Can You Really Use Olive Oil On Your Face? I Asked A Dermatologist

I got the final answer.
PHOTO: istockphoto

Once upon a time, when I was still a college student, I exclusively used drugstore makeup and DIY skincare. A P1,000 concealer? Nope, I’m good with my P450 drugstore concealer. Fancy face masks? I’ll stick with my homemade masks. ~*LuXuRiOuS*~ face oils? Nah, I’ll slather straight-up olive oil on my skin instead.

Although I’ve since moved onto the finer things in life—solely because I am a beauty editor and get sent things for free (I know, I’m sorry)—I still look fondly at my bottle of olive oil, wondering if I should, in fact, start slathering it on my face again.

But because I’m now in my 20s and dealing with really fun quarter-life breakouts (yay, second puberty!), I also felt the need to consult with a dermatologist first to find out if it’s actually safe and beneficial to use olive oil for your skin like the internet and college me suggest. The answer? Well, you gotta keep reading.

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Is it okay to put olive oil on your face?

It depends on what “okay” means to you. Is it going to burn your face off? No, unless you’re allergic to olives (but why you here tho?). But is it excellent for your skin? Probably not. Some studies suggest that olive oil’s high level of oleic acid (an acid that is thought to act like sebum and clog pores) may be detrimental to your skin barrier and cause water loss, but those studies were either super small or not studied on the average adult.

On the flip side, other studies show that olive oil is a natural anti-inflammatory and can help with wound healing—all good, beneficial things for your skin—and is also high in hydrating squalene and protective antioxidants. Still, these redeeming qualities don’t exactly make it a first-pick choice for dermatologists.

“Olive oil does contain some good-for-you properties, but there are still so many other cosmetically elegant products that are far more effective for your skin, without the risk of acne, barrier impact, or shine,” says dermatologist Mona Gohara, MD, associate clinical professor at Yale University. (Not sure which oil to try? Start with one of our list of tried and tested face oils.) Basically, there’s no single answer as to whether or not olive oil is good for your skin, but if you’re curious, there’s likely no major harm in experimenting with it for a few days.

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Is olive oil good for acne?

The big question: Does olive oil clog pores or will olive oil cause acne? And, hey, I get it—I don’t want my face to break out either. If you’re set on trying olive oil on your skin, know that it is moderately comedogenic (i.e., has the potential to clog pores). “Olive oil is a naturally heavy oil, making it a breeding ground for bacteria that can clog pores and cause acne,” says Dr. Gohara.

Of course, everyone’s skin is different, and some acne-prone people may have no problem slathering on olive oil every night, while others may find that it triggers breakouts. It’s also important to note that olive oil’s pore-clogging abilities can change or even be eliminated if it’s mixed with other skincare ingredients. So don’t automatically rule out your new face cream just because it has a bit of olive oil in it.

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What does olive oil do for your skin?

Oils, in general, act as an occlusive for your skin—an occlusive being an agent that traps water and moisture into your skin and prevents it from escaping. Excellent, glowing skin is only possible if your skin barrier is super hydrated, and occlusives help you get there. However, as noted above, there’s some doubt as to whether or not olive oil is actually that occlusive, in which case you’re really not getting any major moisture benefits from slathering it on your skin.

Still, if your skin is incredibly dry and you have nothing on hand except olive oil, it’s likely better than nothing for the time being. Just make sure to massage it over your moisturizer or on top of damp skin—occlusives don’t hydrate; they just lock in the hydration below it.

The final word on olive oil for skin:

“You can totally use olive oil if you really want to, especially if you’re not prone to acne or dryness,” says Dr. Gohara. “But it’s not likely to transform your skin.” I know—bummer. That doesn’t mean you can’t use it on your hair as an olive oil deep-conditioning treatment or on your ragged elbows and cuticles as a quick fix, but on your face? Maybe think twice and try a specifically formulated face oil like these instead.

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This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.com. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.

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