Dry Oil vs. Wet Oil: What’s the Difference?

Body oils can do wonders for your skin. But, there’s a big distinguishing factor among them: some absorb instantly into skin without leaving any residue, while others linger on the surface, making skin feel heavy or greasy. Dry oils are pretty fast to absorb, but a formula that’s heavier and "wet" can feel slippery or oily without the ability to properly absorb.

Shannon Gallogly, national education and training manager for Decleor, says that the difference between body oils comes down to the content of the ingredients. “Some contain mineral oil, which doesn’t penetrate skin, and leaves a temporary coating and no long-lasting results," she says. "Plant-based oils are meant to absorb and penetrate skin. These types of products allow for the essential oils to regenerate and heal the skin." Camellia, plum kernel and sweet almond oil are just a few of the powerful essential oils used in effective body oils.

An oil, specifically a dry body oil, is often used in place of body lotions and creams due to the extreme skin softening effects it can provide, as well as powerful ingredients like vitamins and antioxidants it delivers. “Even though body lotions, creams and oils are all very similar and are meant to moisturize, nourish, soothe and soften skin, the main difference is the oil-to-liquid ratio in the product,” says Gallogly. “Oils are just as they sound—straight up oil with no water or liquid additives. Lotions are a blend of oil and liquid and are thinner in terms of texture.” 

So, how are you to know what to expect from an oil before you test it out and slather it all over, only to discover that it’s too wet or heavy for your skin? “Look at the first four to five ingredients in the oil and make sure they are whole and recognizable, like an essential oil," says Gallogly. "Try and find one with what I like to call ‘liquid vitamins,' which are plant-based carrier oils that offer the skin a cocoon of protection and a delicate aroma. Rose oil and Japanese camellia oil are two great ones.”

When it comes to applying dry body oils, how you apply them to your skin makes a difference. “Use the products after you get out of the shower when your skin is still damp. Personally, I start from the inside of my calf and travel through the inside of my legs following the lymphatic channel to the abdomen and up to inside of my arms. Then, I finish around my décolleté. This helps limit overusing the product,” explains Gallogly.

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