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When you first hear the term “dry oil,” you might picture an oil that’s been boiled down to a powder. But it actually doesn’t refer to the oil’s texture. Instead, it describes the way the oil acts when it comes into contact with your skin.

Any oil that your skin absorbs quickly can be referred to as a dry oil. Oils that leave a residue on your skin, on the other hand, are often called wet oils.

Most dry oils are made from vegetables, herbs, or seeds that contain polyunsaturated fatty acids, such as linoleic acid.

They’re typically used as lightweight moisturizers for your hair, skin, or nails. Some common types of dry oils include:

In this article, we’ll dive into the potential benefits of these oils and look at situations when using them might be a better choice than using a wet oil.

Dry oils offer the same moisturizing benefits as wet oils, without leaving a sticky residue on your skin or hair. Many people prefer dry oils because they absorb into your skin within seconds of application.

Some potential benefits of a dry oil include:

  • Moisturizes skin. Most dry oils, such as sunflower and safflower, contain linoleic acid. This fatty acid may keep your skin moisturized by helping it maintain its water permeability barrier.
  • Increases collagen production. A 2013 study performed on rats found that applying avocado oil to skin may increase the production of collagen (collagen synthesis) and decrease inflammation.
  • Improves dry or cracked skin. A 2011 study shows that applying avocado oil is an excellent way to moisturize dry, damaged, or chapped skin.
  • Helps fight signs of aging. Research on rats suggests that sesame oil’s high number of antioxidants might help reduce oxidative stress of the skin. In theory, this could help protect your skin from premature aging.
  • Reduces sun damage. Rosehip oil contains large amounts of antioxidants that may protect your skin from damage caused by the sun’s ultraviolet rays.
  • Promote skin barrier repair. Research has found that the linoleic acid in sunflower oil may help repair the skin barrier and maintain the skin’s integrity.
  • Helps manage eczema. The moisturizing properties of dry oils might help manage dry and itchy skin caused by eczema.

Applying a dry oil may help moisturize your hair, plus reduce breakage and frizziness caused by dryness.

Research has found that oils containing saturated and monounsaturated fats penetrate your hair better than those with polyunsaturated fats. So, the best option for your hair might be to choose a dry oil that contains mostly monounsaturated fats, like avocado oil.

To apply: Add a few drops of a dry oil to your hair when its damp, then comb the oil through.

Most dry oils contain linoleic acid, which is thought to help keep your skin hydrated and maintain its natural moisture barrier.

A small 2012 study with 19 participants found that when applied to skin, sunflower oil more effectively improved hydration than olive oil did.

Research has also found that this fatty acid may help reduce inflammation in your skin.

To apply: After a warm shower or bath, rub a dry oil on your skin to add moisture.

The same moisturizing properties of dry oil that benefit your hair and skin may also be good for your nails. Applying dry oil to your cuticles may help prevent nail dryness and cracking.

To apply: Rub a few drops of a dry oil between your palms to warm it, then massage it into your cuticles.

There’s some evidence that applying dry oils to your skin may help with wound healing.

Research has found that applying oleic acid to surgical wounds may increase the rate of wound closure. The majority of the fatty acids in avocado oil, for example, are oleic acid.

One 2017 trial found that a gentle massage with sesame oil reduced pain in hospital patients with limb trauma.

Dry oil comes in several different forms, including:

  • As a spray. Many dry oils come in a spray bottle, which makes them easier to apply to your hair or skin.
  • In a dropper bottle. Some brands of dry oil come in a dropper bottle, which is helpful when applying a few drops to your nails, skin, or hair.
  • In shampoos. Some shampoos may include dry oils in their ingredients for easy application to your hair.
  • In moisturizers. Some moisturizers and skin care products may also include dry oil in their ingredients.

Dry oils are generally safe for topical use and unlikely to cause any serious side effects. As with any new substance you apply to your skin, though, you could potentially have an allergic reaction to an oil.

Side effects of an allergic reaction might include:

Before you use a new oil for the first time, you might want to apply it to just a small section of your skin, then wait 24 hours to see how your skin reacts. This will help you determine whether you’re allergic to the oil.

You can buy dry oil at most stores that sell cosmetics. They’re also widely available online.

Shop for dry oil online.

The term “dry oil” refers to any oil that dries quickly on your skin.

Most dry oils come from herbs, vegetables, or seeds. Many have the potential to moisturize your skin or hair without the sticky residue that wet oils often leave.

Just remember: The first time you apply any new skin care product, it’s a good idea to apply it to just a small section of your skin and wait 24 hours to make sure you’re not allergic before using it on your whole body.