Olive oil is a pantry staple that is known for its health benefits in our diets. It turns out it may be just as beneficial for our skin as well.
Olive oil is rich in vitamins and antioxidants, and has been linked to improved skin moisturization, anti-aging effects, and relief from sun damage.
Olive oil can be used on the skin on its own or as part of skincare products such as facial cleansers or lotions.
This article discusses the benefits and risks of applying olive oil to your skin.
Healthiest Cooking Oils to Lower Cholesterol
What's in Olive Oil?
Olive oil is a nutrient-packed oil made from pressing olives and then expressing their oil. It is rich in healthy monounsaturated fats and antioxidants, which may benefit the skin when applied directly to it.
Because olive oil helps to lock in moisture, it can be used on the skin for extra moisturization and treatment of dry skin.
There are several beauty products like soaps and lotions that have added olive oil to their formulations for its skin benefits.
Olives are considered a soft fruit, much like peaches and plums. That means they can bruise easily, which affects the quality of the oil.
Look for olive oils that list “hand-picked olives” on the label to ensure that you have a high-quality product.
Olive Oil's Benefits for Skin
Olive oil is packed with healthy vitamins, fats, and antioxidants, and these components can contribute to healthier-looking skin. It moisturizes skin by locking in moisture, and its antioxidants can help to improve signs of aging.
Currently, we know of the following skin benefits of olive oil:
- Moisturizes the skin: Olive oil contains squalene andvitamin E. Squalene supports the skin’s moisture retention, whereas vitamin E increases the skin’s capacity to absorb and retain water.
- Reduces the signs of aging: Olive oil is rich in antioxidants. These compounds can combat oxidative stress, which is associated with skin aging. They can also increase collagen in the skin.
- Helps cleanse the skin: Because like attracts like, olive oil can be used to dissolve oily residue on the skin. That said, it can be used to remove certain types of makeup—particularly waterproof products.
- Promotes wound healing: Olive oil also has anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties, which can aid in wound healing. Studies show that olive oil may be able to promote healing of diabetic foot ulcers and prevent pressure ulcers.
Side Effects of Olive Oil
While olive oil boasts many health benefits, it’s not for everyone. Excess oil on your skin can lead to clogged pores and acne breakouts. It may also irritate your skin.
Preliminary research suggests that applying olive oil topically can damage the skin’s barrier, potentially leading to sensitive skin and atopic dermatitis.
Olive oil should be used with caution if you have sensitive skin.
It should also generally be avoided for infant skin since it may interfere with their skin barrier.
Patch Testing to Diagnose Contact Dermatitis
How to Use It
There are two ways to start incorporating olive oil into your skincare routine.
First, you could invest in products that list olive oil as a main ingredient. There are now many facial cleansers, soaps, and moisturizers that use olive oil as an ingredient.
The other option is to use the olive oil sitting in your pantry right now.
The composition of olive oil can change if it’s exposed to light or heat, so keep your bottle in a cool, dry place like the pantry.
To use olive oil as a skin moisturizer:
- Opt for a quality extra virgin olive oil without chemical additives.
- Apply a small amount to your skin after cleansing—a little can go a long way.
- Wipe away any excess oil with a clean towel. Removing the excess oil is important because it helps to prevent the oil from clogging your pores. Clogged pores can lead to breakouts.
Start with a Patch Test
An easy way to determine if your skin will tolerate an olive oil treatment is to apply a few drops to a small patch of skin and observe it. If you do not notice any skin reactions for one to two days, it should be safe to try on a larger patch of skin.
Olive oil can be used as part of a daily skincare regimen or as needed when your skin feels dry.
Apply a thin layer to moisturize your face after cleansing. Olive oil helps to lock moisture in, so use it after putting on lotion and before makeup.
If you apply a daily sunscreen every morning, gently apply a thin layer of olive oil right before the sunscreen and dab away any excess.
Another options is to apply small amounts of olive oil to any extra dry areas of skin, such as your hands, throughout the day. For example, you could add a few drops of oil to your hands after washing dishes.
Olive oil can also be used to help wash off stubborn makeup at the end of the day.
It naturally lifts the makeup off of your skin, making your regular cleanser much more effective.
Just as it can be used as a body moisturizer, olive oil can be used to moisturize skin prior to shaving. Rub it onto skin in place of a foam or gel-based shaving cream. Gently wash the area afterward to avoid clogging your pores.
