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Does Olive Oil Cause Acne?

Olive oil is a type of ‘heavy’ oil by nature, which provides a breeding ground for bacteria leading it to clog pores and cause Acne. Every individual has a different skin type and texture and not everyone using Olive Oil will have acne. It only appears among those who have acne prone skin.

Olive Oil is pressed and extracted from olives. It has been a part of the Mediterranean, Greek, and Roman cuisine.  Apart from food, it has been used in soaps, Lamps, pharmaceuticals, and many more.

Olive oil has been used as a cosmetic treatment for centuries. It has been used as:

  • deep hair conditioners
  • nourishing cuticles
  • makeup cleansers
  • Nourishment and moisturizing of the skin and many more.

Even though olive oil has known to be a ‘miracle worker’ for skin and is known to restore skin’s elasticity due to its high antioxidants and vitamins, it works quite differently when it comes to Acne.

Olive Oil

A number of studies have found that the oleic acid found in olive oil contributes to the formation of acne. Not only in the case of acne, but it may also worsen in cases of eczema as well. It is known to ‘feed’ the acne causing bacteria, allowing it to settle on the skin easily making the skin prone to acne.

Studies suggest that olive oil distorts the natural barrier of the skin and it becomes easier for ‘breakouts’ to appear and causes the skin to be drier than usual. Hence, olive oil is moderately comedogenic and triggers the formation of acne by clogging pores.

Pores are small openings in the skin that release oil and sweat. Pores are connected to hair follicles. Hair follicles are tunnel-shaped structures in the top layer of the skin (epidermis). Hair begins to grow from the bottom of the follicle. A combination of the hair follicle and sebaceous gland is called a pilosebaceous unit and this is where acne and cysts develop.

The bacteria that usually cause acne is Cutisbacterium formerly known as Propionibacterium. This bacterium is part of the normal flora of the skin but not everyone develops acne.

Acne due to the bacteria is seen when conditions are favorable for the micro-organism and they replicate within pores and clog it, leading to inflammation and appearance of acne. Olive Oil is a ‘pore clogger’ which encourages the development of acne.

Table of Content

What Exactly is an Acne?

Acne is the most common, distressing, confidence breaking, and ‘stubborn’ condition of the skin. Acne is an inflammatory disease involving the following:

  • Hair follicle
  • The oil-producing gland of the skin called sebaceous gland
  • Cutibacterium/Propionibacterium ( in case of Acne Vulgaris)

In other words, anything which causes increased oil production within our skin clogs pores due to increased sebum production or ‘traps’ Cutibacterium within the pores, formerly known as Propionibacterium may cause acne.


It is characterized by:

  • Comedones are skin-colored bumps frequently found on forehead and chin in acne. There are open comedones which are also called blackheads. They are filled with melanin (responsible for pigmentation) rather than dirt. Closed comedones are whiteheads where the follicle is entirely blocked.
  • Papules are raised area of skin which is less than 1cm.
  • Pustules are a bulging part of skin filled with yellowish/whitish fluid known as pus.
  • Nodules are bumps either below the skin or deeper in the tissue which is at least 1 cm in size.
  • Cysts are bumps under the skin and may form if the pores are clogged.
  • Scars, if explained in lay man’s term, it is a way the body replaces damaged skin.

Cause of acne is multi-factorial:

  • Genetic
  • Diet
  • PCOS in women
  • Increased level of testosterone, irrespective of the gender
  • Cutibacterium is formerly known as Propionibacterium (bacteria)
  • Drugs such as corticosteroid, vitamin B complex, phenytoin, Lithium, Isoniazid


Seen commonly in teenagers (hormonal changes during puberty), in both genders and there are neither specific geographical location nor weather where acnes appear more or less. It appears most commonly on the face, neck, upper trunk, arm, and ear but can appear on any part of the body.

Types of Acne

Acne can be categorized in various ways:

According to Inflammation

  • Noninflammatory: Comedones such as white and blackheads
  • Inflammatory: Papular, Pustular, and Nodular

According to Morphology

  • Mild acne – Comedones predominate, occasionally papules and pustules.
  • Moderate – Papule, pustule, nodule predominate
  • Severe acne – Cystic lesion with scarring. This is where the endless stress and never-ending treatment modalities begin.

Can consuming Olive Oil Help in Acne?

There are no such studies that show a correlation between the consumption of Olive Oil and Acne reduction. However, adding it to leafy vegetables and improving diet has helped in Acne patients.

Olive Oil and Acne Scar

However, due to the fact that olive oil is rich in antioxidants and vitamins, it may help in skin cell regeneration and eventually fade scars if mixed with lemon juice. ½ tsp of olive oil with ½ tsp of lemon juice helps lighten scars.

Essential Oils in Acne

Essential oils are a hydrophobic liquid that is extracted from plants and is the backbone of various skincare products. It is wise to use less ‘comedogenic’ oil in ‘oily’ or acne-prone skin.

