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Your Quick, Yet Complete Guide for Olive Oil in Skincare

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Fast facts

  • Chock full of fatty acids
  • Acts as an emollient
  • Has antioxidant activity
  • Source of squalane
  • Can be used as a makeup remover 
  • A no-no for oily and breakout-prone skin

Olive oil, the easy-to-find and cheap ingredient everybody has in the kitchen for salad dressing, has become a hero in skincare, too — and its skin benefits are all backed by science. That’s why many products, especially those addressing dry and mature skins, use olive oil in their formulations. But it can be used on its own as well, even better if it’s extra virgin, cold-pressed and unrefined.

Olive oil for skin?

What makes olive oil such a great ingredient for skincare? Its fatty acids rich content and squalene. As you may have guessed, olive oil is good at trapping moisture in, preventing transepidermal water loss. More water means more hydration, plumper, and bouncier skin. Besides, olive oil’s high content of fatty acids makes it an emollient too, aka those types of ingredients that soften and repair skin.

In addition to the fatty acids, olive oil also contains oleic acid. Actually, oleic acid is the main fatty acid in olive oil, accounting for about 55-83% of total fatty acid content.[1] Oleic acid is known to repair, balance, and calm skin while acting as a protective barrier. And if the perks weren’t enough, olive oil also contains phenolic compounds, and vitamin E, meaning it has antioxidant activity.[2] Yep, olive oil helps protect against oxidative damage, hindering foes from prematurely aging skin. Moreover, the phenolic and triterpenes present in olive oil give it anti-inflammatory properties that aid in speeding up wound healing.[3]

Last but not least, olive oil can be used to lift makeup. Responsible for this action is its oily nature, which helps it dissolve the oil found in cosmetics. Indeed, olive oil can break down waterproof mascara, eyeliner, and even sebum while being gentle and softening. But you still need that cleanser to remove all residues from the skin, though.

Now, the less good news: olive oil is comedogenic and can clog pores because it’s a heavy oil that can get trapped inside pores, blocking them. From that to pimples is just a single step, so olive oil is not the one for you if you’re a breakout-prone skin type.

References

  1. Hernández M. Luisa, Sicardo M. Dolores, Belaj Angjelina, Martínez-Rivas José M., The Oleic/Linoleic Acid Ratio in Olive Fruit Mesocarp Is Mainly Controlled by OeFAD2-2 and OeFAD2-5 Genes Together With the Different Specificity of Extraplastidial Acyltransferase Enzymes, 2021.
  2. 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.
  3. Kate Wickham, The potential benefits of olive oil in battling bedsores.
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