Olive Oil: The miracle skin cleanser

Here’s a little discovery I recently blundered upon: plain old olive oil makes a great facial cleanser and skin conditioner.

I know…it’s counterintuitive. Olive oil should make your skin greasy. But it doesn’t. Not at all. In fact, as I write this my skin could use a little face cream. Some people say it’s safe to use on naturally oily skin prone to acne, because your own skin’s native oiliness has nothing to do with what you put on it and everything to do with your hormones. So many people buy into this theory that there’s actually a coterie of folks who have developed an “Oil Cleansing Method”(OCM), which they recommend for acne sufferers.

The other day I stumbled on this when I opened a freebie sample packet of expensive skin cream from L’Occitane. Thinking it was rather nice, I glanced at the ingredients and discovered the stuff is mostly water and olive oil.

Olive oil? I’ve got that in the kitchen, and it sure doesn’t cost what a bottle of fancy goop from L’Occitane costs.

Meanwhile, there’s a backstory here you should know about: Over the past two or three years, I’ve developed a maddeningly itchy spot on my face. It runs along the sides of my nose, especially around the creases where the nose joins the face. One dermatologist decided it was seborrheic dermatitis and prescribed a high-octane cortisone cream. Another dermatologist said it certainly was not that, because there was no visible reddening or rash, but she didn’t know what it is and thought I should leave it alone.

Well, cortisone cream does nothing. After I’d faithfully followed the first specialist’s instructions for about ten days, I learned that cortisone creams can cause your skin to atrophy. That’s just what I need: atrophied skin on my face! Thanks, doc!

Moving on, I tried dandruff shampoo (briefly soothing…for about ten minutes), calamine lotion, insect itch stuff, face creams, Vaseline, witch hazel, Bactine, antibiotic ointments, Myconazole, special soaps, Benadryl cream, oral antihistamines, swearing off caffeine, swearing off alcohol, and on and on and on. NOTHING helped to make it heal up, and only two things would stop the itch for longer than about five or ten minutes: salacylic acid (in Scalpicin) and benzyl alcohol plus pramoxine HCL (in Itchex gel). Both of these sting like the dickens when you apply them—as in hurt so much it makes your eyes water—but they would stop the itching for three to five hours, which was better than anything else did. Meanwhile, I continued to unconsciously paw at my face, because nothing would bring the itch to an end.

When I realized the L’Occitane cream was mostly olive oil, the Still Small Voice whispered, “Olive oil? Try it!”

Why not? Nothing ventured, nothing gained. The OCM enthusiasts are hot to add stuff like castor oil and aloe, but I decided I would restrain myself from running to the drugstore and just use the Costco olive oil I had in the house. Here’s the strategy:

You need

a small amount of olive oil
small dish
warm water
washcloth
a few minutes of undisturbed time

Pour a tablespoon or two of olive into a little dish. Using your fingers, dip up oil and spread it over your face. Rub the oil gently around and into the skin.

Dampen the washcloth well with very warm but NOT scaldingly hot water. Lay the warm washcloth over your well-oiled face and let it set. Relax while allowing the steamy warmth to work on your skin. As the cloth cools, repeat this several times.

Then gently wipe the excess oil from your skin. Rinse and wring out the washcloth, and you’re done! If you like, splash some cold water on your face as an astringent.

Amazingly, as soon as I applied olive oil to the itchy area around my nose, it started to sooth the discomfort! And it didn’t hurt.

After I finished wiping the oil off my face, I dabbed a light film of olive oil onto the itchy area. It worked! It didn’t 100% cure the itching, but it soothed enough that I could keep my hands off my face all day long.

I’ve been using olive oil on my face for several days now, and it’s making a huge difference. Maybe over time the years-old irritation will settle down and go away. BTW, the oil also works really well to remove make-up. It even takes off mascara. It leaves your skin feeling clean, with no trace of greasiness. The olive oil scent dissipates quickly or washes off in the warm water, so you don’t end up smelling like a walking bowl of salad.

Isn’t that the darnedest thing? I can’t imagine why this would work on a stubborn itch. And I’m not asking! I’m just gunna keep using it.

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Kimberly October 29, 2012 at 2:37 pm

I have been using olive oil for about 4 days. It is a wonder moisturizer and make up remover. It has helped my acme too!!!

jean November 8, 2012 at 4:25 pm

what type of olive oil did you use my face is covered in eczema and nothing the doctor is giving me has helped.

funny November 8, 2012 at 5:12 pm

The cheapest olive oil (not of the “lite” variety) that Costco sells.

Gina January 22, 2013 at 5:40 pm

make sure you use extra virgin olive oil. it is not refined so it keeps its skin healing and beautifying benefits.

funnyaboutmoney1 April 4, 2009 at 7:55 am

@sylvy: Castor oil is pretty heavy, from what I understand. Apparently olive oil is a little lighter.

I used to use Vaseline as a moisturizer, too. Get your face wet, first, because Vaseline works to “seal in” moisture, making it an effective hydrator. I would wash my face in soap and water, then while the skin was still wet gently rub on a very, very thin film of the Vaseline. It seemed to work especially well around the eyes (assuming one is careful not to get it IN the eyes!). Nice thing about it: no perfume at all! :-)

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