Oleic Acid


Cleansing Agent

No known benefits

Oleic Acid at a glance

  • Omega-9 fatty acid found in many plants, including grape seed
  • Primary fatty acid found in olive oil
  • Used as a cleansing agent and texture enhancer
  • Has improved skin calming abilities when combined with other lipids

Oleic Acid description

Oleic acid is a natural, monounsaturated omega-9 fatty acid found in many plants, including grape seed, olives, and sea buckthorn. It’s the primary fatty acid in olive oil and believed to play a role in this oil’s cholesterol-lowering benefits when consumed orally. Interestingly, research has shown that topical application of oleic acid on its own or as olive oil can disrupt skin’s barrier; however, this effect was not observed when oleic acid was blended with other fatty acids and skin-beneficial ingredients. On the upside, this kind of barrier disruption can enhance penetration of other ingredients naturally present in plant oils or in the product, so it’s not necessarily all bad (and, as we mentioned, not bad at all unless you’re applying pure oleic acid or straight olive oil to skin). In another interesting twist, combining oleic acid with other lipids (fats) boosts its skin-calming ability, thus making oleic acid useful for reducing signs of dryness and sensitivity when used in this capacity. In cosmetics, oleic acid is used as a cleansing agent and texture enhancer. It’s among the more stable fatty acids and has a unique ability to preserve the effectiveness of more delicate ingredients such as antioxidants by helping to protect them from light and air degradation. The independent Cosmetic Ingredient Review panel has ruled oleic acid safe as used in cosmetics, where typical usage ranges from 1–10%. Lastly, oleic acid is also naturally occurring in cosmetic ingredients stearic and palmitic acids.

Oleic Acid references

  • International Journal of Nanomedicine, August 2019, pages 6,539-6,553
  • https://www.cir-safety.org/sites/default/files/facids042019finalrep.pdf
  • International Journal of Molecular Sciences, January 2018, ePublication
  • Biointerphases, March 2017, ePublication
  • Experimental Dermatology, January 2014, pages 39-44

Peer-reviewed, substantiated scientific research is used to assess ingredients in this dictionary. Regulations regarding constraints, permitted concentration levels and availability vary by country and region.

Ingredient ratings


Proven and supported by independent studies. Outstanding active ingredient for most skin types or concerns.


Necessary to improve a formula's texture, stability, or penetration.


Generally non-irritating but may have aesthetic, stability, or other issues that limit its usefulness.


There is a likelihood of irritation. Risk increases when combined with other problematic ingredients.


May cause irritation, inflammation, dryness, etc. May offer benefit in some capability but overall, proven to do more harm than good.


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Not rated