Few things feel as cozy and comforting as a warm soak in the tub. The deep relaxation helps ease muscle tension, headaches and cramps, whether you’ve been sitting at a desk all day or standing on your feet. And on a psychological level, the experience transports us to a safe place. “Taking a bath brings you back to a time when you were in the womb, creating a relaxing environment that’s ideal for relieving stress,” says Josie Feria, director of spa operation at Lapis, The Spa at Fontainebleau in Miami.

And while experts often scold against hot water submersion during the wintry months of dry skin, we can’t help but luxuriate in this soothing mind and body ritual. So we’ve sought out a dermatologist who loves a good soak herself, for tips on how to transform bath time into a hydrating salve for skin and spirit.

Use bath oil:
Most importantly, the base of your bath should infuse hydration. “Don’t soak in soap product like bubble bath or shower gel that can add to the drying effect of hot water and provoke itchiness by triggering histamine release,” advises Washington, D.C., dermatologist Noëlle S. Sherber, M.D. Use bath oil, or if you love bubbles, counter it by adding bath oil to the water, too.

Rinse with plain water:
Bathing oils and soap products are generally not designed to remain on your skin, and can cause irritation if left on, says Dr. Sherber. Simply do a rinse before stepping out of the tub to prevent related dryness, or do a quick once-over in the shower.

Moisturize ASAP:
Keep rich moisturizer nearby so that you can apply a generous layer within a minute or two of leaving the tub. “A good rule of thumb is that if the product is thin enough to dispense through a pump, it has too much water to be sufficiently moisturizing—look for products that are thick enough to have to be dispensed in a jar or tube, or use body oil,” says Sherber.

Check out the gallery for more tips and tricks to make your bath time even more restorative.