Spanish woman by John Bagnold Burgess (1829 –1897)

When it comes to head-to-toe healthy skin, hair and nails, olive oil is a superstar. Olive oil has over 80% of unsaturated fatty acids, which are among the must-have foods for healthy skin because they are responsible for the health of the cell membrane, which is not only a barrier to harmful things, but also the passageway for nutrients to cross in and waste products to get out. Thanks to membranes, the skin cells are able to hold water and maintain healthy metabolism resulting in softer, more subtle, and more wrinkle-free skin. Although olive oil has been used for cosmetic purposes for centuries, it’s scientifically proven that what you put IN your body is more important than you put ON it.

Uncovering the secret ingredients that make olive oil the best treatment for a healthy glow

Archeological evidence shows that olives were turned into olive oil by 6000 BC. People believed that both the ingestion and topical application of olive oil to be good for skin and health.
Taken internally, olive oil stimulates metabolism, promotes digestion and lubricates mucous membranes. Applied topically, olive oil has a long history of being used as a home remedy for skincare. Since pharaonic times, Egyptians used it as a cleanser, moisturizer, and antibacterial agent. In ancient Greece, olive oil was used during massage, to prevent sports injuries, relieve muscle fatigue, and eliminate lactic acid buildup. Greeks are said to have actually bathed with olive oil, and it was a few Mediterranean countries that used it as a natural medicine. Back then, people truly believed in magic power of olive oil.

olive oil for beauty

In the Mediterranean basin, since creation, olive oil has been a staple food, an essential part of a home first aid kit, and a major component in beauty treatments. This region gave many iconic beauties.


The Roman goddess Venus (or her Greek counterpart Aphrodite) is the embodiment of beauty, love, sexuality, fertility, prosperity, victory, and desire in Greco-Roman mythology. And even though according to Homer’s poems, nectar was her drink and ambrosia her food, we think she secretly included olive oil in her diet and skin and hair care.

“The Birth of Venus” by Sandro Botticelli, circa 1485.


A woman of a stunning beauty, Cleopatra intrigued many men and women for centuries. What were the beauty secrets of that exceptional woman? Legends say that she slept with a golden mask on her face. More likely. But the “beauty maintenance” always has two components – “inside” and “outside”. No doubts, her “in”, her diet, was rich in olive oil, so was her “out”:

  •  Cleopatra’s “milk and honey” bath with olive or almond oil
  • Cleopatra’s warm oil hair treatment with olive oil
  • Cleopatra’s face cream – aloe vera juice, drops of rose oil, beeswax and olive oil
  • Cleopatra’s refreshing facial mask – white clay, milk, honey and olive oil
  • Cleopatra’s antiseptic nourishing mask – egg yolk and olive oil
  • Cleopatra’s treatment for damaged hair – honey and olive oil
Cleopatra - Olive oil
Lawrence Alma-Tadema: Antony and Cleopatra (1885)

And other beauties...

Beauty secrets of olive oil - Nefrtiti
The bust of Nefertiti

Along with Cleopatra, Nefertiti is one of the best known “Queens” of Ancient Egypt in the Western imagination.

Beauty secrets of olive oil - The Favourite
“The Favorite” by Léon Comerre (1850–1916)
Beauty secrets of olive oil - Queen of Egypt
Queen Fawzia Fuad

And real Queen – Fawzia Fuad of Egypt was an Egyptian princess who became Queen of Iran as the first wife of Mohammad Reza Pahlavi.

No wonder that in 2000, Japan (the longest life expectancy in the world) was the top importer of olive oil in Asia (13,000 tons annually) because consumers there believe both the ingestion and topical application of olive oil to be good for skin and health.

Beauty secrets of olive oil

Today we know much more about those secret ingredients that make olive oil the best treatment for a healthy glow.
One tablespoon of olive oil (13.5g) contains:

  • Fat: 13.50g – 21% of the Daily Value (DV). 77% of fat are monounsaturated fatty acids, 14% – saturated fatty acids, and 9% – polyunsaturated fatty acids.
  • Vitamin E: 1.9mg (10% of DV)
  • Vitamin K: 8.1µg (10% of DV)

Fatty acids

We’ve already touched the theme at the beginning, but once again, about 75% of the fat in olive oil is monounsaturated fatty acids that give the oil its unique properties.

