Olive oil in skincare: Is it good or bad?

Evaluating natural ingredients is just as important as learning about synthetic ingredients. Researchers have found that olive oil damages the skin's moisture barrier, and that it is may not be a good choice for eczema patients.

I recently started reading the National Eczema Association’s blog, which is a great resource for people who deal with eczema in their everyday lives. Many of the contributors are medical professionals who really know their stuff. Today I’m going to share something I learned from this article: “…olive oil can disrupt the skin’s natural barrier when used as a moisturizer. This is likely because it contains irritating fatty acids such as oleic acids.”

Should you avoid skincare products that contain olive oil?

Intrigued, I came across a study that supported the claim in that article. The study concluded that olive oil damaged the skin barrier, and could aggravate eczema (atopic dermatitis). Here’s an excerpt from the study:

"Sunflower seed oil preserved stratum corneum integrity, did not cause erythema, and improved hydration in the same volunteers. In contrast to sunflower seed oil, topical treatment with olive oil significantly damages the skin barrier, and therefore has the potential to promote the development of, and exacerbate existing, atopic dermatitis."

So sunflower seed oil exhibited favorable effects, while olive oil had the opposite effect: It actually damaged the skin’s moisture barrier, which then aggravated participants in the study who had eczema.

What types of skincare products tend to include olive oil?

This got me thinking—how many of the skincare products on this blog happen to contain olive oil? I conducted a quick search and discovered that the following products include olive oil:

Notice a trend here? Olive oil is included in many sunscreen products, probably because it has been shown to be a natural ingredient that helps protect the skin against photodamage from UV rays. See this study for more details: “The high level of squalane (from olive oil) in some products protects the skin’s sensitive lipids.”

Olive oil for your skin: A do or don’t?

That’s up to you to decide. I just thought it was interesting to learn that olive oil in skincare products may actually damage the skin’s moisture barrier, and that it could have a negative impact on eczema. However, it may also be a natural blocker of UV rays, which is why it’s included in many sunscreens. I’m not necessarily going to avoid sunscreens that include olive oil, but I’ll definitely think twice about whether or not I want to choose a skincare product that contains olive oil (particularly if I plan to use it on an area of my body that typically suffers from eczema). It means a lot that a National Eczema Association published an article that recommended avoiding olive oil in skincare products.

Photo by Roberta Sorge on Unsplash

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