10 Best Oils for Dry Skin

Oils are a great way to restore moisture to dry skin. Some plant oils possess anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects, which can help improve the health of your skin barrier—the outermost part of the top layer of your skin.

This is especially important for people with dry skin because the skin barrier, called the stratum corneaum, can protect skin against moisture loss.

If you're looking for a natural moisturizer, the best oils for dry skin include:

  • Almond oil
  • Marula oil
  • Sunflower oil
  • Olive oil
  • Coconut oil
  • Argan oil
  • Soybean oil
  • Avocado oil
  • Borage oil
  • Oat oil
Oils for Dry Skin

Verywell / Danie Drinkwater

Types of Oils

Almond Oil

Almond oil is derived from ripe almonds in an extraction process that uses very little heat. This process is what makes unrefined almond oil. Almond oil contains oleic acid, B-sitosterol, and a-tocopherol.

Oleic acid makes it easier for the oil to sink deeper into the skin. Skin naturally has low permeability (for things to pass through), which helps keep out harmful toxins. The issue is that it can also stop moisturizers from reaching deeper levels of the skin.

Tocopherols have been shown to provide antioxidant benefits, while B-sitosterol has been shown to be an active moisturizing and skin-soothing agent. Research has shown that B-sitosterol is strong enough to help treat atopic dermatitis (eczema).

Marula Oil

Marula oil is extracted from the marula fruit. It can also be made from the outer husk of the marula fruit nut. Marula oil contains amino acids, which make up proteins, antioxidants, and fatty acids.

Marula oil has been shown to help restore moisture to the skin. The lightweight nature of the oil makes it easier to penetrate the skin and moisturize it effectively. Because of its high levels of fatty acids, the oil can also prevent water loss from the skin and retain moisture levels for longer.

Research has also shown that marula oil possesses anti-aging properties because it contains organic compounds with antioxidant properties known as catechins.

Sunflower Oil

Sunflower oil is derived from sunflower seeds. There are different types of sunflower oils, including:

  • High linoleic: This type is made up of 68% linoleic acid.
  • Mid-oleic: Also referred to as NuSun, this type is made up of 65% oleic acid.
  • High oleic: This type is 82% oleic acid.
  • High stearic or high oleic: Also known as NutriSun, this type is made up of 18% stearic acid and 72% oleic acid.

Research has shown that sunflower can be an effective oil to use for dry skin. This is because it can help preserve the health of the outer layer of skin and improve overall moisture levels.

Sunflower oil has also been shown to enhance the production of skin cells known as keratinocytes, the main type of cells found in the epidermis (your skin's top layer). The production of natural fats in the skin is also encouraged by sunflower oil, which leads to a healthier skin barrier.

Olive Oil

Research has shown that olive oil can help dry skin. It is made by pressing olives and then extracting the oil. Because the oil is made up of mostly oleic acid, it is an effective moisturizer.

Olive oil also contains:

  • Linoleic acid: Linoleic acid is a fatty acid that has been shown to help improve the skin barrier in people with dry skin and atopic dermatitis.
  • Palmitic acid: A long-chain fatty acid, palmitic acid has been shown to soothe, soften, and moisturize the skin.
  • Sterols: Sterols are substances that resemble cholesterol and are thought to help reduce cholesterol levels in the body. 
  • Carotenoids: Carotenoids are pigments in certain plants, algae, and bacteria which provide antioxidant benefits.
  • Triterpene alcohols: This chemical compound has been shown to help with wound and burn healing and skin inflammation.
  • Phenolic compounds: These organic compounds can help the body because they can act as antioxidants. They have been shown to help protect against or aid in the treatment of various skin conditions.

Olive Oil May Not Work for Everyone

Research has found that olive oil can lead to worsened dry skin and should be avoided in some people.

Coconut Oil

In recent years, coconut oil has been marketed as a jack-of-all-trades kind of oil. It has been suggested that it is good for the skin, hair, cooking, and oral and brain health. The oil is extracted from the kernel of the coconut and is made up of fatty acids.

The research surrounding coconut oil for dry skin typically centers around skin conditions such as atopic dermatitis, and it has been shown to be an effective form of treatment for skin conditions that cause dry skin. It can help improve moisture retention and skin barrier function.

Argan Oil

Argan oil is extracted from the kernels of the argan plant. It is made up of 80% monounsaturated and 20% saturated fatty acids. The fatty acid that makes up most of the oil is oleic acid.

Research has shown that argan oil is an effective moisturizer for those with dry skin because of its ability to help restore the skin barrier and improve the skin’s ability to retain moisture. It could also be used to increase the efficacy of topical medications that may be used for dry skin by encouraging absorption.

Soybean Oil

Soybean oil is extracted from the seeds of the soybean plant. It is made up of five fatty acids, all of which have been shown to improve the barrier of the skin and help retain moisture.

Soybean oil can also help protect the skin against damage because it contains high amounts of vitamin E. Vitamin E has been shown to protect against different types of skin damage and treat certain skin conditions that can cause dry skin, such as atopic dermatitis.

Avocado Oil

Avocado oil is derived from the pulp of avocados. It is made up of several fatty acids and contains skin-benefiting compounds such as B-sitosterol, B-carotene, and vitamins A, D, and E.

