You don’t have to be a teenager to care about your skin. Even though many people leave acne breakouts behind once they enter adulthood, there’s always that worry that some food and skincare ingredients may trigger skin woes. Is olive oil one of them?
Olive oil is comedogenic, achieving a Grade:2 rating. That means there’s a good chance it could cause blackheads and pimples. If you buy olive oil, combine it with some mineral oil, and then dilute it to a concentration of 25 percent, it becomes less comedogenic.
What is the difference between comedogenic and non-comedogenic foods and skincare products? What does a Grade:2 rating mean? Read on, as we’ll answer those questions and more. If you regularly use olive oil and worry about what it could do to your skin, you don’t want to miss this article.
What Does It Mean When a Food or Skincare Product Is Comedogenic?
First, let’s define what comedogenic means. The term simply refers to how likely a food or product is to block pores and cause blackheads and/or acne. Cosmetics and other skincare products can be considered comedogenic as well.
The following ingredients are commonly known to be especially likely to lead to skin breakouts:
- Lauric acid, a fatty acid that typically appears in skincare and makeup
- Lauroyl lysine, a loose powder ingredient that cakes onto skin and doesn’t let it breathe
- Ethylhexyl palmitate, a fatty acid that may be used in bronzer
- Isopropyl palmitate, yet another comedogenic fatty acid that’s used in tinted moisturizer
- D&C Red, a type of food coloring
- Benzaldehyde, a scented ingredient that can block up skin
- Almond oil, which can be eaten or applied topically and is comedogenic either way
- Algae extract, another ingredient that appears in makeup or food
- Acetylated lanolin, which is sourced from the skin of sheep
Is Olive Oil Comedogenic?
Although olive oil didn’t appear on the above list, it is very much considered comedogenic.
There are many varieties of olive oil, including refined, virgin, extra virgin, and organic extra virgin. Are these all bad for your skin? For the most part, yes. Whether you decide to apply it topically or eat it in a meal, olive oil isn’t the best choice if you want a clear complexion.
While you should always make it a point to buy organic extra virgin olive oil that’s very high-quality, this just improves the taste and feel. It doesn’t necessarily make the oil less likely to cause breakouts.
What Is the Comedogenic Scale?
In the intro, we mentioned that olive oil is a Grade:2. What does this mean?
All ingredients used for food or makeup that might lead to breakouts are listed on a comedogenic scale. The smaller the grade number, the less risk of clogged pores. The higher the grade, the more you should limit consumption or use of the ingredient.
Here’s how the scale breaks down:
- 0: Ingredients with a Grade:0 rating are the safest for skin. They will almost never cause blackheads or acne. In that regard, you could even consider them noncomedogenic.
- 1: Next are ingredients that are Grade:1. There’s more risk of breakouts due to clogged pores with this grade, but the risk is about as small as it can be.
- 2: Products that are Grade:2, such as olive oil, have a decent chance of causing blackheads and acne. On the comedogenic scale, those chances are “moderately low.”
- 3: Moving up on the scale are ingredients that are classed as Grade:3. At this point, you have a decent chance of experiencing a breakout after eating foods or using skincare products that are in this grade.
- 4: Higher up on the scale are Grade:4 ingredients. These have a greater chance still of causing skin issues after consumption or use.
- 5: Finally, there are the Grade:5 ingredients. These are the most dangerous for skin, as they will pretty much always cause skin breakouts.
Of course, your reaction to any comedogenic ingredient depends on a few things. The first is the condition of your skin. Some people are more acne-prone than others. For those people, any ingredient that’s Grade:3 and up should be used sparingly.
Another factor that can determine what happens to your skin with these ingredients is quantity. If you use a spoonful of olive oil on a salad or a dab of it for skincare purposes, you could be in the clear. By overusing any comedogenic ingredients, you increase your chances of breaking out.
Can You Make Olive Oil Less Comedogenic or Even Noncomedogenic?
Now that you’ve seen the comedogenic scale in full, olive oil isn’t the worst thing to put on your skin. It’s also decently safe to eat. The oil may lead to clogged pores and thus blackheads and pimples, but not always. Still, if you have acne-prone skin, you might wonder if there are ways to make olive oil lower on the comedogenic scale.
