company Pure Exuberance serum but still had to layer with my tried, tested and true moisturizer IMPRUV (Get it at Shoppers. It is life changing for dry skin (and paraben/everything-bad-for-you free).
In terms of cleansing milk, Marchelle makes two amazing kinds (for dry or combination skin). Right now I’m loving DermaGlow (another Canadian company) sensitive foaming cleanser. Pricey but damn does it cut down on redness.
ps – this site is rad.


Tuesday, January 25/2011 at 9:53 am

Sorry, I meant Marcelle not Marchelle :)


Comment Avatar Michelle Villett
Tuesday, January 25/2011 at 5:25 pm

Thanks Allison! Going to try and find Impruv next time I’m at Shoppers! Exuberance sent me a silicone-free primer that is in my pile to test-drive soon too…


Tuesday, January 25/2011 at 12:06 pm

These are some great tips!

Canadian winters definitely need their own routine to keep the dry/chapped/flaky skin at bay. I definitely prefer a creme based cleanser in the winter, it strips so much less.


Tuesday, January 25/2011 at 12:22 pm

I bought Weleda Skin Food this morning! I’m suffering the same in Manhattan this winter, brutal cold and wind has left dry patches on my face. My only concern is Skin Food may clog my pores because it feels heavy and thicker than what I’m used to but it’s worth a try and if my face doesn’t like it I’ll just use it on my body.


Comment Avatar Michelle Villett
Tuesday, January 25/2011 at 5:22 pm

You will love Skin Food! Just to clarify – I only put it on dry patches (and it’s wicked good at healing those) but not all over my face. It’s pretty rich and specifically for dry/rough skin, so I would be a bit afraid of it making me break out. A better all-over moisturizing option, if you’re looking for something natural, would be Martina Gebhardt Black Mud Cream… I’m going to update the post with some more info on that.


Tuesday, January 25/2011 at 6:33 pm

Just tried a sample of that new Sephora moisturizer and LOVED it. Went on really thickly but didn’t take long to soak up at all. Face felt plump all day, and I’m flake free around the nose. Only gripe is that it doesn’t seem to have an SPF and my ultra-fair Scottish complexion (happy Burns Day to any fellow Scots!!) cannot do without. The only thing that seems to heal my chronically chapped lips is Polysporin (!) Lip Therapy. If they’re really bad, I slather some on before bed and am lipstick-ready by morning.


Wednesday, January 26/2011 at 12:29 am

I use the clinique super defense which has SPF 25 I really like it because I am also fair! It comes in an oliy combination (also normal and dry i think) which feels thick but soaks right in.
Question though: I pretty much have my winter face routine down, my problem is my elbows and legs are dry and flaky. I am moisturizing but it just isnt helping. Help!


Comment Avatar Michelle Villett
Wednesday, January 26/2011 at 3:32 pm

What are you using for your legs/elbows? Also do you shave? I find that shaving helps get rid of that scaly layer on the legs like nothing else! (If you don’t, then try to exfoliate with a scrub really well)

You might also consider taking cod liver oil as I think a lot of dry skin issues are internal. Because it’s high in vitamins A + D, CLO is good for all skin conditions – it’s very healing:


Friday, January 28/2011 at 2:32 am

I have been taking your cod liver oil! lol still having problems although the acne is pretty much gone… the elbows have turned into full blow ezema (wow i dont even think i can spell my own skin condition… :S) anyways, im using the thick pot avon moisture therapy that usually does the trick. ugh. i havent been shaving thinking that would irritate my legs more. hmmm give it a go


Comment Avatar Michelle Villett
Wednesday, March 16/2011 at 4:58 pm

Hmm – that’s strange that the CLO isn’t helping. Are you taking the butter oil/CLO blend? You might try evening primrose oil tablets as well. I found some more info here you might want to check out (this is basically my go-to site for anything health-related:

Tuesday, January 25/2011 at 7:28 pm

Ok, so I don’t know if this is a no-no but I just had a runny nose issue last week, and was able to INSTANTLY cure my red/flaky nose with a few applications of pure vitamin E cream, ie burn cream in my house. Within two hours. Really.


Thursday, January 27/2011 at 1:24 am

this is super helpful, I always enjoy reading a fellow Canadian’s blog.

I actually can’t shovel anymore snow off of my driveway anymore because the drifts are higher than me so I have nowhere to throw the snow!


Thursday, January 27/2011 at 7:14 am

I always wondered what to do with a serum, under or over your moisturizer? Thanks for clearing that up!!


