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. There's no medical proof that olive oil helps with either conditions, but some believe the oil's antioxidants and emollients make it a useful treatment for soothing these skin problems.
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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 antioxidants of olives. For best preservation, olive oil should be stored in a cool area -- not cold as it will congeal in the fridge -- out of sunlight and with little temperature variation.
Olive oil emollient
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 antioxidants in olive oil may encourage normal skin growth. Adding an essential oil to the olive oil is fine but not necessary; similarly, heating the oil is fine and can be relaxing. 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 can be treated in a similar fashion, especially with short hair. Massage a little oil into the scalp after washing and rinsing the 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. 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. Let your GP know what you are doing, and if your skin condition does not improve within a month, discontinue external use.
Olive oil ingestion
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 found no evidence for this, so its benefits are not medically proven. There is evidence that improved nutrition in general can improve skin condition, and substituting olive oil for other oils in the diet can do no harm.
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