It’s no secret that extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) is great for our health. But did you know that there are a number of benefits of olive oil for our skin too?
Olive oil is primarily made up of heart-friendly monounsaturated fat (approximately 73%). It contains less of the pro-inflammatory omega-6 fats found in most other vegetable oils. EVOO is the healthiest and highest-quality olive oil available. This is because the oil is extracted without the use of high heat or chemical solvents, which can tarnish its precious glow-giving nutrients.
Sound good? Read on to discover the skin benefits of olive oil and how you can try them at home.
How to buy the best olive oil
Examine the labels on bottles of EVOO to get the best benefits of olive oil. First, check the harvest date. The polyphenol content in the oil is highest when it’s just been pressed. It’s best in the first three to four months after harvest.
The flavour of the oil is also indicative of its quality. You should be able to identify bright, clean aromas, a fruity character and a decisive pepperiness in the back of your throat.
Be warned that bottles labelled ‘pure’ olive oil are not as unadulterated as their name implies. They’re likely to contain a blend of both refined and virgin olive oils. As a rule of thumb, it’s best to source EVOO from independent producers. Supermarket-own labels and well-known brands often mix to a standard recipe to ensure the products taste the same every time. Good-quality EVOO should taste and look different with every harvest. A simple way to check quality is to pop your bottle in the fridge overnight. A good quality EVOO should semi-solidify when chilled, while the cheaper stuff stays liquid.
Skin benefits of olive oil
Olive oil for inflammation
The stars of EVOO’s skin-saving portfolio are its powerful polyphenols, which can help to soothe inflammation. Key among them is oleocanthal, which has been shown to work in a similar way to ibuprofen. In fact, scientists estimate that, when eaten, the oleocanthal in 50ml of EVOO has an equivalent anti-inflammatory effect as 10% of the adult dosage of ibuprofen. It’s an ideal dietary addition for those prone to conditions associated with inflammation, such as eczema, rosacea and acne.
Try it: Over time, the potent powers of polyphenols can degrade when exposed to light, heat or oxygen. For this reason, it’s best to buy EVOO in smaller dark glass bottles (no more than 500ml unless you use daily) as, once open, the oxidation process begins. Keep well away from the stovetop, and store in a cool, dark place for ultimate longevity.
Cooking with olive oil
It’s a common myth that we shouldn’t cook with olive oil. In reality, cooking with EVOO can make food more nutritious. In fact, its antioxidants are so resistant to heat that they don’t break down. Instead, they end up being absorbed by the cooked food. EVOO can also help shield food from high heats, helping to retain some of the nutrients usually lost during the cooking process.
Research suggests that cooking broccoli with sunflower oil or even refined olive oil reduces several vital vitamin levels (such as vitamin C). But, the levels of these complexion-boosting compounds remains unchanged when EVOO is cooked with the broccoli. EVOO is very stable when heated. This means, when compared with other oils (sunflower or corn oil, for instance), it’s much less likely to produce harmful compounds and trans fats.
Try it: From broccoli to asparagus, kale to tomatoes, don’t be afraid to liberally lather on the EVOO when roasting, sautéing or frying your favourite skin-friendly foods.