Why "all natural" is not always all good? The problem with Olive Oil in Skincare

Lightining is "all natural"

Often, my patients tell me that their skincare products are all natural. Unfortunately, there is no definition in the skincare world, what that means. And even if there was a definition, does that mean that those ingredients, the "all natural" ones, are what we want?

I am terribly allergic to poison ivy (Toxicodendron dermatitis) and poison sumac. I develop hives head to toe if I am exposed. Not good and not what most of us would want. But the plant is most certainly, all natural. I've actually published an interesting report on an extreme case of poison ivy rash (link to MDedge.com).  

All natural limes or lemons, when accidentally in contact with skin and then exposed to intense sun can cause a severe reaction called Phytophotodermatitis, see a Publication from the Emergency Room.  Again, not good at all, but for sure this is all natural.  Lastly, Lightening is also all natural, but no one wants to be struck.  So, I remind everyone that we must read labels with great care, interest and we must be aware of any and all ingredients, whether all natural or not.

So why do we need to avoid Olive Oil?

Based on the study referenced below and published in Pediatric Dermatology 2013, Olive oil was found to worsen our skin barrier.

Danby SG, AlEnezi T, Sultan A, Lavender T, Chittock J, Brown K, Cork MJ. Effect of olive and sunflower seed oil on the adult skin barrier: implications for neonatal skin care. Pediatr Dermatol. 2013 Jan-Feb;30


Natural oils are advocated and used throughout the world as part of neonatal skin care, but there is an absence of evidence to support this practice. The goal of the current study was to ascertain the effect of olive oil and sunflower seed oil on the biophysical properties of the skin. Nineteen adult volunteers with and without a history of atopic dermatitis were recruited into two randomized forearm-controlled mechanistic studies. The first cohort applied six drops of olive oil to one forearm twice daily for 5 weeks. The second cohort applied six drops of olive oil to one forearm and six drops of sunflower seed oil to the other twice daily for 4 weeks. The effect of the treatments was evaluated by determining stratum corneum integrity and cohesion, intercorneocyte cohesion, moisturization, skin-surface pH, and erythema. Topical application of olive oil for 4 weeks caused a significant reduction in stratum corneum integrity and induced mild erythema in volunteers with and without a history of atopic dermatitis. Sunflower seed oil preserved stratum corneum integrity, did not cause erythema, and improved hydration in the same volunteers. In contrast to sunflower seed oil, topical treatment with olive oil significantly damages the skin barrier, and therefore has the potential to promote the development of, and exacerbate existing, atopic dermatitis. The use of olive oil for the treatment of dry skin and infant massage should therefore be discouraged. These findings challenge the unfounded belief that all natural oils are beneficial for the skin and highlight the need for further research.


Alternative oils to use:  Jojoba and Coconut

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