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Dry Oils in Skin Care

Dry Oils in Skin Care

Dry oils are a category of polyunsaturated oils which harden when oxidized so they do not feel wet or greasy on the skin.

A dry oil does not cause skin dryness, nor are these oils dried or powdered when used for skin care.

The term "dry oil" is used more as a trendy skin care topic and is not a general scientific term. It refers to oils that solidify into filmy textures when oxidized.

Products containing dry oils can be used to treat conditions like psoriasis, eczema, acne, and other skin conditions.

Find your Baumann Skin Type to see if dry oils are right for you!

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What is a dry oil?

Dry oils are commonly found in products meant to leave a long lasting dry feeling coat on the skin.

They are not typical oils because they're not solid and creamy at room temperature and they do not make the skin feel greasy.

Dry oils contain unsaturated fatty acids, which are more liquid at room temperature and feel dry on the skin.

What are the differences between saturated and unsaturated oils?

Dry oils are made from unsaturated fatty acids which are not as solid at room temperate as saturated fatty acids are.

Unsaturated fats are tyrosinase inhibitors, so they are regularly used in skin lightening products.

Oils made with saturated fats have a more solid and are creamier than oils made of unsaturated fats. The filmy texture of oils with a preponderance of unsaturated fatty acids is why we call these " dry oils".

The name "dry oil" has been incorrected adopted in the skin care industry because they do moisturize the skin and do not dry the skin. However they feel more dry on the skin than saturated oils do.

saturated vs unsaturated fat

Are dry oils good for the skin?

Dry oils can be used to hydrate skin or repair your skin barrier, however they are preferred by oily skin types who really do not need to be using oil on the skin anyway.

This is why it is critical to know your Baumann Skin Type before buying any type of oil for your skin.

Dry oils are commonly used to moisturize dry skin, but they may not be best for your dry skin type.

There are many causes and treatments for dry skin, so choose products base don which of the 16 skin types you have.

Which dry oils are used in skin care? 

Many polyunsaturated fats can be found in skin care products.

The most commonly used polyunsaturated fats, or dry oils, in skin care products are:

What is the best dry oil for use on the face?

The best "dry oil" for the face depends upon what your skin type and skin concern is.

Argan oil is typically considered among the best oils for red, sensitive skin, dry or other skin types.

Argan oil hydrates with stearic acid soothes inflammation with a high concentration of linoleic acid.

It is the perfect oil for rosacea and inflamed eczema. Argan is also a good psoriasis oil.

Dry oils are good for treating many kinds of inflammation.

benefits of dry oil

What are the benefits of dry oils?

Like most oils in skin care, dry oils have multiple functions in skin care products.

Dry oils are occlusive, meaning they can help prevent evaporation of water off the skin and be used for "skin slugging."

Oils in skin care products provide hydrating fatty acids and lipids to the skin barrier, helping it repair damage and hold onto moisture.

Do dry oils dry the skin?

Dry oils do not dry the skin. The oils themselves oxidize, or, dry into filmy substance when exposed to oxygen. This filmy substance hydrates the skin.

No oils decrease sebum production or dry the skin.

Can you use dry oils with retinoids?

Yes, skin care products containing dry oils can be used with retinoids.

Some occlusive dry oils are used in regimen with retinoids in different ways:

Improper use of retinoids can cause inflammation and other side effects.

The type of oil you choose for your skin care routine will affect how well retinoids work.

moisturizer and retinoids

What Kinds of Products Use Dry Oils?

Dry oils, or (poly)unsaturated fats, can be found in a number of styles of skin care products including:

What is the best dry oil body spray?

Look for body sprays with safflower or grapeseed oil for their high concentration of linoleic acid.

High concentration of fatty acids like linoleic acid are a good indicator that an oil is a dry oil.

Two other polyunsaturated fatty acids to look for in dry oil body sprays are eicosatetraenoic and acid docosahexaenoic acid (an omega-3 fatty acid).

Argan oil is also a good dry oil used in skin care products.

Here are some products that contain dry oils:


Thanks for reading our article on Dry Oils in Skin Care! If you'd like to learn more about which ingredients are right for your skin care regimen, please take the Baumann Skin Type questionnaire!

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Best scientific references and peer reviewed articles on the use of dry oils in skin care products:

  1. American Academy of Dermatology Invitational Symposium on Comedogenicity. J Am Acad Dermatol. 1989;20(2 Pt 1):272-7.

2. Schnuch A, Lessmann H, Geier J, Uter W. White petrolatum (Ph. Eur.) is virtually non-sensitizing. Analysis of IVDK data on 80 000 patients tested between 1992 and 2004 and short discussion of identification and designation of allergens. Contact Dermatitis. 2006;54(6):338-43.

3. Tam CC, Elston DM. Allergic contact dermatitis caused by white petrolatum on damaged skin. Dermatitis. 2006;17(4):201-3.

4. Ulrich G, Schmutz JL, Trechot P, Commun N, Barbaud A. Sensitization to petrolatum: an unusual cause of false-positive drug patch-tests. Allergy. 2004;59(9):1006-9.

5. Harris I, Hoppe U. Lanolins. In Loden M, Maibach H, eds. Dry Skin and Moisturizers. Loden M, Maibach H, eds. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, 2000, p. 259.