It is the most beneficial to use them in the purest form rather than it being blended in a cosmetic product to avoid irritation of the skin. While pimple which is already out and filled with pus requires a ‘calming’ oil, cystic acne which are under the surface of the skin require a stimulating oil.

My favorite 6 Essential oils are:

Tea tree oil is my personal favorite. It is not only anti-inflammatory, but it also has anti-bacterial properties. It dries the acne out over time so it should be applied only on the acne.

Peppermint oil has similar properties, reducing decongestion and redness on the skin.

Rosemary oil is great at managing sebum production and the pores are clearer with the use of this oil. It is anti-inflammatory and reduces puffiness without irritation.

Antiseptic and antibacterial properties help dry out acne and the best results are seen when combined with jojoba oil or any other essential oil.

Eucalyptus oil is best for pus-filled oil. They help burst pus-filled acne out and prevents it from infection.

Lavender oil is best for cystic acne and helps to surface it without irritation as the cystic acne lies beneath the skin. It is quite gentle on the skin and helps soothe painful cystic acne.

Bonus point: It improves the sleep cycle as well which may be a cause of Acne, to begin with.

Lemon oil is a burst of vitamin C which unclogs pores, prevents ‘breakouts’, and brightens the skin. The antioxidant-rich oil helps in skin healing as well. It is a mild exfoliate.

Caution: While essential oil is great for skin, it should be avoided if the person using it develops a runny nose, rash, or if the acne is aggravated.

Does Cod Liver Oil and Olive Oil Help Acne?

Research suggests that cod liver and Olive oil are rich in omega 3 fatty acids which subside inflammation in the body.

Inflammation is a part of acne and consuming the oils has shown benefits not only in case of acne but there has been significant improvement in inflammatory conditions such as sunburns, photoaging, and has reduced discoloration. It also helps systemic conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia.

The study regarding cod liver oil was not conclusive regarding the maximal dose as it has only been used by acne sufferers for 10-12 weeks and shown improvement within that time frame.

Fact: Adding Olive Oil to sunblock will prevent 20% of the sun rays to reach skin and acts as a natural barrier preventing discoloration. It does this by boosting the skin’s sun-blocking protein and stimulating the skin’s natural fat called Squalene which is the most important natural protective barrier.

Tips For Oily and Acne Prone Skin

  • Avoid oily food. Maintain a diet rich in vegetables, fruits, and lean protein.
  • Avoid oil-based products or makeup.
  • Wash face with a soap-free face wash twice a day.
  • Proper exfoliation of the skin.
  • Regular exercise to improve blood circulation.
  • Use astringent toner which has alcohol and it makes the skin dry.
  • Patting the face with a towel is advised when drying as rubbing may increase sebum production making it oilier and more susceptible to acne.
  • Use blotting papers that absorb the excess oil from the face.
  • Face masks such as Bentonite clay can help remove excess oil and clean pores. According to a study in 2011, it was found that applying a 10-minute Raw honey mask can help reduce acne and excess oil and keep the skin softer.
  • Aloe vera (10% or more) has shown to be an effective moisturizer according to a study conducted in 2014.

Best Shampoo for Acne Prone Skin

It may sound odd to correlate shampoo with acne on face or forehead as we don’t really shampoo our face! But when the hair is washed after shampooing, it comes in contact with the forehead, face, and back which can aggravate acne or cause it to come back.

Paul Mitchell’s Tea Tree Shampoo has natural ingredients such as tea tree, peppermint, and lavender whose benefits have been listed above. It does not irritate the skin and is paraben safe, cruelty-free, and vegan friendly. It has a PH of 5.5. The lavender leaves a soothing effect on the scalp and the natural ingredients do not react with the skin.

Products For Acne Prone Skin

Cetaphil Face Wash

This has been my first choice of face wash among patients who are suffering from acne. They are mild cleansers, soap-free, non-scented, and do not leave the skin too dry after the wash. They control sebum production and treat the skin gently.

Orange Blossom Facewash

Glowing skin begins with the right facial cleanser! Orange Blossom Facial Wash is just the right choice for acne prone skin as it is made from naturally extracted ingredients.

This includes Lavender essential oil whose benefits have been mentioned earlier. The hypoallergenic formulation helps remove excess oil, dirt, and makeup without leaving the skin too dry.

3- Step-Cleansing Direction:

  • Wet Your Face with Luke warm water
  • Lather on Face Evenly in the Morning and Nighttime skincare routine (in a circular motion).
  • Pat Dry after Rinsing Thoroughly

Tip:  Combine it with Cetaphil or Orange Blossom Face Wash accordingly (depending on the face wash being used) for the best results.


Olive Oil may be superior in more than one way but when it comes to acne, it fails to be beneficial as it makes matters worse and does not qualify as an ‘acne healer’. It only aggravates the condition.

Related Reading:

Do Acne Scars Go Away?

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