Research has shown that mixing avocado oil with a vitamin B12 skin cream and applying it to dry skin could help treat and restore moisture, particularly for people with skin conditions such as psoriasis.

Studies have also shown that the use of avocado oil can protect the skin against damage that may lead to the development or worsening of dry skin. It can also be used to help prevent dry skin after skin damage.

Borage Oil

Borage oil is extracted from the seeds of the starflower plant. It has high amounts of the vital fatty acids needed for skin health. The most abundant is linoleic acid, which can help the skin retain moisture better. It has also been used in the treatment of skin conditions that cause dry skin, such as atopic dermatitis.

Studies have also found that borage oil can be safe to use in children with atopic or seborrheic dermatitis, so it is a safe and effective option for children who suffer from dry skin or dry skin conditions.

Oat Oil

Oat oil is extracted from the straw of the oat plant. It helps soothe your skin because of its anti-inflammatory properties and has been used for centuries to treat skin conditions such as rashes, burns, itchiness, and eczema. It is made up of linoleic and oleic acid.

It’s thought that linoleic acid is what gives oat oil its ability to repair the barrier of the skin. Phenolic compounds known as avenanthramides are also found in oats. They also help reduce inflammation in the body.

The use of oat oil has been found to increase ceramide levels in the skin, which are skin lipids that live in the upper layers of the skin. Since ceramides help lock moisture in the skin, oat oil can help prevent and treat dry skin.  

How to Choose an Oil

Before choosing an oil for your dry skin, you may want to take a few things into consideration. Although many of the compounds found in the oils are similar, some possess more or less of each compound. Some may also have extra benefits.

To choose the best oil, you will first want to look at how dry your skin is. If you are suffering from a skin condition such as dermatitis, you may want an oil that has a proven record of helping with your condition.

Some oils may cause irritation if you are allergic to the compounds that are in them. When choosing an oil, make sure that you know all the ingredients and do a patch test to be sure they won’t cause a bad skin reaction.

Some body oils may be too heavy to put on the face, whereas some face oils will not penetrate the skin of the body as well. If you are choosing one type of oil, be sure to choose it based on the area of the body you’re concerned with.

You will also want to buy your oils from trusted suppliers. Choosing an oil that contains the highest-quality ingredients will ensure that you are getting exactly what you paid for. Steer clear of oils that do not have all the ingredients listed clearly.

How to Use Oils

You can apply an oil directly to wet skin after washing your face or showering. Only a small layer is needed. Avoid getting dressed until the oil has soaked into your skin.

You can blend certain oils together for added benefits, or use an oil alongside your favorite moisturizing lotion. If irritation occurs, stop mixing your oils.

Possible Side Effects

Oils for dry skin are generally safe and effective, but there is a possibility for an allergic reaction to occur. This is why it’s important to perform a patch test before putting the oil on your face or body.

To perform a patch test, dab a small amount of oil on the inside of your arm or leg and wait 24 hours. If no reaction occurs during that timeframe, it is safe to use.

Do not ingest the oils since they are toxic.

Signs of a Medical Emergency

Symptoms of a severe allergic reaction can include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Chest tightness
  • Wheezing
  • A drop in blood pressure with a weak pulse
  • Increased heart rate
  • Sudden weakness


The right oils can potentially help you improve your skin barrier, which protects your skin from toxins and germs in your environment. Research has shown that almond oil, coconut oil, sunflower oil, argan oil, and others are best for dry skin and conditions that cause dry skin like eczema.

A Word From Verywell

Oils can be good products to use to help address dry skin, but not all body oils will work for everyone.

It’s important to buy high-quality oils from trusted suppliers. You will not get as many benefits if you choose a low-quality oil. Also, remember to do a patch test to make sure you are not allergic to the ingredients in the oil you choose.

If you have a skin condition or any questions regarding oils and their use, contact your doctor for advice and recommendations.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Which oil is best for dry skin in winter?

    It depends on your skin, but coconut oil tends to be a good overall choice. It has the ability to penetrate the skin quickly and efficiently to soothe dry skin.

  • Is body oil better than body lotion?

    Both body oil and body lotion are great options for moisturizing your skin, and one isn’t always better than the other. For example, lotion may be able to get deeper into the skin because it is water based, but body oil, when applied correctly, can help heal the skin barrier, which will lead to better moisture retention.

  • Can I use body oil on my face?

    A body oil should only be applied below the neck unless otherwise directed. Some body oils have been shown to be safe for use on the face, such as coconut and argan oil. Using an oil designed specifically for the skin on the face is a better bet.

  • What causes skin dryness?

    Your skin could be dry for many reasons. It’s typically not serious and can be caused by things such as temperature changes and the amount of moisture that is in the air (humidity). Other reasons can include dehydration, skin conditions, and health issues such as allergies, diabetes, or hormone fluctuations.

  • Which vitamin or mineral deficiencies contribute to dry skin?

    Although uncommon, there are many nutritional deficiencies that can cause dry or irritated skin. This includes deficiencies in vitamin A, vitamin C, zinc, and B-complex vitamins.

20 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Angelica Bottaro
Angelica Bottaro is a professional freelance writer with over 5 years of experience. She has been educated in both psychology and journalism, and her dual education has given her the research and writing skills needed to deliver sound and engaging content in the health space.