Will Olive Oil Heal Your Acnes Scares or Lighten Dark Spots?
There are some potential skin benefits of topical olive oil and it may be used as a natural skin moisturizer or makeup remover. It’s best to always wipe away excess oil and avoid using it on sensitive skin to avoid reactions.
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
Romana-Souza B, Monte-Alto-Costa A. Olive oil inhibits ageing signs induced by chronic stress in ex vivo human skin via inhibition of extracellular-signal-related kinase 1/2 and c-JUN pathways. Int J Cosmet Sci. 2019;41(2):156-163. doi:10.1111/ics.12520
Pavlou P, Siamidi A, Varvaresou A, Vlachou M. Skin care formulations and lipid carriers as skin moisturizing agents.Cosmetics. 2021;8(3):89. doi:10.3390/cosmetics8030089
Elkhateeb WA, Noor A, Rashid A, et al. Current awareness and knowledge of olive oil.Int J Pharm Chem Anal. 2022;9(2):64-70. doi:10.18231/j.ijpca.2022.011
Taheri M, Amiri-Farahani L. Anti-inflammatory and restorative effects of olives in topical application.Derm Res Pract. 2021;2021:1-9. doi:10.1155/2021/9927976
Nasiri M, Fayazi S, Jahani S, Yazdanpanah L, Haghighizadeh MH. The effect of topical olive oil on the healing of foot ulcer in patients with type 2 diabetes: a double-blind randomized clinical trial study in Iran.J Diabetes Metab Disord. 2015;14(1):38. doi:10.1186/s40200-015-0167-9
Díaz-Valenzuela A, García-Fernández FP, Carmona Fernández P, Valle Cañete MJ, Pancorbo-Hidalgo PL. Effectiveness and safety of olive oil preparation for topical use in pressure ulcer prevention: Multicentre, controlled, randomised, and double-blinded clinical trial. Int Wound J. 2019;16(6):1314-1322. doi:10.1111/iwj.13191
Danby SG, AlEnezi T, Sultan A, et al. Effect of olive and sunflower seed oil on the adult skin barrier: implications for neonatal skin care. Pediatr Dermatol. 2013;30(1):42-50. doi:10.1111/j.1525-1470.2012.01865.x
Cooke A, Cork M, Victor S, et al. Olive oil, sunflower oil or no oil for baby dry skin or massage: a pilot, assessor-blinded, randomized controlled trial(The oil in baby skincare [observe] study).Acta Derm Venerol. 2016;96(3):323-330. doi:10.2340/00015555-2279
Cui Z, Xin M, Yin H, Zhang J, Han F. Topical use of olive oil preparation to prevent radiodermatitis: results of a prospective study in nasopharyngeal carcinoma patients. Int J Clin Exp Med. 2015;8(7):11000-11006.
Lin TK, Zhong L, Santiago JL. Anti-inflammatory and skin barrier repair effects of topical application of some plant oils. Int J Mol Sci. 2017;19(1):70. doi:10.3390/ijms19010070
Melguizo-Rodríguez L, de Luna-Bertos E, Ramos-Torrecillas J, Illescas-Montesa R, Costela-Ruiz VJ, García-Martínez O. Potential effects of phenolic compounds that can be found in olive oil on wound healing. Foods. 2021;10(7):1642. doi:10.3390/foods10071642
Miraj S, Pourafzali S, Ahmadabadi ZV, Rafiei Z. Effect of olive oil in preventing the development of pressure ulcer grade one in intensive care unit patients. Int J Prev Med. 2020;11:23. doi:10.4103/ijpvm.IJPVM_545_18
Moore ZE, Webster J. Dressings and topical agents for preventing pressure ulcers. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2018;12(12):CD009362. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD009362.pub3
Zahmatkesh M, Manesh MJ, Babashahabi R. Effect of olea ointment and acetate mafenide on burn wounds - a randomized clinical trial. Iran J Nurs Midwifery Res. 2015;20(5):599-603. doi:10.4103/1735-9066.164507
By Carrie Madormo, RN, MPH
Carrie Madormo, RN, MPH, is a health writer with over a decade of experience working as a registered nurse. She has practicedin a variety of settings including pediatrics, oncology, chronic pain, and public health.
See Our Editorial Process
Meet Our Medical Expert Board
Was this page helpful?
Thanks for your feedback!
What is your feedback?