Over the last years, the incorporation of natural antioxidants in food and pharmaceutical formulations has gained attention, delaying or preventing oxidation phenomena in the final products. In order to take full advantage of their properties, protection in special microenvironments is of great importance. The unique features of the natural phenolic compound hydroxytyrosol (HT) - including antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antiproliferative and cardioprotective properties - have been studied to clarify its mechanism of action. In the present study novel biocompatible water-in-oil (W/O) microemulsions were developed as hosts for HT and subsequently examined for their absorption profile following their oral uptake. The absorption of HT in solution was compared with the encapsulated one in vitro, using a coculture model (Caco-2/TC7 and HT29-MTX cell lines). The systems were structurally characterized by means of Dynamic Light Scattering (DLS) and Electron Paramagnetic Resonance (EPR) techniques. The diameter of the micelles remained unaltered after the incorporation of 678 ppm of HT but the interfacial properties were slightly affected, indicating the involvement of the HT molecules in the surfactant monolayer. EPR was used towards a lipophilic stable free radial, namely galvinoxyl, indicating a high scavenging activity of the systems and encapsulated HT. Finally, after the biocompatibility study of the microemulsions the intestinal absorption of the encapsulated HT was compared with its aqueous solution in vitro. The higher the surfactants' concentration in the system the lower the HT concentration that penetrated the constructed epithelium, indicating the involvement of the amphiphiles in the antioxidant's absorption and its entrapment in the mucus layer. Copyright © 2019 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.