As we mentioned in the intro, there is something you can do to protect your skin. You should combine olive oil with some mineral oil (found here). Then, dilute the mixture until the concentration is down to 25 percent. Since mineral oil is less than Grade:2 on the comedogenic scale, you don’t have to worry about it ruining your skin. Using it with reduced-concentration olive oil makes that oil less bad for your skin as well.
While there’s no way to make olive oil completely noncomedogenic, this is about as close as you can get. Your skin will be much happier this way.
There’s no reason to avoid olive oil entirely. When applied topically, the squalene in the oil provides more softness and smoothness to your face or other parts of your body. Not only that, but you could lessen your environmental skin damage thanks to the antioxidants in the stuff.
When you eat olive oil, you also enjoy those antioxidants. More so, you get omega-3 acids that can keep your skin from showing premature signs of aging. There’s even a possibility that olive oil can help you avoid a disease known as radiodermatitis. This is caused from too many UV rays on the skin in chemotherapy patients.
Are Other Oil Types Better for Your Skin?
Perhaps you’ve tried combining olive oil with mineral oil but your skin still broke out. Maybe you put olive oil on your skin, but it felt kind of weird.
In either of those situations, there are several other types of oil you might try instead. We also included their rating on the comedogenic scale and some basic information on each one.
These safer oils are (linked for convenience):
- Watermelon seed oil: Grade:0 to Grade:1 with linolenic acid
- Abyssinian seed oil: Grade:0 with oleic and erucic acids
- Sunflower seed oil: Grade:0 to Grade:1 with linolenic acid
- Strawberry seed oil: Grade:1 with linolenic acid
- Squalene oil: Grade:0 to Grade:1 with omega-2 fatty acid
- Shea oil or shea butter: Both Grade:0 to Grade:2 with stearic and oleic acids
- Safflower oil: Grade:0 with lots of linoleic acid
- Red raspberry seed oil: Grade:0 to Grade:1 with linoleic acid
- Hemp seed oil: Grade:0 with linoleic acid
- Goji berry seed oil: Grade:0 to Grade:1 with linoleic acid
- Blueberry seed oil: Grade:0 to Grade:1 with oleic and linolenic acids
- Argan oil: Grade:0 with linolenic and oleic acids
There are many other oils that are Grade:1 to Grade:2 that you might also try for your skin, some of which we discussed in this article. Our recommendation is to consume or apply a small portion of the oil. Then, wait several days to see if you develop acne or blackheads from clogged pores. If you do, you might want to switch to any of the above oils, focusing especially on the Grade:0 ones. Remember, these should rarely cause acne, but it can happen.
Also, make sure you always avoid the following oils. They have a base rating of Grade:3 on the comedogenic scale, with many of them higher. These oils are:
- Cotton seed oil
- Corn oil (Grade:3)
- Grapeseed oil
- Soybean oil (Grade:3)
- Palm oil
- Flex oil, which is also called linseed oil
- Sesame oil (Grade:3)
- Cocoa butter (Grade:4)
- Peach kernel oil (Grade:5)
- Coconut butter (Grade:4)
It’s true that some of those oils are very healthy for you. For example, soybean oil may be able to lessen sleep disorder intensity, manage diabetes symptoms, safeguard from birth defects, and cut down on menopause symptoms. There’s also a link between soybean oil and lessened rates of cancer, better vision, fewer Alzheimer’s symptoms, and lower cholesterol.
Then there’s coconut butter. This tasty product has healthy fats that could kickstart sagging energy levels and improve your metabolism so you can lose weight. The lauric acid in coconut butter also fights off funguses, viruses, and bacteria, keeping you from getting sick.
Despite that, if you want healthier, happier skin, using or eating these oils in moderation if at all is what’s best.
Olive oil is considered comedogenic. That means the oil blocks up your pores and could lead to blackheads and acne.
All food and cosmetic ingredients are rated on a comedogenic scale with grades from 0 to 5. Olive oil is only Grade:2, so it’s not the worst for your skin, but it’s not the best, either. For those who have acne-prone skin, sticking to ingredients that are Grade:0 is best. If not, try not to buy products within the Grade:1 to Grade:2 range.
If you truly cannot get enough of olive oil, you can always combine it with mineral oil and dilute it. Once you get to a concentration of at least 25 percent, the olive oil will be less likely to cause breakouts.
(Last Updated: July 24, 2020)