Can olive oil help get rid of acne?

  • Olive oil is largely composed of oleic acid

  • Application of oleic acid actually worsens the acne

  • Oleic acid increases the production of P. Acnes bacteria, responsible for breakouts

Can olive oil help get rid of acne?

One of the beauty rumours we hear on a regular basis when it comes to ‘miracle’ cures  for acne is olive oil. It might sound surprising - applying oil to oily, acne-prone skin? Let's have a closer look at some of the reasons behind the theory.

Oil on oily skin?

Applying oil to naturally oily skin is not necessarily a terrible idea. The important factor is what kind of oils might help your symptoms, and which ones could cause further breakouts.

Your skin naturally produces oil to keep it supple and moisturised. However, when our skin barrier is damaged or not functioning correctly, or are damaged, this natural oil can be lost and the skin goes into over-production to replace it. This is when comedones (spots) can develop. Certain natural oils can help restore the skin's barrier and work with your natural oils to rebalance your skin's sebum production. So not all oils are bad.

The theory

Some beauty blogs claim that olive oil is excellent for treating acne. Olive oil is supposedly able to moisturise the skin without blocking the pores, has exfoliant properties and improves the skin's natural elasticity.

What does science say?

Olive oil is largely composed of oleic acid (up to 80%). While this acid might be reputed as beneficial for various health concerns, when it comes to applying topically to the skin, science says no. Tests have shown that the application of oleic acid to comedones actually worsens the acne. Back in 1993, scientists also showed that oleic acid increased the production of P. Acnes bacteria, which causes spots.

The conclusion

Don't believe beauty myths until you've seen some science behind them. While there's nothing wrong with drizzling olive oil on your salad (actually, this could be a good idea), keep the olive oil away from your face if you suffer from acne.