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Should You Put Olive Oil on Your Face: An Investigation

To be, or not to be, a walking salad? That is the question.

Face, Skin, Lip, Beauty, Eyebrow, Head, Cheek, Shoulder, Close-up, Neck,
Gareth CattermoleGetty Images

You've probably heard the rumor that olive oil, that beloved mainstay of your pantry, can work wonders on your skin and nails. The thing is, olive oil is thick—even the most skincare-ignorant among us know that it's sticky and heavy and, well, very oily—and while dousing my face in olive oil sounded like an interesting experiment, I had a bad feeling that it might clog my pores or break me out. So I went to a dermatologist to find the answer, once and for all: Does my favorite cooking staple double as a skincare savior? A.k.a. if I end up smelling like a Greek salad for days, will it be worth it?

Her answer? Well, just like your dating life, your bank account, and your obsession with Timothée Chalamet, it’s complicated. Luckily, I've got a lifetime of beauty knowledge—and a really excellent derm—to help me break it down for you.

Yes, Olive Oil Can Make You Glow

I’m not just talking about the residual grease you’ll be left with after you massage it on. Olive oil, despite all of its scary pore-clogging potential, has some benefits: It’s naturally high in squalene, an oil that mimics your skin’s natural sebum, so it’ll leave your skin barrier extra smooth and soft, and it’s also full of antioxidants that work hard to fight environmental skin damage.

On the flip side my friends, it’s still olive oil. Sure, it’ll act like all face oils, in that it’ll trap moisture for some extra hydration, but there are plenty of other products on the market that are more effective at hydrating—and actually meant to go on your skin.

These cult-favorite moisturizers, for example, are cosmetically elegant and filled with tested-and-approved ingredients that you won't find at your local deli.

Plus, those moisturizing benefits of olive oil mentioned above may not even be necessary. “We all have glands that already produce natural oils on the skin,” says dermatologist Mona Gohara, M.D., assistant clinical professor at Yale University. “Your face doesn’t really need any extra squalene—or at least not in the small levels you’d find in olive oil.” Let's continue.

But It’ll Probably Break You Out

Sorry, but if olive oil were actually this huge, life-changing secret to having Instagram-filter level skin, dermatologists would be out of business. “The weight of olive oil is heavy, making it a breeding ground for acne,” says Dr. Gohara. In terms of its comedogenic rating (i.e. how likely an ingredient is to break you out), olive oil has a moderate risk of clogging pores—less so than coconut oil, but still more than other common skincare ingredients.

“Honestly, I would keep the olive oil for your salad, not for your face,” says Dr. Gohara. Of course, if your face never breaks out (well, aren't you lucky), and you’re in a dry-skin pinch, you can test out olive oil and see how it works for you. Just make sure to massage a few drops over damp skin or your usual moisturizer to seal in hydration, rather than apply it to a dry face.

Or, you can not take your chances with olive oil and instead use a face oil specifically formulated for skin (not food). These me-approved oils below will make your skin brighter, softer, calmer, and more hydrated. And that I'm sure of.

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