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Can you use Olive Oil in your Skincare routine?

Can you use Olive Oil in your Skincare routine?

Skincare devotees often already have a necessary ingredient at home: facial oil. For centuries, olive oil has been celebrated for its hydrating properties and was even used by ancient Egyptian queen Cleopatra. But is it best to apply the oil to your complexion? To find out, we consulted industry experts for their opinion on using olive oil on the skin.

The health benefits of olive oil make it an ideal option for external use as well as dietary inclusion.

This emollient is packed with monounsaturated fatty acids and antioxidants, making it highly effective in moisturizing skin. Those with very dry or damaged skin may particularly benefit from olive oil, especially during winter.

"The lipid barrier holds our skin cells together and when we turn on the heaters during the cold weather, it can deplete the liquid membrane of the skin and cause dryness and fissures," notes Neda Mehr, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist and medical director at Pure Dermatology Cosmetic & Hair Center in Newport Beach, Calif. "Applying olive oil to damp skin when the pores are open can be an effective way to replenish the skin barrier and hydrate winter-dry, cracked skin."

Olive oil offers numerous advantages, including acting as an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. Dermatologists affirm that triterpenes in olive oil assist wound healing by helping generate collagen and lessening the recovery duration. Moreover, research demonstrates that it can facilitate skin repair after sunburn. 

Dr. Mehr warns that olive oil might seem like an appealing moisturizer, but it can actually result in clogged pores and lead to acne breakouts. Furthermore, he cautions against using olive oil while exposed to sunlight, citing the example of people from the '50s who applied baby oil and then sunbathed. Without sun protection, he warns that olive oil can cause sunburns and severe skin damage.

The view as to whether olive oil should be put directly on skin is varied. "Rather than a skin-care product, olive oil is typically not a good option," states Anna Babayan, an esthetician and owner of Anna Babayan Skincare in Boston. "Our skin does not have needed enzymes to absorb the molecules. As a result, olive oil simply remains on the skin's surface and helps maintain moisture levels." According to Babayan, ingesting olive oil is best to get its benefits. Yet, Dr. Mehr believes olive oil has advantages for a skin condition. "For atopic dermatitis, which is eczema, it can be a great option," she explains. However, Dr. Mehr also states it is not useful for eliminating dark spots or hyperpigmentation. "It actually can trigger breakouts and make hyperpigmentation worse if patients apply it before going in the sun," she adds.

If you do choose to use straight olive oil on your skin, Dr. Mehr recommends applying the oil within three minutes of getting out of the shower at night (i.e., NEVER before sun exposure). And make sure to massage a few drops over your usual moisturizer to seal in hydration, rather than apply it to a dry face.

According to Dr. Mehr, after drying the skin following a shower, it is recommended to apply several drops of olive oil to the skin, preferably before going to bed, and solely on areas of the skin that are not prone to acne (such as the hands, forearms, and legs). Moreover, it is crucial to select an organic, extra-virgin variety of olive oil, as pesticides may be used on olives, and it is never advisable to apply these toxins to the skin.

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