It’s been right here in plain sight all this time.
It may be one of the most celebrated ingredients in the world due to its slew of proven health benefits. A new study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, “found that people who consume more than half a tablespoon (7 grams) of olive oil per day have been found to have a lower risk of dying from cardiovascular disease, cancer, neurodegenerative disease and respiratory disease.” And even more literature details olive oil’s ability to seemingly transform dry and rough skin overnight.
You can, of course, ingest the oil on its own, as part of a favorite recipe or rub it directly into your dermis or hair as a topical treatment, but many companies have opted to integrate the miracle liquid into their beauty products, especially in tandem with other skin-protecting elements.
Take Jennifer Lopez’s JLo Beauty skincare line, for example. The singer/actress swears by olive oil’s wrinkle-reducing properties, claiming that she’s never used Botox and has relied on the simple “secret” because “it really does work.”
Whether you choose to believe the seemingly non-aging beauty or not, JLo isn’t the only girl from the block to get in on the olive oil skincare game. Agatha Relota Luczo, Founder and CCO of Furtuna Skin, and Vicky Vlachonis, health and wellness expert and Founder and CEO of Saint Supply Living Elixir, spoke with Beautytap to share more about the powers of olive oil, both in skincare and when ingested (which is how they incorporate it into their popular products, respectively). Nancy Jaffe, a registered dietician, also weighs in on olive oil’s nutritional profile and how it can nourish your body from the inside out.
Benefits of Olive Oil When Applied Topically
Whether applied directly to the skin or as part of a formula, olive oil boasts a bevy of skin-protecting properties like antioxidants, phenols, and vitamin E.
“These ingredients help protect against environmental aggressors and soothe skin damage caused by free radicals (unstable molecules that harm skin cells),” claims Luczco. “Its amino acids support the skin's natural elasticity production and [the presence of] squalene, a fatty molecule found naturally in the body, is a highly effective emollient that hydrates the skin and improves skin's natural glow,” she says. “And omega-rich essential fatty acids plump skin with moisture, enhancing skin's suppleness and radiance.”
In combination with other ingredients, olive oil can also help to maximize their benefits.
“Olive oil and olive leaf hydroglycerin infusions make the perfect delivery system for our skincare formulas because the combination of olive and wild botanicals produces a synergistic effect that amplifies the total effectiveness of the blend,” says Luczco. “A mixture is many times more potent than any individual ingredients alone. Not only does olive oil bring potent levels of nutrients, antioxidants, and other benefits to the mix, it helps the nutrients from the other botanicals work better together and facilitates the skin's uptake of the nourishment.”
Though more research is needed to determine precisely which plants olive oil should be paired with to enhance its effectiveness, buckthorn oil has seen the most promising results.
Benefits of Olive Oil When Consumed
Vlachonis believes so deeply in the healing powers of ingesting olive oil, she created an entire brand around it.
“If we strengthen our body on the inside, the glow will be visible on the outside too,” she says. “That’s why Saint Supply’s flagship product is a magnificent drinking oil that fits easily into one's daily ritual of strengthening and replenishing our body—a unique gift that we have been entrusted with for the long run,” she says.
Jaffe, Saint Supply’s lead dietician, backs these claims, delving deeper into the specific ways in which the Mediterranean staple has likely added years to many people's lives.
“Consumption of olive oil has been shown in the research to be beneficial for a myriad of health issues including reducing the risk of coronary artery disease, improving bowel regularity, maintaining proper immune function, and helping reduce inflammation,” she shares, while bringing attention specifically to olive oil’s aforementioned squalene and its effect on skin.
“Squalene is one of the antioxidants in the Living Elixir, which works to stimulate healthy collagen connectivity. Skin elasticity [is what] delays the onset of wrinkles. It also has anti-inflammatory properties and helps to prevent other signs of skin aging,” she adds.
But don’t go guzzling a bottle or pouring one out in a saucepan to meet your daily needs. There is a science behind how much you should consume and how it is prepared.
Backed by Research
“There is research to support taking specific amounts to help with specific conditions,” reveals Jaffe. “For instance, research shows that consumption of 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil daily may help maintain heart health, support the body's immune system, and regulate digestion. When olive oil is cooked, some of its polyphenol and antioxidant content is lost. This is fine with lower-quality extra virgin olive oil (EVOO), but with high phenolic olive oils like the Saint Supply Living Elixir, it is best to use it in its raw form to ensure that you get the maximum benefit out of it.”
How to Find Olive Oil of the Highest Quality
Sourcing olive oil and rating its quality efficacy can sometimes boil down to a matter of personal opinion. There are plenty of diluted or blended oils on the market that may mislead a typical consumer, but there are also plenty of pure varieties that are derived from state-of-the-art harvesting and processing practices.
