Used internally or externally, olive oil is a long-respected agent for skin care. Psoriasis and eczema are disorders in which the skin's natural regenerative properties have gone awry, resulting in drying, damage and often scarring. Olive oil's anti-oxidants and emollients make it a perfect treatment for these potentially serious problems.
Olive Oil Properties
Olive oil, both ingested and applied externally, has been used for millennia to treat skin disorders. Not all olive oil is alike, though. Cold-pressed extra-virgin olive oil stored and sold in opaque, airtight tins or glass bottles is the best, as it retains most of the natural anti-oxidants of olives. For best preservation, olive oil should be stored in a cool (not cold-it will congeal in the refrigerator) area, out of sunlight and with little temperature variation.
External Use of Olive Oil
Psoriasis is an autoimmune skin disorder in which skin patches grow at an accelerated pace, dying and flaking off faster than adjacent skin areas. In the worst cases, it affects the hands and small joints, causing psoriatic arthritis. Eczema is caused primarily by environment, rather than genetics, but otherwise it is quite similar to psoriasis: areas of irritated skin that gradually get larger if left untreated. There are several forms of eczema, from cradle cap in babies to allergic dermatitis. Because of its emollient properties, olive oil rubbed into affected areas twice daily will keep the drying skin supple and less prone to damage, while the anti-oxidants in olive oil will encourage normal skin growth. Adding an essential oil to the olive oil is fine but not necessary; similarly, heating the oil to no more than 105 F is fine and can be relaxing but is not necessary. For best results, massage the oil into clean skin after a warm shower or bath; don't use more than your skin can absorb in about five minutes of gentle rubbing. Psoriatic dandruff and cradle cap can be treated in a similar fashion, especially with short hair. Massage about a half-ounce directly into the scalp after washing and rinsing hair. Allow the oil to sit in place for about 10 minutes, then use a comb to gently loosen and remove plaques at the base of hair. Wash and rinse repeatedly until the hair no longer feels greasy. You may have to do this several times to remove all the dandruff, but do not repeat more often than twice per week. There are several types of psoriasis and eczema, and not all respond well to olive oil. In some cases, discontinuing regular medication and using olive oil can make lesions worse. Be sure to let your doctor know what you are doing, and if your skin condition does not improve within a month, discontinue external use.
Nutritional Use of Olive Oil
There are many anecdotal stories that increasing olive oil in your diet improves psoriasis and eczema conditions. Unfortunately, a study published by the British Journal of Dermatology in 2005 found so little evidence of this that olive oil was used as a placebo when testing the effects of fish oil on these disorders. There is evidence that improved nutrition in general can improve skin condition, and it would certainly not cause harm to substitute olive oil for other oils in the diet.