Circa 2013–2014, everyone you knew and their moms were singing the virtues of coconut oil for internal and topical uses. It was said to burn more fat, balance your skin when used as a cleanser or a moisturizer, clean your teeth and gums of nasty bacteria, and create healthy, bouncy curls. Then some of us figured out the hard way that coconut oil is very comedogenic: my worst skin year of 2015 was solely due to using coconut oil-infused BB cream! However, there’s a new oily beauty superfood in town that fits into my lifestyle more easily: olive oil.
The extraordinarily youthful 76-year-old Norma Kamali calls it her “favorite food” and even carries around a mini bottle just in case she needs a boost. For insane glow, she advises: “stay hydrated, olive oil consumption daily, exfoliate, moisturize, my subtle self-tan, and workout to sweat out the toxins.” Italian legend Sophia Loren literally bathes in olive oil. Jennifer Lopez recently launched a skincare brand using olive oil as its hero ingredient. And finally, there is a polyphenol-rich sipping olive oil brand called Saint Supply, of which Queen Beyonce is an investor. Okay, I’m listening now!
Olive oil’s beauty elixir status goes way back before Hollywood 2021. It was used in ancient Egypt to moisturize and heal sun-damaged skin, and Cleopatra used it alongside black seed oil and, according to Hippocrates, donkey milk bath (will skip that one, thanks). Its allure isn’t just the stuff of legends, though: olive oil contains over 200 bioactive compounds, rich fatty acids, carotenoids, sterols, vitamin E, and squalene, which promotes collagen connectivity and elasticity, and delay premature aging. In a study of the topical application of plant oils, extra virgin olive oil came out on top for antioxidant content (over other options like grape seed, argan, avocado, coconut, sesame, shea butter, etc). Olive oil has also tested effective for wound treatment and skin cancer reduction. The star of a Mediterranean diet, olive oil is also said to help maintain a healthy heart, boost the immune system, promote mental focus, and improve digestive function.
That all sounds incredible, right? But before you slather your face with the bottle in your pantry, know that olive oil is moderately comedogenic and can induce breakouts in sensitive or acnegenic skin. Some studies indicate that olive oil can actually damage the skin barrier of sensitive types. Dermatologists also warn that oleic acid in olive oil can trigger dandruff: malassezia, an yeast that causes dandruff flakes, feeds on olive oil. As someone who has experimented with oils and found her happy place—papaya-based Ruby Oil by Earthwise Beauty—I’m not taking any more chances! Instead, reap the benefits the safe way by drizzling extra virgin olive oil on your salads, soups, popcorn, bread, or pasta. In Italy, one of the things I noticed was that all pasta dishes are finished with a drizzle of rich, green, peppery olive oil, making any simple tomato sauce taste like the food of the gods. It’s simple, decadent, and probably the reason Italian women are so effortlessly beautiful (I bet).
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Photo: Dmitri Karastelev via Unsplash; Norma Kamali via Facebook