These Dry Oils Will Hydrate Your Parched Skin Without Feeling Greasy

For dehydrated skin, lackluster hair, and rock-hard cuticles, dry oils will help get the moisturizing job done.

dry oil
Photo: Anna Efetova/Getty Images

Thick, creamy moisturizers and hot summer air simply don't mix. Your post-shave, lotioned-up legs feel damp until you park yourself directly in front of the air conditioner. And your moisturized face? It feels sticky to the touch for hours. It's an undeniable struggle — one that you've dealt with since you first learned the importance of hydrating your skin (#tbt) and you've accepted as the norm for three months every year.

But you don't have to wait for a new season to fix the sticky problem. Just add dry oils — fast-absorbing and hydrating skin oils — to your moisturizing arsenal. Though the term "dry oil" appears to be one of life's most befuddling contradictions, it's not describing the oil itself, but rather how it feels after it absorbs into the skin: lightweight and non-greasy, says Marisa Garshick, M.D., F.A.A.D., a dermatologist based in New York City.

Wet oils (think: coconut and castor oil) feel heavier on the skin and are often more occlusive, meaning they form a little barrier on the skin surface to trap in moisture. On the other hand, dry oils (i.e. rosehip, avocado, argan, and sunflower seed oil) quickly absorb into the skin, rather than sitting on top of it, to support and hydrate the skin barrier, says Dr. Garshick.Translation: They're ideal for summertime, when your skin isn't as parched and scaly as, say, the middle of February. (

The best part is that dry oils can be used for most of your hydrating needs. It works for skin, hair, and nails, says Dr. Garshick. "Anywhere else you can use an oil, you can use a dry oil," she says. After you get out of the shower, apply a dry oil to your body as your moisturizing component. Tame pesky flyaways and hair frizz by putting a few drops of dry oil in the palm of your hand and run it through your locks, which smooths and flattens those tiny little hairs back onto the shaft. Or give your mane a bit of an extra glow and shine with the same technique. Rub a dry oil on your nails to nourish brittle beds and soften cuticles.

And because they lack that occlusive quality, dry oils typically won't clog pores nor cause breakouts when used on the face, like coconut or wheat germ oil might. "What's nice about the concept of a dry oil, because they're not super heavy and they are fairly soothing, is you can feel comfortable using them on the face and they shouldn't cause too much of an issue," notes Dr. Garshick.

In general, dry oils that are advertised to contain just the oil are perfectly fine — they don't need a booster ingredient to be effective and can be used wherever your heart desires. But some dry oil products will contain other ingredients for additional benefits, she explains. One dry oil may have vitamin C for anti-aging on the face, and another may have oatmeal for additional nourishment all over the body. In those cases, look on the packaging for its intended use, says Dr. Garshick.

And remember, they're not the be-all and end-all of skin hydration. "A dry oil will give a nice boost of moisture — it feels good on the skin and it feels good to apply — but it doesn't mean it's going to completely replace your normal moisturizer." So while a dry oil may help hydrate your skin enough for a humid summer day, it doesn't necessarily take the place of the restorative face moisturizer you use while you snooze, which is when skin cells are working their hardest to repair and restore skin and best able to absorb topical treatments.

Ready to add dry oils to your moisturizer collection? Shop Dr. Garshick's dry oil recommendations below.

Ahava Dry Oil Body Mist

Available in Sea Kissed, Mandarin & Cedarwood, and Cactus & Pink Pepper scents, this dry oil contains sesame seed and jojoba oil to moisturize skin, as well as vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant that protects skin cells from UV- and pollution-induced damage. Thanks to its spray applicator, this dry oil can hit all those tough-to-reach places, such as the back or shoulders. Plus, the spray can make the dry oil feel even more lightweight and refreshing than if you were to apply it by hand, says Dr. Garshick. (See also: Hydrating Facial Mists You'll Actually Want to Use)

Buy It: Ahava Dry Oil Body Mist in Sea Kissed, $43,

Black Radiance Luminous Dry Oil

Made from sunflower seed oil, this dry oil can be used to nourish and restore moisture on both the body and face. It also contains vitamin C extract, an antioxidant that can help protect your skin from damage, fade existing skin spots, and boost collagen production that creates firm skin. Apply it under makeup to achieve a natural glow or massage it into the skin and wipe with a damp cloth to remove makeup.

Buy It: Black Radiance Luminous Dry Oil, $11,

The Ordinary 100% Organic Cold-Pressed Borage Seed Oil

This no-frills dry oil contains borage seed oil — and only borage seed oil. Along with providing moisture, it's packed with linoleic acid, which can help calm skin and is ideal for those who have more skin sensitivity, says Dr. Garshick. To get those perks, apply a few drops to the entire face daily.

Buy It: The Ordinary 100% Organic Cold-Pressed Borage Seed Oil, $5,

First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Oat & Hemp Seed Dry Oil

Designed to de-stress and nourish dry and irritated skin, this dry oil contains hemp seed oil, which is rich in omegas and provides a soothing effect, borage seed oil, and calming oatmeal. After cleansing the skin, place two to three drops in the palms and press onto the face, or add a few drops to your regular moisturizer. (Up next: 8 Beauty Oils to Keep You Hydrated from Head to Toe)

Buy It: First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Oat & Hemp Seed Dry Oil, $30,

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