Even though facial oils are incredibly hydrating and nourishing for the skin, a lot of people—especially those who have acne-prone or oily skin types—steer clear of them. To reap all of the benefits of oils without the heavy feeling traditional ones can leave on the skin, dry oil is light and can still deliver on the same benefits.
A dry oil is essentially just as it sounds—an oil that absorbs into the skin so quickly that it feels instantly dry to the touch, as opposed to a wet oil, which will feel thicker and slick on skin. “The term dry oil is more of a marketing name, but to fall under the dry oil umbrella, it’s those oils that are most rapidly and easily absorbed into the skin,” says Paula Simpson, biochemist and beauty formulation expert. Keep scrolling to learn more about these hydrating oils that leave not a single trace on skin.
What is an example of a dry oil?
According to Purvisha Patel, MD, a board-certified dermatologist and founder of Visha Skincare, these oil formulations are higher in polyunsaturated fatty acids than traditional oils. “They can be misted onto the skin and tend not to leave a heavy film,” she says. “They are oil formulations that are very light.” Simpson adds that the chemical structure of dry oils also have a higher amount of linoleic acid within them, which is a fatty acid that nourishes the skin barrier.
Examples of dry oils include rosehip seed, avocado, sesame, borage, evening primrose, squalane, grapeseed, and safflower oil.
Dry oil vs. wet oil
Wet oils, according to Dr. Patel, are more of a mixture of heavy and light fatty acids. “These absorb slower, and also create a barrier on the skin at the same time,” she says of oils like coconut, apricot, jojoba, and hempseed. “This helps trap moisture and prevent water loss from the skin.” On the other hand, she says that dry oils are commonly used as vehicles in skin care for active ingredients. “Dry oil mists, for example, usually incorporate skin-benefitting ingredients such as CBD oil, antioxidants, and vitamins.”
Simpson notes that dry oils work well on oily skin as well as most other skin types since they’re so light. “They can moisturize, boost antioxidant protection, and stimulate collagen production in the skin,” she says. “These oils have also been found to help balance the skin barrier and minimize irritation to certain skin conditions like eczema.” Besides nourishing the skin, they’re also great for hair health since they leave such little residue.
How to use dry oils
When browsing the beauty shelves, you’ll find that dry oils come in a wide variety of forms, including cleansers, moisturizers, mists, serums, and hair products. Whichever one you go with, Simpson says, you won’t need to use much of the product. “Start with a small amount and if needed, move up from there.”
To apply a dry oil to the skin, Dr. Patel recommends making sure that your skin is slightly wet. “For normal to oily skin types, use after bathing on clean, damp skin as a moisturizer,” she says. If your skin is on the dry or sensitive side, she suggests slathering one on to restore your skin barrier, and follow with a moisturizer to lock it in.
If you’re looking to try it in ways beyond your skin-care routine (it is a versatile ingredient, after all), use it to nourish dry or damaged hair. “Dry oils are an excellent hair moisturizer for curly hair,” says Dr. Patel, noting that it should be applied to damp hair after washing. Another use? She loves it as a cuticle oil to help strengthen nails.
Dry oil products to shop for yourself
Dr. Patel is a fan of this multitasking oil, formulated with tsubaki oil, which comes from the camellia flower plant. In addition, sweet almond oil and borage oil give a dose of moisture to your skin and can also be used in your strands.
Slather on this ultra-quick absorbing dry oil to transform your bathroom into a relaxing, spa-like sanctuary. The blend of Ayurvedic oils—like sweet almond, basil, and sunflower—nourish dehydrated skin while the herbaceous scent instantly works to de-stress.
3. Sol Body Shimmering Dry Oil, $15
If you’re a fan of adding some luminescence to your skin, this dry body oil is for you. Choose from four different bronzey hues that also work to hydrate your skin with sweet almond and marula oils. Plus, it smells like a piña colada.
Squalane is actually a lipid that your skin naturally produces, so when you apply some to your face (or body, or hair), it drinks it right up. This one is pure squalane, derived from sugarcane, and gives you a really soft, moisturized finish without a touch of greasiness.
Those who combat redness or skin irritations will particularly benefit from this First Aid Beauty dry oil. The combo of the dry oil’s avocado and grapeseed, along with soothing colloidal oatmeal, calm your complexion, leaving it rejuvenated and nourished.
This facial oil’s formulation of safflower oil, an antioxidant, plus jojoba and rosehip oil make a gentle but moisturizing trio that repairs rough, thirsty skin. It’s especially good for acne-prone skin as it balances your oil production.
7. Detox Mode Altogether Oil, $32
Deliver deliciously smelling moisture to your entire body with some spritzes of this dreamy dry oil blend, which contains grapeseed and jojoba plus aloe vera. It’ll absorb instantly, but the smell—notes of neroli, citrus, and patchouli—will linger.
Apply a few drops of this moringa-based oil to your face, body, cuticles, or hair for a quick, hydrating boost. The multitasking product can be used to detangle hair, help remove makeup, and even works as a massage oil (oh là là).
Rosehip seed oil is incredibly rich in linoleic acid, so it absorbs instantly into your skin, helps with fine lines, and works as a moisturizer. It’s also really gentle, so even the most sensitive and acneic skin types will benefit from using it.
Snag this gem of a soothing, hydrating, grapeseed oil-infused body oil from the drugstore. The lavender scent is proven to be relaxing, so you can turn your beauty routine into a TLC ritual that soothes both your mind and body.
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