Is Oleic Acid Good For Your Skin?

In the vast world of skincare, few topics provoke as much debate as the impact of oleic acid on skin health. Found abundantly in natural oils like olive oil and avocado oil, oleic acid is lauded for its moisturising abilities while also raising concerns because of its comedogenic tendencies. But are these statements true? Let's delve deeper to find out.

Getting to Grips with Oleic Acid

Oleic acid, a monounsaturated omega-9 fatty acid, is a bit of a skincare superstar. It's famous for its ability to hydrate and nourish the skin deeply. Think of it as nature's moisturiser.

How does Oleic Acid work

Oleic acid, a type of fatty acid found in certain oils, has a special way of working with our skin. When we apply a skincare product containing oleic acid, it easily spreads across our skin's surface because it's lightweight and fluid. Once it's on our skin, oleic acid interacts with something called the lipid barrier, which is like a protective layer made up of fats and other substances.


Now, here's where things get interesting: Oleic acid is really good at fitting into this lipid barrier. It sort of fills in the spaces between our skin cells, which helps to keep moisture in and makes our skin feel softer and smoother. Plus, oleic acid also helps our skin make more ceramides, which are important for keeping our skin's barrier strong and healthy.

So, in simpler terms, oleic acid gets into our skin easily and helps it hold onto moisture better. It also helps strengthen our skin's defences, making it less likely to dry out or get irritated. That's why it's a popular ingredient in skincare products, especially for people with dry or sensitive skin.


woman applying skincare products

Is it safe to apply pure oleic acid to my skin?

When you apply oleic acid directly to your skin, whether in its pure form or as part of olive oil, it has the potential to disrupt the skin's natural barrier. This disruption can lead to various issues like sensitivity, irritation, itching, redness, or dullness. 

Although using pure oleic acid may lead to skin irritation, you can still reap its benefits by opting for skincare products containing oleic acid-rich ingredients like tallow. These formulations offer the advantages of oleic acid in a controlled and less irritating manner.

The Great Controversy

Now, let's delve into the big debate surrounding oleic acid. While oleic acid boasts its fair share of fans, it also has its critics, primarily due to its comedogenic nature. In simpler terms, oleic acid is more likely to clog pores compared to other fatty acids, potentially resulting in unwanted breakouts, particularly for those with sensitive or acne-prone skin. This is why oleic acid is most beneficial in skincare when mixed with other fats like tallow, which can help balance its effects and minimise the risk of pore blockage.

Does Tallow contain oleic acid?

Yes, it's quite surprising: tallow, derived from animal suet, is packed with oleic acid, making up approximately 48% of its composition. This makes tallow a valuable addition to skincare products like soaps and moisturisers. With this hefty oleic acid content, you're still reaping its benefits without worrying about pore blockage. Tallow quietly delivers its nourishing and hydrating properties to the skin, ensuring you get the goodness of oleic acid without any breakouts.

woman during her skincare routine

Unveiling the Good Stuff

Despite the controversy, oleic acid does have its perks:

  • Moisture Magnet: Oleic acid's emollient properties make it a pro at keeping skin soft and hydrated. It's like a big drink of water for your skin, helping to lock in moisture and keep it feeling smooth.
  • Antioxidant Power: Some studies suggest that oleic acid can also double up as an antioxidant, fighting off those pesky free radicals and keeping your skin looking fresh and youthful.
  • Soothing Sensation: Ever had irritated or inflamed skin? Oleic acid might just be the hero you need. Research hints that it could help calm down inflammation and give your skin some much-needed TLC.

Navigating the Skincare Scene


Alright, here's the lowdown on how to make oleic acid work for you:

  • Patch Test Party: Before slathering on any new skincare goodies, do a little patch test. Dab a bit of the product on a small area of your skin and see how it reacts. Better safe than sorry!
  • Seek Some Expert Advice: Got specific skin concerns? Chat with a dermatologist or a GP for some tailored advice. They'll help you figure out what's best for your skin type and keep those breakouts at bay.
  • Label Love: When checking out the ingredients list on your skincare products, it's essential to be discerning. While some products may contain beneficial ingredients like oleic acid, it's crucial to remember that not all formulations are created equal. Many skincare products contain a host of other potentially harmful ingredients, often numbering in the double digits. To ensure the best care for your skin, opt for products with minimal and natural ingredients. Keep an eye out for oleic acid or tallow and select products that align with your skin's needs, prioritising simplicity and purity for optimal skincare benefits.


The oleic acid debate might be a bit of a rollercoaster, but hey, that's skincare for you. Embrace the journey, try out different products, and listen to what your skin's telling you. After all, it's your skin, and you deserve to treat it right. So, here's to healthier, happier skin – let's chat again soon!

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