Olive oil is a staple ingredient for most households and one that you likely have in your pantry right now. But did you know that it has a multitude of uses that extend well beyond the kitchen? It’s true! Olive oil is a hard-working ingredient that doesn’t just stop at being a star cooking oil – it’s also a star skincare ingredient and one that has amazing benefits for your skin. Since ancient times, olive oil has been used for skincare purposes, long before it ever met a cast iron skillet. Packed full of antioxidants and monounsaturated fatty acids, it really may be one of skincare’s best-kept secrets. Intrigued? Keep reading to learn more about the history and benefits of this stellar ingredient, and why it’s the top oil we include in our skincare products.
What Is Olive Oil?
Olive oil, sometimes abbreviated to EVOO, is as one might expect, made from olives. It is believed that olives originated as far back as 6000 years ago. Some scholars accredit the cultivation of olives for oil to the ancient Egyptians, thanks to the discovery of olive oil in ancient tombs. While there’s no way to know for certain, the widespread assumption is that the production of olive oil started somewhere around 4000 BC, and by 3000 BC, olive oil was a highly valued good. Ancient Greeks and Romans used it for food, fuel, and perhaps most notably, for soap-making and as a skincare treatment. The Greeks produced olive oil by squeezing the olives with woven mats – and while understandably, this process has evolved over the years, a significant amount of olive oil production still occurs in the Mediterranean region today. Now though, olives are crushed into a paste post-harvest and then processed through a centrifuge that separates the oil. The final product is bottled and stored in dark bottles or stainless steel to protect the product from damaging sunlight.
In the modern age, olive oil has become the preferred alternative to other cooking oils, such as canola, due to its high monounsaturated fat content (you might hear this described as “healthy fat”). But this doesn’t mean olive oil’s only benefits are in cuisine – it turns out, the ancient Greeks were onto something when they used it as a skincare ingredient.
The Benefits of Olive Oil
While we can’t speak to ALL the proposed uses for olive oil out there, when it comes to skincare, a significant body of research is available to back up the claims. Read through the below list and associated studies, and you’ll be amazed at everything this oil can do for your skin!
It’s Full of Antioxidants
Olive oil is packed full of natural antioxidants, which are substances that, as you might have gathered from the name, prevent oxidation. Oxidation is a natural process that cells use to create energy from oxygen, and as energy is being produced, free radicals are created as a by-product. In high concentrations, free radicals can damage your cells and DNA, which has been associated with a variety of medical conditions ranging from wrinkles to osteoporosis. This is where antioxidants come into play! Antioxidants help to neutralize free radicals and prevent them from causing damage, and fortunately, olive oil is rich in them. One specific antioxidant included in olive oil that has extra benefits for the skin is squalene, which some studies have found can reduce sun damage and potentially even prevent premature aging. While our skin naturally contains squalene, our natural stores can become depleted – so using olive oil products on your skin can help replenish that protection.
Squalene may even slow or prevent the development of skin cancers. One study found that when exposed to cancer-causing UV light, mice that were coated in olive oil showed significantly less tumor development than a control group that was not treated with olive oil. Researchers believe this is due to the antioxidant content of olive oil. While this has only been observed in mice so far, antioxidants remain a very hot topic among researchers and continue to be a topic in ongoing studies.
It’s Anti-Inflammatory and Anti- Bacterial
Those same antioxidants that we discussed above are also responsible for providing olive oil with anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties. Out of those many antioxidants, a key player in reducing inflammation is oleocanthal. Shown to work similarly to ibuprofen, oleocanthal manages inflammation and can be soothing to irritated skin, which could be inflamed due to sensitivities, harsh products, and more. One study even found that olive oil’s antioxidants can stop genes that drive inflammation from activating.
On top of this, olive oil has anti-bacterial properties that can kill off harmful bacteria, like those that cause acne or other skin conditions. In one study, individuals who were acne prone were able to reduce the occurrence of acne and flare-ups when using olive oil.
Note: Because olive oil is, well, oily, we recommend using skincare products made with olive oil on your skin instead of the oil directly, especially if you have naturally oily skin.
It's An Excellent Moisturizer
Of course, we would be remiss if we wrote about olive oil’s benefits without discussing its natural capabilities as a moisturizer! As those who are familiar with olive oil already know, it is rich in monounsaturated fatty acids, which soften and nourish skin, as well as “lock in” moisture. It also contains alpha-hydroxy acids, which aid in gently exfoliating and washing away dead skin cells, leaving skin glowing and healthy. Finally, plentiful fat-soluble vitamins contained in olive oil such as A, D, E, and K, can provide an extra boost of nutrition for your skin. For instance, vitamin E oil is often used topically as a treatment for eczema, psoriasis, scarring, and more.
When it comes to taking care of your skin, you really can’t go wrong with olive oil! There are so many benefits to be gained for your skin and overall health by incorporating it into your skincare routine. While it certainly can be applied to the skin alone, this can be messy and inconvenient due to a need to blot excess oil from the skin. We recommend selecting products that contain pure olive oil as a key ingredient. Importantly, especially if you suffer from sensitive skin, stick to unscented or naturally scented products whenever possible – artificial fragrances are the leading cause of skin irritation, and may reduce the effectiveness of the olive oil if your skin reacts to it. (And as usual, always check with your dermatologist if you have severe skin sensitivities, conditions, or other concerns with trying a new product).
If you’re interested in trying products made with olive oil, check out our goat milk soap, lotion sticks, all-natural deodorant, or goat milk bath! At Madd House Hill, olive oil is the number one oil we use to craft our skincare products, along with rich goat milk, other nourishing ingredients, and pure essential oils. Our products are pure, handcrafted, and all-natural, so everyone can experience the amazing benefits this powerful ingredient can have on your skin.
Until Next Time,
Madd House Hill