Vitamin E

Vitamin E is a membrane antioxidant that protects against oxidative damage: it stops the production of reactive oxygen species formed when fat undergoes oxidation. It also provides protection against harmful UV rays.

Vitamin K

Vitamin K can improve your skin and prevent wrinkles because it plays a key role in solving the calcification problems that harden arteries and affect the connective elastin that keeps your skin soft and subtle. Without adequate vitamin K in your diet, calcium can be deposited in your skin’s elastin fibers and harden to cause wrinkles. Vitamin K is needed for the formation of certain proteins that maintain healthy skin cells. It also can help treat a variety of skin conditions such as spider veins, stretch marks, scars, skin irritations, and dark circles under the eyes. Vitamin K helps to prevent acne and heal skin affected by acne scarring. However, applying vitamin K to the surface of the skin won’t make spider veins disappear, you have to enrich your diet with vitamin K.

Beauty secrets of olive oil - Mediterranean

In Mediterranean countries where olive oil is consumed extensively, such as Greece, Italy and Spain, there is a low incidence of heart diseases. A study in PLOS ONE analyzed the diets of 1264 women and 1655 men aged between 45 and 60 years old. Severity of facial skin aging was graded by trained investigators during a clinical examination using a 6-grade scale illustrated by photographs. It was found that a higher consumption of olive oil (more than 8.4 grams or 2 teaspoons a day) was associated with 31% fewer signs of aging compared to people who ate less than 3.8 grams (about 1 teaspoon). (source)

Olive oil for beautiful skin, hair and nails

Beauty secrets of olive oil - Nails

Olive oil has been used for centuries for smoother, more radiant skin. You can apply it directly on skin, or add a bit to a warm bath for a good soak.

  • To moisturize skin: Apply daily to dry spots or stretch marks.
  • To prevent hair loss: Massage the scalp with olive oil every evening for eight days. Let it work overnight and wash it out in the morning.
  • To make nails strong: To build strong fingernails and soften cuticles, before going to bed, soak your nails in a mixture of warm olive oil and lemon juce. Put on soft cloth gloves and let the oil penetrate overnight. Your nails will gradually become more resistant to breaking and chipping.


  • Choose the highest quality olive oil that is labeled “extra virgin”. This guarantees that the oil has been cold-pressed from freshly harvested olives and does not contain chemicals. Extra virgin olive oil supplies the best flavour and nutrients.
  • Olive oil is very sensitive oil that you have to keep it in a cool and dark place.
  • Don’t leave your bottle of olive oil open: any time it is exposed to air and light, it oxidizes.
  • Buy smaller bottles of olive oil instead of larger ones to ensure freshness.
  • Olive oil that is golden-yellow in colour is of higher quality than green.
  • Don’t use defective olive oil, such as: rancid olive oil which smells like crayons and tastes like rancid nuts; moldy olive oil that tastes dusty because it was made from moldy olives; olive oil with vinegar flavour which likely underwent fermentation with oxygen.

Contest for the most valuable gift to humankind between Athena and Poseidon

Beauty secrets of olive oil

“La Dispute de Minerve et de Neptune” by Halle Noël

According to Greek mythology, the creation of the olive tree was the result of a contest between Athena, Goddess of Wisdom, and Poseidon, God of the Sea, to find the most precious, useful and divine gift to humankind. The city would then be named after the one who gave the citizens that gift.
Poseidon lifted his massive trident and struck the earth with it. At the point where the spear struck, a frothy spring burst out producing a sea. The people loved it but as they went closer to taste the water, to their dismay the water was salty.
When it was Athena’s turn, she provided the olive tree – a much more useful gift, offering not only the olives themselves, but also a source of oil for their lamps and for cooking their food as well as the wood from the olive tree to build their boats and houses. Because of its many uses (food, medicine, heat, and perfume), the olive tree was chosen as the most valuable gift and Athena forever became the patroness of the most powerful city in Greece named after her. The myth continues today saying that all the olive trees in Athens were descended from that first olive tree offered by Athena.
Throughout ancient times, at the Olympic Games athletes were massaged with olive oil in the belief that the wisdom, power and strength of Athena would be bestowed upon them. The winners were awarded olive leaf crowns and olive oil.
Do you agree that Athena’s gift was the most valuable that humankind could get? – Shoji, K. (February 26, 2013). “The Japanese woman’s perpetual quest for perfect skin”. The New York Times.

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