Interesting to note that purchasers of olive oils can easily track where their products have been manufactured by simply reading the label and running a quick Google search. Quality control standards are significantly more strict in many parts of Europe, so products—especially food-derived—can be traced down to the specific farm in which they come from.
Luczco is partial to Italy’s export and a special operation she calls the “Soundbath™ method.”
“Our single-origin, extra virgin olive oil is harvested from mighty olive trees on our La Furtuna estate in Sicily. It has won awards worldwide and earned organic certification from the USDA and Bioagricert, so you know it's the highest quality available,” she says. “To make Furtuna Skin products, we start with the same award-winning Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO) that we cold process and bottle to eat. To further enhance our EVOO as a skincare ingredient, we infuse it with a specially crafted blend of wild foraged medicinal plants using our signature Soundbath™ method. This method allows us to extract the highest level of nutrients and capture ingredients at full potency without relying on high heat, lengthy processing times, and harsh solvents. The infused Furtuna Skin EVOO is then blended with other wildly potent skincare ingredients such as our olive leaf water to create the Furtuna Skin high-performance skincare formulas that we are known and loved for.”
Saint Supply, on the other hand, turns to Southern Greece to fulfill its offering of products.
“Saint Supply's potent Living Elixir is derived from organically-grown olives thriving in the rain-drenched and sun-soaked groves of Olympia, an ancient city in southern Greece. This rare variety of olives is naturally rich in polyphenols —plant-based super-nutrients which have been proven to promote optimal cellular health and functionality,” says Vlachonis.
“Laboratory tests have shown that olive polyphenols thrive in higher altitudes, which is why we handpick our olives from ancient groves lying in altitudes over 2,000 feet—a unique location that is also free of environmental pollutants, providing optimal conditions for healthy, bountiful harvests. Saint Supply works closely with a team of dedicated agronomists who determine which trees are just right for producing the highest possible quality of olive oil. In fact, each organic olive is handpicked early in the harvesting season, still green and unripe and therefore at peak polyphenolic potency,” she says.
Saint Supply Living Elixir, which is said to have ten times more polyphenols than other olive oils, is designed to be sipped, although you may also drizzle it on foods. This superhero oil has a delightful aroma, taste and unmistakable pepper-forward kick that you’ll quickly feel at the back of the throat - a sign of those miraculous polyphenols. Vlachonis suggests slowly sipping a tablespoon first thing in the morning. “It’s the ideal way to start your day, helps reduce oxidative stress while supporting mental clarity and it’s beneficial for skin elasticity,” she says. Vlachonis advises clients such as Gwyneth Paltrow, Beyonce and Jake Gyllenhaal to make it part of a daily ritual, like brushing your teeth.
Risks of Consuming or Applying Olive Oil
There is something to be said about “too much of a good thing” and the potentially detrimental effects of anything used in excess. Olive oil does not seem to be the exception, with many studies also citing its potentially adverse effects on the skin, including the ability to cause acne or aggravate eczema.
The same can also be said about ingesting it, especially if you have a pre-existing health condition.
“Olive oil in moderation, like any other food, is considered safe. For those with fat-malabsorption such as from exocrine pancreatic insufficiency or specific bowel resections, they may need to take reduced amounts or make sure to time prescription enzymes appropriately with fat consumption,” Jaffe warns. “For those with diarrhea, taking the olive oil first thing in the morning might lead to more bowel movements, so consider taking it later in the day.”
To err on the side of caution, be sure to consult your general physician or a dermatologist before starting any new diet or skincare regimen.
Millions of consumers have sworn by olive oil’s ability to treat skin issues and provide key health benefits. This is why it has become a nearly $15 billion industry that shows absolutely no signs of slowing down.
While this new Journal of the American College of Cardiology study is very exciting, there does need to be more science from a skincare standpoint, on its anti-aging, wrinkle-reducing potential.
If you haven’t already, now is the time to integrate olive oil into your own life and revel in its many undeniable benefits.
Joey is a writer/editor, TV/radio personality, lifestyle expert, former entertainment publicist and author of Basic Bitchen. He was most recently editor-at-large of CBS Interactive’s Chowhound and his work has also been featured in major outlets like Food & Wine, People, CNET, InStyle, Yahoo!, Travel + Leisure, Lonny, and BuzzFeed. In addition, he is the host of Awesomeness TV’s Dish This and has appeared on Wendy Williams, Entertainment Tonight, CNN, HLN, NBC, CBS, and SiriusXM. Currently based in New York City, in his spare time Joey enjoys volleyball, worshipping Beyonce, fine dining, writing depressing poetry, interior design, and perfecting his stand-up comedy routine. You can find him on Instagram @joeyskladany.