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11 Dry Skin Treatments and Ingredients

When your skin is parched, it feels tight and uncomfortable, and it doesn’t look much better than it feels. Dry skin tends to look dull and may have flakes and uneven texture. Moisturized skin, on the other hand, has a healthy-looking glow, is smooth to the touch, and feels more comfortable overall. So, it’s certainly understandable that you’d want to seek out dry skin remedies and moisturizing ingredients. In fact, we’re doing the legwork for you and sharing 11 Kiehl’s-approved dry skin treatments, courtesy of our list of the best moisturizing ingredients.

Our Top Moisturizing Ingredients For Dry Skin

Just as different textures of products can offer different levels of results, so can different ingredients. Dry skin treatments, for instance, can provide benefits ranging from replenishing natural oils to trapping moisture within. It all comes down to the particular ingredients used. While apricot kernel oil and glycerin both provide moisturizing benefits, how they do it can be very different. Understanding these differences is key if you’re on a quest to learn how to get rid of dry skin.

To help you better understand what exactly different plants and molecules do—and why they’re included in popular dry skin remedies—here are the top moisturizing ingredients for dry skin.

Squalane

Squalene is produced naturally by your body and is found in human sebum. However, as you age, squalene production slows, which plays a part in skin becoming drier. Squalane is a form of squalene that has undergone hydrogenation. To make up for the loss of squalene, squalane—a Kiehl’s signature ingredient—can be derived from both plant and animal sources. Kiehl’s products feature squalane derived from olives, not shark liver, which can be another source. Squalane is less prone to oxidation than its counterpart. This is why it is more commonly found in moisturizer formulas over squalene. Also, while squalane, which is closely related to natural sebum, is technically an oil, it doesn’t have the oily feel you might imagine and is quickly absorbed into skin. It’s non-comedogenic and safe for dry, sensitive skin as well.

Find It In: Ultra Facial Cream
The Kiehl’s Ultra Facial line, including Ultra Facial Cream, is formulated with squalane as one of its star ingredients. Apply our best dry skin moisturizer to offer your complexion lasting hydration that leaves skin softer and smoother.

Hyaluronic Acid

If you’ve heard of hyaluronic acid, you may have caught wind of the fact that it’s able to hold 1,000 times its weight in water.I This molecule is a widely-used, moisturizing ingredient for exactly that reason. According to studies, formulas with hyaluronic acid have also been shown to improve rough skin, elasticity,II and wrinkles.III

Find It In: Vital Skin-Strengthening Hyaluronic Acid Super Serum
A hyaluronic acid serum is one of our favorite ways to add this dry skin ingredient to your routine. This particular serum is a Kiehl’s customer-favorite because it improves skin texture, boosts radiance, and absorbs easily to leave you with healthy-looking skin.

Glycerin

Trending ingredients are worth learning about and even adding to your routine, but that doesn’t mean you should discount more well-known substances—often, there’s a good reason for their acclaim. For example, glycerin is one of the most commonly-used moisturizing ingredients, and that tells you something. It’s known for its ability to improve skin hydration, as well as its barrier repair effects. Glycerin is a powerful humectant, meaning it attracts and binds to water.

Kiehl's Tip: Humectants are often paired with occlusives to form an even more noteworthy duo. The humectant draws in water, and the occlusive traps it, making the pair into a dry skin-fighting team.

Find It In: Hydro-Plumping Re-Texturizing Serum
This best-selling serum features not only glycerin but also shiso leaf extract. The formula provides intense hydration that helps plump skin and reduce the appearance of fine lines.

Coconut Oil

Coconut oil has a long history of being used in dry skin treatments and haircare formulas. Studies note that this ingredient can be used as an occlusive moisturizer, meaning it forms a barrier to protect the skin and prevent water from evaporating, which causes moisture loss.IV

Find It In: Butterstick Lip Treatment
There’s no denying that lips get dry, too. Treat your pout to this lip balm with coconut oil, which helps smooth lips with buttery-rich moisture.

Evening Primrose Oil

Once you know that the flower evening primrose oil is extracted from blooms only every other year, it should be clear it’s something special (It also only blooms in the evening—hence the name.) As for why we consider the oil special, it’s rich in omega-6 fatty acids, including linoleic acid. Science has shown that this acid prevents skin peeling and water loss and improves skin’s softness,V making it an easy pick for dry skin types. Evening primrose oil is known to not only maintain skin’s hydration but also to help enhance elasticity, which makes it a great anti-aging ingredient in addition to it being a powerful moisturizing agent.

Find It In: Midnight Recovery Botanical Cleansing Oil
Dry skin and cleansing oils are the ultimate match. They allow you to wash away dirt and makeup without stripping your skin of essential moisture. We recommend this oil because its non-comedogenic formula melts away impurities while soothing and comforting skin.

