Does Olive Oil Heal Acne Scars?

Those dark spots, the uneven skin tone, and scarring that acne leaves behind is so incredibly frustrating, maybe even more so that the breakouts themselves. You want to get rid of those acne scars fast, does olive oil heal acne scars?

But, as wonderful as olive oil may be in other applications, it’s not a good treatment for acne scars. It’s not a treatment for scars at all, really.

Olive oil being poured into a glass bowl on a wooden table
dulzidar / iStock / Getty Images

The History of Olive Oil as a Skin Treatment

Olive oil has a long, rich history. It’s not only used in food. People have used olive oil as a cosmetic treatment for centuries. Ancient cultures would use it in beautification rituals, rubbing olive oil that had been scented with herbs onto their skin and hair. It was used as a moisturizer and skin protectant.

As a folk remedy, olive oil is used as a skin moisturizer and hair oil even today. It’s also a common ingredient in artisan soaps, lip balms, sugar scrubs, and bath oils. In these handcrafted products, olive oil acts as a lubricant, giving the products nice “slip” and a smooth feel.

Today, we are really beginning to take a closer look at the effects olive oil may have on the skin. We know that olive oil does contain many antioxidants and vitamins that have proven beneficial to the skin. But how available those components are to the skin isn't fully clear as of yet.

Does Olive Oil Heal Acne Scars?

As lovely as that sounds, we have to be realistic about what olive oil can really do. Applying olive oil to the skin won’t heal acne scars, won't fade dark marks, and won't prevent acne scarring.

Those dark spots left behind after a pimple heals are called post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. It’s the skin’s normal, albeit annoying, reaction to a wound (in this case, an inflamed pimple). This discoloration can’t be faded simply by rubbing in olive oil. Olive oil isn't readily absorbed by the skin.

The same goes for depressed or pitted scars. Olive oil can't remodel the skin and it can't cause it to remodel and rebuild itself when there is a loss of skin tissue. Remember, olive oil just isn't absorbed well.

Interestingly, though, some research shows olive oil promotes wound healing.

Drawbacks of Using Olive Oil

Slathering olive oil on your skin may also give you some unintended results.

It can clog your pores. The biggest reason to think twice before rubbing olive oil onto your face: it can clog your pores. Most sources give olive oil a moderately low comedogenic rating, meaning that it may clog pores for some but it's fine for most. While you're using it in the hopes of improving acne scars, you can actually be making your existing acne much worse.

It can dry out your skin. Yes, you read that right. This rather heavy oil that sits atop the skin may be doing the exact opposite of what you're envisioning. Olive oil is very high in oleic acid, higher than most vegetable oils. Newer research shows that oleic acid weakens the skin's barrier function, which in turn can lead to drier skin for some, but not all, people.

It can trigger eczema in people prone to it. If you're susceptible to eczema, you may want to avoid olive oil as well. Again, oleic acid may weaken the skin's barrier function which is already an issue for you if you're eczema-prone.

Other Ideas for Treating Acne Scars and Dark Marks

So olive oil isn't the magic bullet for treating acne scars, unfortunately. In brighter news, you do have plenty of options to improve your scarring.

For treating post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation: For treating post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation over-the-counter products that contain glycolic acid or niacinamide can be helpful, especially for minor discoloration. For deeper discoloration, prescription treatments like topical retinoids and azelaic acid are a better bet.

For treating depressed or pitted scars: Depressed or pitted scars (sometimes called pockmarks) are, unfortunately, harder to get rid of than dark marks. You won’t find any OTC creams or lotions that are effective for them, despite claims by all those “scar treatment” creams. Instead, talk to a dermatologist about what can be done about your scarring. There are professional procedures that minimize scars. Laser treatments are often used to treat acne scars. Your dermatologist might also suggest dermal fillers to “plump up” the depressed area leaving the skin, albeit temporarily, more smooth and even. Your dermatologist will give you the scoop on the treatments that are the best fit for you.

A Word From Verywell

So, olive oil isn't the magic bullet for treating your acne scars. It doesn't mean you must ditch it completely. If you're into natural beauty, and you're not eczema-prone or sensitive to olive oil, you can always use it as a cosmetic treatment in artisanal or even DIY skincare products. (You may even want to try your hand at milk baths and coffee skincare treatments while you're at it.)

But as far as an acne scar treatment goes you'll get much better results, and be much happier, with treatments and procedures provided by your dermatologist.

7 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  6. Sarkar R, Parmar NV, Kapoor S. Treatment of Postinflammatory Hyperpigmentation With a Combination of Glycolic Acid Peels and a Topical Regimen in Dark-Skinned Patients: A Comparative Study. Dermatol Surg. 2017;43(4):566-573. doi:10.1097/DSS.0000000000001007

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Additional Reading

By Angela Palmer
Angela Palmer is a licensed esthetician specializing in acne treatment.