Olive oil mythology
Many medical and scientific studies have proven the health benefits of using olive oil in moderation in cooking. The Mayo Clinic site carries several articles that extoll the virtues of cooking with olive oil and using olive oil in food. However, some medical sites are now reporting olive oil may be as bad as a Big Mac when ingested and that cooking virgin olive oil may be hazardous to your health. In fact, if you Google “olive oil dangers” you will find more than 1,310,000 results.
While there are many positive articles on reputable medical sites about the benefits of ingesting olive oil, I could not find any articles on the Mayo Clinic website or any equally reliable websites about the virtues of applying olive oil to your skin, but there were a plethora of articles on many lesser-known and less reliable sites singing the praises of using olive oil on your skin. In fact, there is an entire romantic mythology that has sprung up around olive oil involving Cleopatra, Sophia Loren and the “Women of Yore” all of whom reportedly used olive oil — and the olive oil is supposedly the one specific element made and kept these women beautiful! However, Celebrity News has a clip of Sophia Loren on YouTube allegedly saying “No” to a question about bathing in olive oil, and she has frequently attributed her natural beauty to good genes, a love of life, and a healthy diet.
I use olive oil on my hands after I open the bottle. My right-hand gets the full olive oil treatment because I open the bottle with my left hand, and the oil from the cap gets on my left hand, so I wipe it off and massage it into my right hand. My left-hand gets whatever is left over. In all my years of doing so, I have never seen the least bit of difference between my left hand, where the olive oil gets on my fingers and palm, and the right hand — the hand I massage the excess oil into.
While I frequently use olive oil on my hands, I don’t use olive oil on my face and don’t recommend that my readers do so. Olive oil is moderately comedogenic and the squalene in the oil is not transported effectively into the skin through the olive oil.
If you are using olive oil on your skin with no ill effects and enjoy the feel, that is fine, enjoy that “feel” because that’s about all you are getting. The olive oil is basically sitting on top of your skin’s protective barrier making your skin “feel” lubricated, but not doing much else for it.
Olive oil issues
Olive oil is not as good for your skin as you may think. In fact, in spite of what the many olive oil and “natural” websites claim, olive oil and skin care go together somewhat like, well… oil and water.
Olive Oil Can Cause Acne
Olive oil is moderately comedogenic. Applying olive oil to your skin can trap dirt, other oils and bacteria and cause comedones or acne pimples.
Olive Oil Is Not Easily Absorbed by Skin
While some non-medical sites state that skin does not readily absorb olive oil, most natural-remedy sites claim olive oil is easily absorbed. While it is true that “squalene is quickly and efficiently absorbed deep into the skin,” the study in no way suggests olive oil is “quickly and efficiently absorbed deep into the skin.”
Squalene in Olive Oil is Not Easily Absorbed by Skin
In fact, olive oil molecules do not effectively penetrate the skin and need a “suitable carrier” to get them past the skin’s protective barrier. Human skin comes equipped with a protective barrier that will not readily permit the passage of most lipids (fat) soluble portions of plants and oils. This protective barrier more readily permits the absorption of carefully formulated water-soluble products with special carriers. To get the squalene in the olive oil absorbed into the skin takes more than smearing on some olive oil.
The following pdf offers an excellent look at how squalene can work in skin care — when it is used in the right formulations and with the right carriers. That study determined the optimal composition of a squalene mixture in an oil-in-water emulsion, using a design of experiments to elaborate the experimental strategy. See:
Olive Oil is a Poor Substitute for Efficacious Skin Care
Sadly, in one of the discussions I read, someone posted that a professionally trained and educated dermatologist stated “olive oil will clog pores” and then took advice from an untrained herbal home-remedy “specialist.” Really? Would YOU pick a witch doctor over the Mayo Clinic? Because that’s pretty much what you are doing when you let some natural remedy proponent tell you that your doctor or dermatologist is wrong. Oh, but the greedy dermatologist just wants your money! (Or so you will be told). Really? Doesn’t the person who writes the “natural remedy” articles, runs the websites, makes the soap, or other herbal or natural products etc. — doesn’t that person have a financial motive in mind with their “natural” advice?
Dangers of Olive Oil
If you run to Google instead of your dermatologist or doctor for health advice, try Googling “olive oil dangers.” You will find over 1,310,000 results.
Bacterial Infections & Death
Recently a Nashville friend told me of someone she knew who got a terrible infection from bacteria trapped in the skin by olive oil. Her “natural” solution to proper skincare led to expensive medical treatment. I watched my own mother, who swore by natural remedies, try to cure a small, scaly spot on her leg with olive oil and other natural remedies for many months. By the time I convinced her to see her doctor, her melanoma was so far advanced it killed her. Olive oil was a deadly placebo that did nothing to help her — it just ensured she did not get to a doctor in time.