4 min read

Olive oil’s benefits: Think outside the kitchen!

Those antioxidants and vitamin E are powerful boosts for skin and hair

The near-miraculous benefits of olive oil as a beauty aid for the skin and the hair have been known since at least the epoch of ancient Egypt, and yet millions of consumers around the world remain aware only of its utility in cooking and as a salad dressing.

For them, it’s time to think outside the kitchen and beyond the dining table.

Tony Nakhla, MD, a board-certified dermatologist and founder of skincare specialists Eighth Day, told US-based Women’s Health magazine that, due to risks of allergic reactions, he wasn’t “a big proponent of home remedies that encourage people to put food on their skin”.

Nevertheless, he said, “olive oil is one exception ­– it can be used anywhere on the body as an emollient and skin hydrator”.

The same article by Kristin Granero and Marissa Miller cited the “magic” that extra virgin olive oil can work on the hair thanks to its amazing hydrating power. They quoted the advice of hairstylist Gary Baker, Unite creative director: “Apply it once a week to damp hair and cover with a shower cap for 20 to 25 minutes. Rinse it out and leave a slight residue on the hair so that it feels silky to the touch.”

Then there’s the vitamin E found in abundance in olive oil that can help reduce dandruff, as pointed out by Julie Russak, MD, a dermatologist in New York City. “Just mix a teaspoon of olive oil and a squeeze of lemon to the scalp,” she said.

When it comes to removing makeup, said Jacqueline Schaffer, MD and author of “Irresistible You”: “If you ever run out of makeup remover or are searching for a natural remover without any harsh chemicals, olive oil is a great alternative.”

Use a cotton ball to apply a few drops to your skin, wiping away your makeup. Then wash off the residue with your preferred cleanser.

In terms of skincare, Tony Nakhla said he swears by this cuticle-softening trick: Soak your hands in a mixture of equal parts white vinegar and warm water for five minutes – to kill germs and prevent fungus, pat hands dry, then apply a few drops of olive oil to each cuticle and allow it to absorb for about 10 minutes.

Olive oil can even help your fingernails and toenails to grow, the article points out. “Because of its rich vitamin E content,” Russak said, “it is extremely moisturising and easily absorbed, which makes it great for nail growth. Soak your nails in olive oil for about 20 minutes once a week to feel its full effect.”

Perhaps Nakhla’s most intriguing advice applies to dealing with dry or cracked skin, using just one teaspoon of olive oil. Cover your hands with plastic wrap to ensure that the oil is fully absorbed, he said. “This process is called occlusion therapy and forces the oil into the skin, which contains potent polyphenols and antioxidants that help restore and renew skin cells.” Wear the gloves overnight or for a few hours. Then, remove the gloves and gently pat dry with a paper towel to get rid of any excess oil. Your hands will feel much softer.

For dry, itchy or inflamed skin, Russak offered this opinion. “Many people find that olive oil calms irritated and inflamed skin, thanks to a compound called oleocanthal.” Simply add some olive oil to a warm bath for all-over relief.

Those potent antioxidants and the vitamin E in olive oil are also magnificent in fending off signs of ageing because they help to gather and neutralise free radicals that can otherwise damage the skin.

Dr Schaffer noted as well that you can get a “natural-looking glow” in the skin by adding just a few drops of olive oil (not too much) to a powder highlighter or eyeshadow, lending the complexion “a dewier shimmer”.

Hairstylist Baker said he pops a drop of olive oil into the styling products he uses, like mousse and heat spray, to “add shine and moisture”.

Finally, cosmetic chemist and celebrity aesthetician Elina Fedotova had a recipe for an “olive wake-up scrub” to use instead of soap during your morning shower to gently exfoliate and prep your skin for both cooler days and dry heat.

You need:

  • 2 Tbsp organic brown sugar
  • 2 Tbsp freshly ground coffee
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil

Mix ingredients and massage into skin from head to toe, then rinse. “After you rinse the scrub off,” she said, “you will not even need body lotion.”