Apricot Kernel Oil

According to studies, apricot oil is good for all skin types, including dry and aging skin. It has emollient characteristics that suit dry skin, and it doesn’t leave behind an oily film. Research also shows it has anti-aging and antioxidant benefits.VI

Find It In: Ultra Facial Toner
Like the rest of the Ultra Facial line, Ultra Facial Toner is formulated with squalane, but that isn’t its only noteworthy ingredient. The dry skin toner also includes apricot kernel oil. Sweep it over your skin to comfort and hydrate your complexion while preparing it for your moisturizer.

Ceramides

Ceramides are one of the most common ingredients in moisturizers and products for dry skin. What are they? Ceramides are epidermal lipids that play a key role in skin barrier function. They are naturally found in human skin, but they’re also used in skincare product formulas to help replace deficient lipids.

Cucumber Extract

You’ve likely seen a movie where cucumber slices were placed over the star’s eyes while they donned a face mask—maybe you’ve even tried this beauty secret yourself. However, cucumber has beauty benefits that go beyond taking an at-home facial up a notch. Research shows that cucumber can have a moisturizing effect because of its high water content.VII This is why one of the best moisturizing products from Kiehl’s is formulated with cucumber extract.

Find It In: Cucumber Herbal Alcohol-Free Toner & Cleanser
We often learn that customers think toner is meant to be drying, but that certainly doesn’t have to be the case. This alcohol-free toner with cucumber extract is ideal for dry and sensitive skin types because it has a non-drying formula that leaves you with soft, clean skin.

Our Top Moisturizing Ingredients For Dry Hair and Body

Dryness isn’t a skin concern that’s isolated to your face. The skin below your neck can be prone to becoming dry as well, as can your hair. Make sure to fill your routine with the right moisturizing ingredients for dry skin on your body and dry hair.

Avocado Oil

Avocado has become one of the most-hyped brunch foods, but it’s also deserving of your attention as an ingredient in dry skin treatments. Its rich oil comes from the fruit and is positively brimming with fatty acids and vitamins A, C, D, and E. According to research, it’s an amazing source of nourishment for dry skin,VIII which is why it’s made it onto our list—and into Kiehl’s products.

Find It In: Ultimate Strength Hand Salve
Your hands can also enjoy the benefits of avocado oil with a hand salve. Our formula has a thick consistency that helps condition and moisturize dry hands.

Cocoa Butter

When it comes to nourishing the skin below your neck, cocoa butter is one of the best moisturizing ingredients. It boosts skin hydration and skin elasticity, making it a popular ingredient in body-care products, including some of Kiehl’s best-sellers.

Find It In: Crepe De Corps
This non-greasy body lotion is a Kiehl’s classic that deserves all the recognition it gets. The formula features cocoa butter to moisturize dry skin and help improve its texture, making it one of our top recommendations.

Olive Oil

Olive oil is a tried-and-true skincare ingredient that can serve as an occlusive moisturizer while providing skin with a high dose of antioxidants. At Kiehl’s, we also recommend haircare formulas with olive oil, especially if you have dry strands.

Find It In: Nourishing Olive Fruit Oil Shampoo and Conditioner
This haircare duo is enriched with olive fruit oil, avocado oil, and lemon oil for a system that moisturizes under-nourished hair to leave it looking soft and shiny.

Next: Learn how to put some of the best ingredients into a complete routine for parched skin with Your Ultimate Skincare Routine for Dry Skin.

Sources:
I. Daniela ŠMejkalová et al. “Hyaluronan: A Natural Moisturizer for Skin Care.” Harry's Cosmeticology,, 9th ed., vol. 2, Chemical Publishing Company., 2015, pp. 605–622.
II. Jegasothy, S Manjula et al. “Efficacy of a New Topical Nano-hyaluronic Acid in Humans.” The Journal of clinical and aesthetic dermatology vol. 7,3 (2014): 27-9.
III. “Immediate and Long-Term Effects of a Topical Serum with Five Forms of Hyaluronic Acid on Facial Wrinkles and Intrinsic Skin Moisture Content.” Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, vol. 74, no. 5, 2016, doi:10.1016/j.jaad.2016.02.072.
IV. Harwood, Anne, et al. “Moisturizers.” StatPearls, June 2020.
V. Lin, Tzu-Kai et al. “Anti-Inflammatory and Skin Barrier Repair Effects of Topical Application of Some Plant Oils.” International journal of molecular sciences vol. 19,1 70. 27 Dec. 2017, doi:10.3390/ijms19010070.
VI. Sharma, Anshika, et al. “Formulation and Evaluation of Wild Apricot Kernel Oil Based Massage Cream.” Journal of Pharmacognosy and Phytochemistry, Jan. 2019, pp. 1017–1021.
VII. Kapoor, Shweta, and Swarnlata Saraf. “Assessment of viscoelasticity and hydration effect of herbal moisturizers using bioengineering techniques.” Pharmacognosy magazine vol. 6,24 (2010): 298-304. doi:10.4103/0973-1296.71797.
VIII. Lin, Tzu-Kai et al. “Anti-Inflammatory and Skin Barrier Repair Effects of Topical Application of Some Plant Oils.” International journal of molecular sciences vol. 19,1 70. 27 Dec. 2017, doi:10.3390/ijms19010070.

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