Best Face Oils for Dry Skin
by Heather Smith on Jan 12, 2023
Dry skin is where facial oils can really shine!
If you're shopping for the best face oil for dry skin, understanding some of the science behind your choices will help you get your glow back.
Face oils are simple and nourishing. Most people could try most oils and find benefit from using them. However, there is a science to understanding things like the fatty acid composition and phytochemical profile - something that will help you maximize your positive experiences and results. We discuss this a lot more in our comprehensive guide to face oils.
If you have dry skin that is complex because it's also easily irritated, allergic, or acneic, there are nuances that make some oils better than others for your skin type.
If you're overwhelmed and don't know where to start, we always suggest squalane as a first oil to try - you really can't go wrong no matter your skin type.
For those of us with dry skin that isn't extra-problematic, you can explore the vast options of non-comedogenic carrier oils without too much worry.
So before you start shopping for commercially prepared and branded oils, let's dig deeper into a list of the best oils for dry skin so you can read ingredient labels empowered by knowledge!
Benefits of Oil for Dry Skin
Although they're related, remember that hydration and moisturization are different.
Hydration has to do with the water content of your skin and tissues. Moisturization is about the presence of fats (lipids) that help keep your waterproof skin barrier healthy and intact.
Moisturization requires emollients and the best emollients are oils.
Other options are usually synthetic or silicone based, so if that's not your preference then moisturizing oils are going to be your go-to.
These are just some of the many benefits of face oils for dry skin:
- Fortifies, restores, and heals the skin barrier
- Helps to lock in hydration by preventing water loss from the skin
- Contains antioxidants that protect against free radical damage
- Can improve skin tone and reduce discoloration which will help improve radiance and brightness
- Promotes collagen production and increased skin elasticity, resulting in a reduction of fine lines
- Can be used as a primer to achieve a dewy finish before makeup application
- Can improve the overall texture and smoothness of the skin
- Used as an overnight treatment, face oils can repair and rejuvenate the skin while you sleep
What Makes a Specific Oil Best for Dry Skin
Don't get overwhelmed by all the options. Certainly any of the oils on our list of favourites are suitable for dry skin.
However, the list in this article are the oils we feel are absolutely the best oils for dry skin.
They are still light and fast absorbing, but they are a bit heavier than the driest oils. Their powerful anti inflammatory and highly emollient nature means your skin barrier will be protected from excessive water loss, making them an essential part of your skincare routine.
What makes one oil better for dry skin over another has to do with the balance in the fatty acid profile and presence of other phytochemicals. Cold pressed nut and seed oils all contain a mixture of fatty acids like linoleic (the queen of skin oils), oleic, palmitic, and stearic.
A higher ratio of oleic acid makes an oil specifically better for drier skin. Also, as increased presence of natural ceramides, as found in oat and other oils, is another factor.
When it comes to clogging pores, the content of oleic acid is not directly responsible. As an example, argan oil is around 50% oleic acid and marula oil is around 70% (both considered very high), yet argan oil is one of the least likely oils to clog pores (while marula is more likely to cause breakouts).
Best Face Oils for Dry Skin
The best face oils for dry skin are high in linoleic and oleic acids as well as naturally occurring plant-based ceramides, vitamin E, and antioxidant phytosterols.
So without any more fanfare, here is the list of the absolute best face oils for dry skin:
What about Olive Oil?
As a component oil, olive has many benefits for dry skin. However, it is quite viscous and has an odour that can be off-putting. There are also a couple of studies that suggest olive oil could be more irritating than some other plant based oils.
We prefer to avoid using olive oil in very high concentrations, but do include it due to the emollient qualities especially when it's used as a carrier for other specific active ingredients.
How about Coconut Oil?
Coconut oil is a definite no for your face if your skin is oily or acne prone. However, the situation with coconut oil is that every person is different. Many people swear that coconut is the best oil for all purposes, including the face. We don't argue that it's amazing for the body and often hair, but the face is a different story.
The thing about coconut oil is that it is vastly different than almost all of the other oils we discuss for facial use. Other face oils are predominantly unsaturated and extremely high in linoleic and oleic acids. Coconut oil is predominantly saturated and is composed of lauric acid (50%), myristic acid (20%), caprylic acid/capric acid (15%) and only 2% linoleic and 2% oleic acids.
These differences are going to be what makes it or breaks it for you.
If you have ultra-dry skin and nothing seems to quench it, by all means you can try coconut oil on your face. However, we suggest making sure that it is the only new product you try at the time so that you can know exactly whether it is the culprit for an acne breakout or clogged pores.
Shopper's Guide: Choosing a Face Oil for Dry Skin
Our bias comes from a place that simple carrier oils (as listed above) will work wonders for your skin. However, you can often DIY at home and save a fortune.
Most natural, botanical stores that supply bulk ingredients will have a supply of organic, high-quality, ethically-sourced, carrier oils. You can probably make 1000ml or more for the same price of an ounce of something branded.
If you want to elevate your results and justify spending more, look for brands that are putting significant thought into their oil blends as well as the other added ingredients.
Oil serums take effectiveness to a higher level and will contain various oil soluble active ingredients, herbal extracts, or select essential oils.
Some examples of soothing and nourishing active botanicals that will help turn a simple face oil into an oil serum include: bisabolol or extracts of aloe, chamomile, calendula, comfrey, yarrow, marshmallow, edelweiss, imperata cylindrica, Morus alba (Mulberry) leaf, Hordeum vulgare (Barley), Salicornia herbacea, and Undaria pinnatifida extract... the list goes on and on.
Taking a face oil to the next level is where brands differentiate themselves from the DIY'er. There are many amazing options to consider.