Last week, my friend nonchalantly informed me that she slathers olive oil on her face at night. “What?” she asked, as I went into cardiac arrest, “I read about it on the internet.” Hours later, after my funeral, I texted my dermatologist to ask if I was the crazy one, if a simple salad dressing was the missing key to ridiculously good, glowing skin.
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 few really excellent derms—to help me break it down for you.
Yes, Olive Oil Can Make You Glow
And I’m not just talkin’ about the residual grease you’ll be left with after you massage it on. Olive oil, despite all of its scary pore-clogging potential, does have 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 to fight environmental skin damage.
On the flip side, it’s still olive oil. Sure, it’ll act like all face oils act, 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 a deli.
Neutrogena Hydro Boost Water Gel, $15
Aveeno Active Naturals Daily Moisturizer with SPF 30, $14
Olay Regenerist Luminous Light Hydrating Moisturizer, $14
Burt's Bees Daily Face Moisturizer for Sensitive Skin, $11
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.”
But It’ll Probably Break You Out
Sorry, but if olive oil were actually the huge, life-changing secret to having excellent 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 (lucky you), 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). The me-approved oils below will make your skin brighter, softer, calmer, and more hydrated. And that I'm sure of.