Olive oil: The Golden Moisturizer

by Evangeline Koutalianos, BSc Kinesiology 

The skin is often known as the “largest organ of the human body”. If you think about it, the skin covers the entire exterior surface of the body and thus has the largest surface area of all the organs. Moreover, it weighs more than any single organ in your body – accounting for 15% of your body weight. In addition to its grandeur, the skin has many important functions; such as providing insulation, temperature regulation, sensation, vitamin D and vitamin B synthesis and above all – protecting the body against foreign pathogens [1]. What more convincing do you need to take proper care of your skin?

The use of natural and synthetic cosmetics to treat the appearance of face conditions (such as acne and blotching) is common among many cultures. What many people are not aware of is the damage these moisturizers may be causing in the long-run. Your skin is permeable. Permeability is defined as the capacity of a porous material for transmitting a fluid [2]. For instance, medicine can be administered to your skin, such as the nicotine patch. The nicotine slowly is absorbed through the pores in the skin and thus can enter the bloodstream via the epidermis. This is why it is so important to know what is in the ingredients of your cleansers because they are potentially entering the circulation. If hazardous substances end up penetrating the skin barrier you may experience dermal irritation, inflammation or sensitization, as well as systematically toxic effects [3].

What if I were to tell you the body heals itself from the inside out? Yes, I know it is an abstract concept for all the cosmetic connoisseurs out there but it is true. Various studies have been conducted to test whether diet has any influence on wrinkles in your skin. The verdict is in - the results show that subjects with a higher intake of vegetables, olive oil and monounsaturated fat, legumes, but a lower intake of milk/milk products, butter, margarine, and sugar products had less skin wrinkling in sun-exposed areas [4]. Since the skin is the largest organ in the body- it is the major target of oxidative stress. The skin’s high content of lipids, DNA, and proteins make it vulnerable to oxidation. Thus these studies have concluded that by consuming vegetables, legumes, and olive oil, the oxidation of the skin could be protected against.

Olive oil was especially protective against skin oxidation. A high intake of olive oil, a monounsaturated fat, increases the monounsaturated fatty acids in the epidermis thus reducing oxidative damage. In contrast, the polyunsaturated fatty acids in the cell membrane are prone to oxidation [4]. This explains why olive oil is associated with less photo-aging and a higher intake of polyunsaturated margarine was associated with more photo-aging. Furthermore, the olive oil that you consume in your diet should be of high quality. As an analogy, I know many people who treat their vehicles with the highest respect and only use supreme unleaded. To even consider using regular unleaded is unheard of. So why would you use an olive oil that is not organic, extra-virgin, first and cold-pressed? The higher quality olive oil you consume, the better your skin will look and feel.

References
  1. Skin. Wikipedia: Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Skin
  2. Permeability. Encyclopaedia Britannica. Retrieved from: http://www.britannica.com/eb/article-9059292/permeability
  3. Drexler, H. (2003). Skin protection and percutaneous absorption of chemical hazards. Journal of International Archives of Occupational and Environmental Health. 76(5). 359-361
  4. Purba MB, Kouris-Blazos A, Wattanapenpaiboon N, Lukito W, Rothenberg EM, Steen BC, Wahlqvist ML. Skin wrinkling: can food make a difference? J Am Coll Nutr. 2001 Feb;20(1):71-80

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