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Olive oil is a historically prized beauty agent in many cultures around the world. It has been used for centuries in various skin and beauty remedies and continues to be a favorite of beauty experts.
Olive oil contains over 200 bioactive compounds that exhibit different healing properties. Its moisturizing properties can be attributed to its rich content of fatty acids, mostly oleic acid with smaller amounts of linoleic acid and palmitic acid. It is endowed with various phenolic compounds that have a greater antioxidant potential than even vitamin E.
Moreover, olive oil contains sterols, carotenoids, and triterpene alcohols. All these bioactive compounds accord significant anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, skin-protective, skin-repairing, and antioxidant properties to olive oil. (1)
With such diverse chemical properties, it is no surprise that olive oil is so popular in the cosmetic industry. This article will focus on the most important reasons you should include olive oil in your skin care and hair care regimen.
Note: It is important to understand that olive oil is an oil after all, and as with any oil, it is not to be used in excess. Excessive use of olive oil can cause clogged pores and acne. It should be avoided in people suffering from acne-prone skin. It is also known to trap heat, so do not apply it to burnt skin. And whichever way you use it, use only a little amount.
Benefits of Topical Application of Olive Oil
The following benefits will make you consider including olive oil in your skin care products.
1. Moisturizes the skin
There are different qualities of olive oils based on the methods of processing, but extra-virgin olive oil is the purest and least processed of them all. The processing can strip away some of the fat content and other nutritional benefits of olive oil, so it’s best to use extra virgin olive oil for dermatological purposes. (3)
How to use
- You can either buy a moisturizer with olive oil as one of its primary ingredients or you can directly apply virgin or extra virgin olive oil to moisturize your skin. Start by washing your skin, and then let it air-dry or pat it dry but make sure it is still slightly damp. Massage the olive oil in your skin properly until it is sufficiently absorbed.
- You can mix olive oil with coconut oil to impart greater nourishment and hydration to your skin.
- Adding a few drops of olive oil to your shaving cream can help the razor glide on more smoothly and thereby minimize the skin dryness and irritation caused afterward.
Caution: Although olive oil has moisturizing properties, it is not meant for everyone. Olive oil is not recommended for people who have sensitive skin or are struggling with skin conditions such as atopic dermatitis. In such cases, olive oil can lead to further dehydration and disruption of the skin barrier.
In general, olive oil is safe to use if it is not causing a sensitivity reaction on your skin, organic and extra virgin, bought from a trustable source, and seldom used.
2. Fights signs of aging
Chronic stress can induce aging by causing oxidative damage and promoting the activity of protein-degrading enzymes that cause loss of the inner parts of the skin and collagen. As a result, the skin becomes loose and other signs of skin aging appear.
A study showed that when skin cultures with these conditions are exposed to olive oil, the signs of aging are reduced. (4)
How to use
There are three basic ways in which you can use olive oil for reducing the signs of aging:
- Purchase antiaging serums or lotions that contain olive oil
- Directly massage virgin or extra-virgin olive oil in your skin
- Prepare DIY olive oil skin masks
Here are some easy face masks that can be made at home by mixing olive oil with other skin-enhancing ingredients:
- Mix 1 tablespoon of virgin or extra-virgin olive oil with 2 tablespoons of organic raw honey and ½ cup of ripe papaya pulp in a bowl to form a smooth paste. Apply the paste all over your face and neck for 5–10 minutes before rinsing it off with warm water.
- Put 2 tablespoons of virgin or extra-virgin olive oil, 1 tablespoon of lemon juice, and a pinch of sea salt or sugar in a bowl, and mix all the ingredients well. Make sure not to let the sugar or salt get completely dissolved because the scrubbing effect will be provided by the granules. Gently massage this mixture all over your face and neck for a few minutes, moving your fingers in slow circular motions. Leave it on your skin for 10–15 minutes to let the ascorbic acid of the lemon and olive oil be absorbed into the skin. Wash the mask off with lukewarm water.
Note: It is important to remember that aging is a natural, unceasing, and unavoidable process, and there is nothing you can do to reverse or stop it. However, factors such as poor diet, stress, environmental pollution, and sun damage can accelerate this process, leading to the early onset of wrinkles, fine lines, and other signs of skin aging. Thus, you start to look older than you are.
The use of olive oil as an antiaging agent does not imply that it will make you young again, but it can certainly protect your skin from these skin-damaging factors to prevent premature aging.
3. Repairs sunburnt skin
Sunburn is caused by exposure to the sun when such exposure is frequent and/or prolonged and when you do not use sunscreen. UV radiation leads to cellular inflammation, which manifests in the form of reddening of the skin (erythema).
