The Facts About Olive Oil and Skin Care

People have been using olive oil for all kinds of skin care for thousands of years. However, everyone’s skin is different.
Sep. 3, 2020
Daniel Dawson

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Olive oil has been used in skin care for mil­len­nia and con­tin­ues to be a sta­ple in soaps and other beauty prod­ucts.

Olive oil-based unguents and cos­met­ics have been found in 5,000-year-old tombs in Egypt, where they were used to pre­serve mum­mies.

At the pub­lic baths in Ancient Greece, bathers would slather their skin in olive oil before using a thin metal blade to scrape away the mix­ture of oil, dirt and sweat. The Romans would later adopt the prac­tice in their own baths.

See Also: Olive Oil Basics

Olive oil soap has been pro­duced in the Levant for more than 1,000 years and by the four­teenth cen­tury played a crit­i­cal role in the medieval soap pro­duc­tion fac­to­ries of Venice and Marseille.

However, not every olive oil is cre­ated equally and all skin is dif­fer­ent. Therefore, when and how to use olive oil as a cleanser, lotion or mois­tur­izer depends on a vari­ety of fac­tors.

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Olive oil to cleanse

Extra vir­gin olive oil has been proven to have var­i­ous anti-fun­gal and anti-bac­te­r­ial prop­er­ties, and is loaded with antiox­i­dants. This com­bi­na­tion makes high-qual­ity EVOOs the per­fect ingre­di­ent for soap.

Dozens of phe­no­lic com­pounds have been iden­ti­fied in extra vir­gin olive oil and sev­eral of these have been proven to stave off skin infec­tions.

There is also some evi­dence demon­strat­ing that vit­a­min E – an antiox­i­dant found in extra vir­gin olive oil – even kills the bac­te­ria that causes acne, eczema and pso­ri­a­sis.

However, apply­ing extra vir­gin olive oil directly to your skin in large amounts may have a more come­do­genic effect – clog­ging pores and even caus­ing acne. As a result, der­ma­tol­o­gists rec­om­mend apply­ing raw EVOO to the skin with an eye drop­per before gen­tly mas­sag­ing it in.

Olive oil reju­ve­nates and heals dam­aged skin

Away from their antibac­te­r­ial prop­er­ties, the vit­a­mins and antiox­i­dants found in extra vir­gin olive oil have a range of other ben­e­fits.

Vitamin E also helps to pro­tect the skin against ultra­vi­o­let light. Some evi­dence even sug­gests that extra vir­gin olive oil can reverse some of the dam­age caused by ultra­vi­o­let radi­a­tion.

See Also: Health News

Antioxidants also help to trap free rad­i­cals and pre­vent them from dam­ag­ing skin. Along with keep­ing the skin health­ier, this helps to lessen the effects of aging as well.

Additionally, the anti-inflam­ma­tory prop­er­ties of extra vir­gin olive oil have been shown to help heal dam­aged skin tis­sue. Although some doc­tors argue that EVOO is most effec­tive at achiev­ing this when ingested as opposed to used top­i­cally.

There is even some evi­dence to sug­gest that ingest­ing extra vir­gin olive oil can help to heal burned skin tis­sue. However, der­ma­tol­o­gists warn not to apply EVOO to burns top­i­cally.

Olive oil as a mois­tur­izer

Along with being packed full of anti-bac­te­r­ial prop­er­ties and plenty of skin-friendly vit­a­mins, olive oil is also an emol­lient, which makes it an excel­lent mois­tur­izer.

When the top layer of the skin does not con­tain enough water, the skin cells become flakey and can fall off or crack. This leaves gaps in between the skin cells, which may allow dirt and bac­te­ria to build up.

Emollients fill in these gaps with lipids, seal­ing them off to bac­te­ria and alle­vi­at­ing the irri­ta­tion asso­ci­ated with dry and flakey skin.

Extra vir­gin olive oil, like many other emol­lients, is also an occlu­sive, which means it traps water under­neath a thin oily film.

Dermatologists rec­om­mend apply­ing extra vir­gin olive oil – or creams that incor­po­rate EVOO – while the skin is still damp in order to trap the water inside the cells.

However, too much olive oil may clog the pores of the skin, which can lead to pim­ples, acne and skin irri­ta­tion. It is best to use a bit (roughly the size of a dime) of extra vir­gin olive oil and wipe the excess away with a towel or cloth.

Olive oil for the face

While extra vir­gin olive oil serves as an effec­tive mois­tur­izer and per­fect ingre­di­ent for soap or lotion, it can also be used on the face, just not as lib­er­ally as else­where on the body.

One of the most pop­u­lar uses of extra vir­gin olive oil is as a makeup remover. Instead of using a harsh tonic to remove makeup, which can dry out or dam­age the skin, olive oil works well to break down the waxy sub­stances that make eye­liner or mas­cara water­proof.

While the EVOO can­not fully remove the makeup, it is a first good step to lift it off the skin. Additionally, the antiox­i­dants, includ­ing squa­lene, can help to mois­tur­ize the sen­si­tive skin around the eyes and relieve some of the oxida­tive stress that causes wrin­kles.

However, the face is more del­i­cate than else­where on the body and everybody’s skin is dif­fer­ent. For peo­ple with more oily skin, raw extra vir­gin olive oil may not be the best option. Instead, it may be best to buy facial creams that incor­po­rate extra vir­gin olive oil as an ingre­di­ent.

Buying extra vir­gin olive oil

Regardless of how olive oil is used in skin care, one thing remains con­stant – only extra vir­gin olive oil pro­vides the afore­men­tioned ben­e­fits. Refined olive oil has far fewer antiox­i­dants and phe­no­lic com­pounds.

The retail finder on the Official Index of the World’s Best Olive Oils makes it easy to find award-win­ning extra vir­gin olive oils near you or through online retail­ers.





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