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How to keep your skin in tip-top shape as fall approaches

Fall is almost here and winter is coming. Is your skin ready for the cooler, drier weather?

Here’s an easy way to keep it in great shape year-round: Treat your skin gently, especially if it’s dry.

“There’s a distinction between skin that’s dry from lack of oil or dehydrated from lack of water,” said NBC News medical contributor Dr. Natalie Azar.

“Go to an esthetician or dermatologist and find out what your dry or dehydrated skin problem might be.”

To protect your skin, avoid taking a long “hot, hot shower” because that can actually make things worse and allow any cleansers to be more damaging. Remember, soap is designed to remove oils from the skin, so it’s drying.

Instead, make the shower brief and keep the water lukewarm, Azar advised. When you finish bathing, pat your skin — don’t wipe it — to dry off, because that will retain some of the moisture, she added. Then smear on your favorite moisturizer.

Be careful about using retinol cream, Azar noted. Many people turn to the vitamin A ointment to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, but it can be very drying, she said.