The polyphenols in olive oil reduce this inflammation due to their anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. The triglycerides in it help repair the skin barrier and reduce the drying and flaking of the sunburnt skin. (1)
These properties also make olive oil quite useful in managing skin rashes, but only in adults.
How to use
You can either apply the olive oil as it is or use it in a mask or oil blend to heal your sunburnt skin.
- For the mask, simply mix some freshly extracted aloe vera gel (preferably pre-cooled) with 1–2 teaspoons of olive oil, and then apply the mixture to your sunburnt skin. Let it sit for 10–12 minutes before rinsing it off with cool water.
- Prepare a skin-soothing oil blend by mixing 4–5 drops of lavender essential oil (5) in 1–2 tablespoons of olive oil, and massage it gently on your sunburnt skin like a moisturizer.
Caution: Do not use olive oil as the first aid for the sunburnt skin as it can entrap the heat, which will continue burning your skin and lead to more damage. The first measure for sunburnt skin is a cool compress, which allows the heat to escape. Once the site has cooled down, you can then use a little bit of olive oil and coconut oil to promote skin repair.
4. Protects against UV damage
Sunlight contains UV rays that are readily absorbed into the skin and then release unstable oxygen molecules called free radicals inside the body. These free radicals attack the healthy skin cells and damage them in the process, triggering premature skin aging and other forms of skin problems.
According to research, hydroxytyrosol is the main antioxidant compound in olive oil that helps counter or neutralize the damaging activity of these free radicals. Thus, applying olive oil to your skin can help protect against solar damage. (6)
In fact, olive oil fares much better as a natural sunscreen than any other plant oil as it has a comparatively higher SPF. (7)
How to use
Olive oil is safe to use topically but only in small quantities as it can clog your pores and has a tendency to absorb heat, making your skin too greasy. But small amounts of olive oil do not provide enough sun protection to be an effective sunscreen.
So, it’s best to use a zinc or titanium oxide sunscreen with olive oil in it or add a few drops of olive oil to your regular sunscreen.
5. Fixes hair and scalp problems
Many common hair- and scalp-related complaints can be easily managed with olive oil therapy. Although no known controlled trials confirm the efficacy of olive oil in treating hair loss, there is research that demonstrates clinically significant improvement in the reduction of scales and the stabilization of hair shedding in psoriatic alopecia when olive oil was used as a topical supplement to the medical treatment, and there was no recurrence in the study participants. (8)
Some non-human-based research also shows that oleuropein, the compound that makes your olive oil bitter, can induce thicker hair growth. (9)
Olive oil also keeps your scalp healthy by inhibiting the overgrowth of microbes. It also adds shine to your hair, especially if they are prone to turning dull as the weather changes.
How to use
- Slightly warm some olive oil and ensure that it’s not too hot before applying.
- Massage the oil on your scalp, and apply it all over your hair for 5–10 minutes.
- You can do this oil massage an hour before taking a shower like a pre-shampoo treatment. But for longer therapy, you can do it before bedtime so that the oil does its magic overnight, and then wash it off in the morning.
Tip: You can also add olive oil to your hair masks if you use them as part of your beauty regimen.
6. Repairs cracked heels
People spend most of their waking hours on their feet but spend little to no time looking after them. Your entire body weight falls on your feet while standing, walking, or running. Thus, your feet go through a lot of wear and tear daily, which results in cracked, rough heels.
Also, there are no oil glands in your feet, which means the skin in this area is drier than that of the rest of the body and requires intensive topical moisturization. The problem of cracked heels only becomes worse with age, but it can be delayed or avoided if you start tending to them early.
Olive oil is one of the best lubricants for hydrating parched feet. It is richly endowed with a range of fatty acids that account for its lubricating and humectant properties that can hydrate and repair cracked heels. (1)
How to use
There are many ways in which you can use olive oil to treat cracked heels. You can purchase extra-virgin olive oil foot creams, or you can prepare your own foot and heel cream.
Here are some easy ways to treat rough cracked heels with olive oil at home:
- Mix 4–5 drops of your preferred essential oil (peppermint, chamomile, or frankincense essential oil) in 2 tablespoons of olive oil. You can add 1–2 tablespoons of coconut oil or shea butter to the mixture, but this is completely optional. Just make sure to mix all the ingredients well to prepare a smooth oil blend.
- The easiest way, though, is to scrub your cracking and scaling heels with either an exfoliating solution or a pumice stone. Then, wash your heels and pat them slightly dry. Apply olive oil to your heels and massage.
Note: For best results, apply olive oil to your heels right before going to sleep so that it stays on your skin overnight and gets fully absorbed.
ALSO READ: Home Remedies to Heal Cracked Heels
7. Heals chapped lips
Chapping of the lips is a common problem as the weather turns dry. The condition is characterized by peeling or flaking of the skin of the lips and constantly dry lips.
