Olive oil is my miracle ingredient. (Photo: Trunk Archive)
I have very dry skin and hair. My hands crack and my nose and chin flake within a week of the air becoming brisk, and my whole life I’ve gotten more compliments on my hair at the end of a stressful exam week with no time to shower than after a wash and hours of styling before a night out. The only ingredient that remedies my painfully dry skin and parched hair is a hefty dose of olive oil. I grew up dousing pasta and vegetables with puddles of olive oil, and my best friend’s family owns an olive oil importing business founded in 1890. Her grandmother and aunt put olive oil all over their faces and bodies before going to bed, and both women aged beautifully — and slowly. I picked up the habit at a young age without putting much thought into it.
I’ve strayed from olive oil many times, but never achieved the same results with other moisturizers. I gave coconut oil a shot, but I found that it goes rancid very quickly, and is too difficult to apply if you keep it in the fridge. I tried all the thickest creams I could find and even started using Vaseline on my face and hands when the air was at its driest one year, but the creams were never enough and the Vaseline was so heavy that my skin couldn’t absorb enough moisture from it by the next morning. I’ve also been tempted by products boasting some version of a miracle ingredient, but most of them include such small percentages of the helpful ingredients, and instead a long list chemicals that I can’t pronounce. As somebody afraid of all things inorganic, I’ve steered away from alien ingredients and gimmicky creams. I now use organic extra virgin olive oil to solve nearly all of my skin ailments.
On winter nights, I rinse my face with water, use olive oil as a makeup remover, then wipe it off and apply about 3-5 drops each to my forehead, nose, cheeks, and neck. In the summer I opt for cleansing oil as a makeup remover — I like MAC Cleanse Off Oil ($31) best — but stick to olive oil afterwards, though in a smaller dose. About twice a month I do an overnight hair mask with a mixture of olive oil and castor oil, which promotes hair growth and thickness, and when my face starts to get driest in the winter, I use olive oil under my makeup, mixed with a bit of Vitamin E oil for some natural SPF. Olive oil already contains naturally occurring Vitamin E, but my fair skin can never have enough.
As the cornerstone of the Mediterranean Diet, olive oil has long been touted as a natural antioxidant and a preventer of cancer, heart disease, and diabetes, among many other benefits. It also promotes healthy digestion, stimulates the metabolism, and is packed with vitamins that are great for skin, hair, and nails when ingested. It can be equally beneficial when used topically. It has been found to reverse the effects of protein damage from UV rays in melanoma cells, and its chemical structure is closest to the oil produced by your skin than any other oil, making it completely safe and effective for sensitive skin.
Oils can be used to treat all types of skin maladies, even clogged pores and acne. It’s easy to assume that oily skin causes breakouts and adding extra oil to the equation would ignite stubborn skin, but don’t overlook oil if you haven’t found a way to make your stubborn skin give in. “While using oil benefits teenage breakouts, it is especially good for adult acne,” Kristen Ma, esthetician and author of Beauty Pure And Simple: The Ayurvedic Approach To Beautiful Skin, wrote in Huffington Post. “This is because it helps to treat many skin problems that occur as our skin matures, such as sun damage, pigmentation, fine lines and loss of tone. So many of my clients over thirty are relieved when they learn they can address pimples while preventing wrinkles, ending the daunting dilemma between treating their acne or aging.” Ma recommends olive oil and other plant oils for blocked pores, evening primrose and borage oils to fuel the skin and support its immunity, restore over-washed skin with jojoba oil, coconut and camellia oils to soothe acne and irritation, and seabuckthorn berry and rosehip oils for healing scars. The gorgeous skin you’ve been dreaming about might not be as distant as you thought.