6. Proserpio G. Lanolides: emollients or moisturizers? Cosmet Toilet. 1978; 93:45-48.

7. Kligman AM. The myth of lanolin allergy. Contact Dermatitis. 1998;39(3):103-7.

8. Boonchai W, Iamtharachai P, Sunthonpalin P. Occupational allergic contact dermatitis from essential oils in aromatherapists. Contact Dermatitis. 2007;56(3):181-2.

9. Bleasel N, Tate B, Rademaker M. Allergic contact dermatitis following exposure to essential oils. Australas J Dermatol. 2002;43(3):211-3.

10. DiNardo JC. Is mineral oil comedogenic? J Cosmet Dermatol. 2005;4(1):2-3.

11. Blanken R, van Vilsteren MJ, Tupker RA, Coenraads PJ. Effect of mineral oil and linoleic-acid-containing emulsions on the skin vapour loss of sodium-lauryl-sulphate-induced irritant skin reactions. Contact Dermatitis. 1989;20(2):93-7.

12. Agero AL, Verallo-Rowell VM. A randomized double-blind controlled trial comparing extra virgin coconut oil with mineral oil as a moisturizer for mild to moderate xerosis. Dermatitis. 2004;15(3):109-16.

13. Tolbert PE. Oils and cancer. Cancer Causes Control. 1997;8(3):386-405.

14. Rawlings AV, Lombard KJ. A review on the extensive skin benefits of mineral oil. Int J Cosmet Sci. 2012;34(6):511-8.

15. Boucetta KQ, Charrouf Z, Aguenaou H, Derouiche A, Bensouda Y. Does Argan oil have a moisturizing effect on the skin of postmenopausal women? Skin Res Technol. 2013;19(3):356-7.

16. Darmstadt GL, Mao-Qiang M, Chi E, Saha SK, Ziboh VA, Black RE, et al. Impact of topical oils on the skin barrier: possible implications for neonatal health in developing countries. Acta Paediatr. 2002;91(5):546-54.

17. Darmstadt GL, Saha SK, Ahmed AS, Chowdhury MA, Law PA, Ahmed S, et al. Effect of topical treatment with skin barrier-enhancing emollients on nosocomial infections in preterm infants in Bangladesh: a randomised controlled trial. Lancet. 2005;365(9464):1039-45.

18. Berbis P, Hesse S, Privat Y. Essential fatty acids and the skin. Allerg Immunol (Paris). 1990;22(6):225-31.

19. Williams HC. Evening primrose oil for atopic dermatitis. BMJ. 2003;327(7428):1358-9.

20. Koca U, Süntar I, Akkol EK, Yilmazer D, Alper M. Wound repair potential of Olea europaea L. leaf extracts revealed by in vivo experimental models and comparative evaluation of the extracts’ antioxidant activity. J Med Food. 2011;14(1-2):140-6.

21. Aburjai T, Natsheh FM. Plants used in cosmetics. Phytother Res. 2003;17(9):987-1000.

22. de la Puerta R, Martínez Domínguez ME, Ruíz-Gutíerrez V, Flavill JA, Hoult JR. Effects of virgin olive oil phenolics on scavenging of reactive nitrogen species and upon nitrergic neurotransmission. Life Sci. 2001;69(10):1213-22.

23. Kränke B, Komericki P, Aberer W. Olive oil—contact sensitizer or irritant? Contact Dermatitis. 1997;36(1):5-10.

24. Danby SG, AlEnezi T, Sultan A, Lavender T, Chittock J, Brown K, et al. Effect of olive and sunflower seed oil on the adult skin barrier: implications for neonatal skin care. Pediatr Dermatol. 2013;30(1):42-50.

25. Weisberg EM, Baumann LS. The foundation for the use of olive oil in skin care and botanical cosmeceuticals. In Olives and Olive Oil in Health and Disease Prevention. Cambridge, MA: Academic Press, 2021 pp. 425-434.

26. Idson B. Dry skin: moisturizing and emolliency. Cosmet Toilet. 1992;107(7):69-78.

27. Mitsui T. Humectants. In New Cosmetic Science, Mitsui T, ed. New York, NY: Elsevier, 1997, p. 134.

28. Chernosky ME. Clinical aspects of dry skin. J Soc Cosmet Chem. 1976;27:365-76.

29. Choi EH, Man MQ, Wang F, Zhang X, Brown BE, Feingold KR, et al. Is endogenous glycerol a determinant of stratum corneum hydration in humans? J Invest Dermatol. 2005;125(2):288-93.

30. Orth D, Appa Y. Glycerine. a natural ingredient for moisturizing skin. In Dry Skin and Moisturizers. Loden M, Maibach H, eds. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, 2000, p. 217.

31. Orth D, Appa Y, Contard E, et al. Effect of High Glycerin Therapeutic Moisturizers on the Ultrastructure of the Stratum Corneum. Poster presentation at the 53rd Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Dermatology. New Orleans, LA. February, 1995:3-8.

32. Fluhr JW, Mao-Qiang M, Brown BE, Wertz PW, Crumrine D, Sundberg JP, et al. Glycerol regulates stratum corneum hydration in sebaceous gland deficient (asebia) mice. J Invest Dermatol. 2003;120(5):728-37



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