Winter is coming — and as the seasons change, so does our skin.

However, Toronto dermatologist Dr. Julia Carroll says the dry, dull skin that often accompanies colder months isn’t necessarily connected to the weather.

“The big thing that affects skin in the winter is humidity,” she says. “A lot of people blame it on the harsh outdoor conditions, but it actually has a lot do with the indoor conditions: dry, forced air-type heating, which is low in humidity, can really affect our skin.” She adds that these conditions can also exacerbate eczema symptoms.

In order to keep your skin feeling soft and smooth all winter long, Dr. Carroll offers the following top tips.

Get a humidifier

“Our skin has high water content, so when the air is dry it’s trying to balance itself by pulling water from anywhere it can, including our skin,” explains Dr. Carroll. In order to retain your skin’s moisture and keep eczema from worsening, she recommends using a humidifier, particularly in the bedroom, since it is a confined space where we spend (hopefully) around eight hours per night.

Cool it with the heat

It can be tempting to crank the heat in the winter, but Dr. Carroll explains “higher temperatures are also going to dry out the air more.” If possible, she advises turning down the heat before turning in for the night.

Moisturize daily

The best way to combat dry skin is to replenish lost moisture by applying hydrating creams — or creams specific to sensitive or eczema-prone skin — regularly. These lotions can help reduce eczema flare-ups and act as a protective barrier when venturing out into harsh outdoor conditions.  “The best time to moisturize is when you first get out of the shower and still have a bit of the water left on your skin,” says Dr. Carroll. “Pat dry and apply moisturizer on top and it will lock in some of that water.” She adds that exfoliating once a week can get rid of dry skin and help moisturizers be better absorbed.

Shorten showers

The shower can be a welcome respite from the cold weather, but standing under hot water for long periods of time can further dry out skin and irritate areas with eczema. Keeping your routine short and the temperature warm — not hot — will go a long way for your skin.

Don’t forget sunscreen

Summer isn’t the only time you need to protect your skin from the sun’s UV rays. While UVB levels go down in the winter, UVA rays stay consistent and can damage your skin. “It’s important even on the bleak days of winter to wear sunscreen,” says Dr. Carroll.

Winter has not yet hit in full force, but it’s never too early to take advantage of these tips. In fact, Dr. Carroll advises starting your cold-weather skincare regimen as soon as you bring out the winter coats, in order to keep skin from drying out, particularly for those with eczema: “It’s always hard to catch up, it’s better to prevent the issue.”