Thursday, January 27/2011 at 9:51 pm

Perfect timing for this post! You are so right- the cold outside and the brutal central heat inside wreaks havoc on our skin. I’ve switched up to a gentle cleanser as well, and also ADORE Neostrata Smoothing Cream 3. When it’s brutally cold & dry (we’ve just come to the end of a nasty cold snap in Ottawa) I bust out my Olay Classic Cream. Yes, that’s right. The pink stuff that smells like Grandma. I rub it briskly between my hands, sort of like one does with La Mer, then I roll it/ press it into my skin after my moisturizer and before my make up. I always use it on my neck and around my eyes but come winter this puppy goes all over.


Thursday, January 27/2011 at 11:44 pm

Where in Toronto can I buy lip scrub and lip slip by Sara Happ?


Comment Avatar Michelle Villett
Wednesday, March 16/2011 at 5:00 pm

The only physical location is Blossom Lounge as per comment below. You can buy online from !


Monday, January 31/2011 at 6:11 pm

Very helpful -&- entertaining post! :) I’m intrigued by ‘Martina Gebhardt Black Mud Facial Cream’ & ‘Elemental Herbology Biodynamic Facial Soufflé’ > too bad this one’s not avail in Canada anymore ;/…

Thanks for sharing your top selects! One of my faves this winter is Neal’s Yard Remedies’ Wild Rose Beauty Balm w/ pure rosehip seed oil – makes a great barrier for windburn! I also love their lip balm & John Masters’ lip calm.

Sidney: As for Sara Happ’s lip scrubs, they used to carry it @ – they may still carry it. Love the flaves for the scrubs but haven’t tried their lip slips yet…


Comment Avatar Michelle Villett
Tuesday, February 1/2011 at 10:54 pm

Haven’t tried anything from Neal’s Yard Remedies but that sounds amazing, I love anything with rosehip oil!


Tuesday, April 5/2011 at 11:14 pm

Love your blog! It has led me to buy several products that I have fallen-in-love with, including the TF Lippy in Smoky Red, my new every day lipstick. I also love Skin Food…..amazing!

I want to try the serums you mentioned above, but I’m having trouble finding them! SDM definitely doesn’t have them and the Sephora I went to didn’t have them either. Any advice?



Comment Avatar Michelle Villett
Saturday, April 16/2011 at 12:50 pm

Awesome! For the serums – La Roche-Posay is avail at drugstores. The others are a bit harder to find. Dermalogica is sold at select spas. Here’s the store locator:
You have to go to medispas or dermatologists’ offices to get SkinCeuticals (it’s an amaaazing line by the way). Beautymark carries it online though:

And AmorePacific is at Holts.

Hope that helps!


Wednesday, April 13/2011 at 10:10 pm

i don’t have a problem with winter, i actually love it, my skin never dries out during the winter’s this time of year (chilly-spring-hot days) that my skin turns to a flaky irritated mess that im so embarassed that i hardly go out. my friends ask me all the time why i dont want to. but this website was SO helpful. is there any other products that i (cheap university student) can try too? all the girls in my residence looked at this website and we absolutely love it! props!! :)


Comment Avatar Michelle Villett
Friday, April 15/2011 at 7:54 pm

Oh wow – that makes my day! (What school are you at by the way?)

For less expensive moisturizing products I would check out:

SpectroDerm’s Dry Skin line – I used both the cleanser and moisturizer this past winter and they are both great.

For exfoliation I like glycolic acid stuff the best but it’s usually $20+ (or $50+ even – from Dermaglow!!). I found this one on for only $12, I’ve tried other stuff in the line and it’s decent.

CoverGirl has an amazing serum/primer that’s really hydrating:

And if you find the SpectroDerm not heavy enough I’d probably go with La Roche-Posay – they have great products for very dry and very sensitive skin. This one helps re-build the skin barrier:

I hope that helps! All of the above you can order via, no minimum order for free shipping within Canada!


Ana P
Tuesday, August 30/2011 at 2:01 pm

Hi Emmaleigh,

This is super late, but I’ve found the Derma E Beauty Fluid to be a great exfloiant/glycolic acid on a budget. I love me a deal that works!
Since it’s a lotion vs. a toner it’s better for winter too. I didn’t find the toner did much actually…but that’s me and I can take 10% glycolic. Totally effective at 5% glycolic. It’s about $11 on Oh, and you can use it every night if you can tolerate it, disregard the directions for 1x/week.


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