Olive oil, which has skin barrier repair and moisturizing properties, proves to be an excellent remedy in such a case. This oil promotes cell turnover and proliferation, thereby aiding in the growth of new skin. It also binds moisture to dry lips.
How to use
- Mix some sugar or salt grains with a teaspoon of olive oil. You can also use crushed walnuts or uncooked and crushed rice grains instead of sugar/salt.
- You can add a dash of lemon juice if you so choose.
- Using your fingers, apply the scrub to your lips and exfoliate gently in circular motions.
ALSO READ: Home Remedies and Self-Care for Chapped Lips
8. Strengthens the nails
Applying olive oil to your nails can help moisturize, nourish, strengthen, and repair them. This effect is mostly due to its rich content of vitamin E, which is readily absorbed into the nail bed and the cuticles to hydrate and heal them from within.
Olive oil also helps tighten the cuticles and thereby prevent hangnails, which can be very painful.
How to use
- Massage a few drops of warm olive oil over and around your nails for a few minutes before bedtime.
- You can wear cotton gloves to keep the oil from getting wiped or staining your bed linen during sleep.
- Rinse off the oil with warm water the next morning.
9. Works as a makeup remover
If you are out of cleansing milk, micellar water, or any makeup remover, you can wipe your face with a bit of olive oil and it gets the job done.
Olive oil is loaded with fatty acids, which trap the oil-soluble products on your skin. When this oil mixes with the waxy cosmetics you have on your skin, it breaks them down so that they become easier to remove. It is particularly good for removing eye makeup that is generally wax based, such as waterproof mascara or eyeliner.
Unlike regular makeup removers, olive oil is devoid of harsh ingredients that can irritate the sensitive skin around the eyes. On the contrary, it contains squalene, which deeply hydrates the skin and also conditions the eyelashes.
On top of that, the numerous antioxidants found in olive oil provide added nourishment to the skin around your eyes and your eyelashes. Olive oil is also an antibacterial, although not as effective as coconut oil. So, it can be used along with some antibacterial solution to clean make-up tools as well.
How to use
For light makeup:
- Put a few drops of extra-virgin olive oil on a clean cotton ball.
- Use the oil-soaked ball to gently wipe off the makeup from your face.
- Wash your face with lukewarm water.
For heavy makeup:
- Massage a few drops of extra-virgin olive oil all over your face using clean fingers.
- Let it sit for some time.
- Soak a clean, soft washcloth in lukewarm water, and thoroughly but gently wipe your face with it to get all the product off.
- Splash some water if you still feel like your skin is greasy or unclean.
Note: Olive oil can dissolve the waxy makeup so that it comes off the skin easily, but it can leave some residue behind due to its thick, greasy consistency. So you must always cleanse your skin with a cotton soaked in a surfactant or a skin wipe after the makeup has been removed to make sure your skin is squeaky clean.
10. May remove dark circles
Olive oil is loaded with polyphenols, vitamin E, and phytosterols, all of which are strong antioxidants that help protect your skin from free radicals and also promote skin repair.
Regular application of olive oil can help fade pigmentation and curb the underlying swelling associated with eye bags or dark circles.
How to use
- Gently massage some olive oil around your eyes for a few minutes before going to bed.
- Wash your face the next morning.
Most-Asked Questions About Olive Oil
What are the different kinds of olive oil and which one is to be used on the skin?
Olive oil is available in three basic forms: refined, virgin, and extra-virgin olive oil. Other forms include cold-pressed olive oil, extra-light olive oil, and lampante olive oil.
Of all the variants, extra-virgin olive oil has the highest nutritional value, making it best for your skin, hair, and overall health. But if you don’t have extra virgin oil, virgin olive oil is a suitable alternative as it can deliver considerable skin and hair benefits as well.
Can all skin types use olive oil for skin care?
Olive oil can be used topically as long as it does not trigger any sensitivity reaction and is used in small amounts, but it is not suitable for acne-prone, excessively oily, or congested skin.
Acne-causing bacteria feed on the fatty acids present in olive oil, allowing them to multiply rapidly and cause a breakout. Moreover, the oleic acid found in olive oil can sometimes worsen dermatitis and is not recommended to be used on infants.
Olive oil offers many dermatological benefits, which can be attributed to the vast range of bioactive compounds present in it, such as phenols to triglycerides. All of these compounds make olive oil a potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant agent that can be used either to manage skin conditions or to prevent them.
Although there are many commercial beauty products that contain olive oil as the chief ingredient, you can prepare olive oil-based masks and blends at home. When doing so, though, ensure that you are not allergic to olive oil or the ingredients that you use by doing a patch test first.