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Natural Skincare Wonder, Olive Oil

Here is the first of a little series of posts about some of the best skincare ingredients on the planet. Let me introduce you to Olive Oil, it’s not just for cooking or dipping bread, no! If you thought olive oil was only good for you as a food, just wait til you learn what it can do for your skin:

The cosmetics industry is big business in the U.S. – it’s predicted that by 2027, over $463 billion in revenue will be generated worldwide from the sale of beauty and cosmetic products. It’s no wonder that we are bombarded on a regular basis with advertising on TV, magazines, newspapers, and now the internet. We can have 100% flake-free hair, get the London look, be an easy-breezy cover girl, have high drama for every single lash, and even take our lashes to luxurious lengths. Although maybe she’s born with it, some will say that there’s no such thing as natural beauty; and isn’t it great that our cosmetics are allergy-tested, oil free, and dermatologist recommended? Because after all – we’re worth it.

Wait a minute.

Have you ever wondered just exactly do we want our cosmetics to be oil free? Because dermatologists said that eating chocolate and fried foods gave us acne, right? So putting oil on your face became a terrible thing, because TV commercials in the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s said so. But just a few years ago, the tide began to turn. Consumers began to read labels and look for more natural ingredients. By 2010 or so, argan oil and a few other exotic oils began to appear on cosmetic labels, and botanical oils have become the trendy newcomer to the beauty industry. Today, big name, high-end companies sell facial serums comprising of mostly botanical oils with exorbitant price tags: Renewal Oil, by Le Mer, costs $240 for a one-ounce bottle. And that seems like a bargain, compared to Chanel’s Sublimage L’Extract – it sells for $650 for a half ounce bottle.

Do we really need to spend hundreds of dollars for a half ounce or ounce of oil that will condition and help retain moisture on the skin? You can if you want but let me tell you about olive oil. Cold pressed olive oil is classified as “extra virgin” and doesn’t contain any chemical solvents, like some other oils. It’s loaded with vitamins A and E, which are excellent antioxidants that can help repair damage from sun exposure, cigarette smoke, and other pollutants. Olive oil will deeply penetrate the skin, promotes elasticity, and leaves the skin with a protective shield.

I know what you’re thinking: that all sounds great, but it’s OIL – won’t my skin feel greasy if I rub olive oil all over me? Let me tell you a little story. It so happens that a dear friend of mine was a partner in an olive oil business, and she told me that she uses olive oil as a moisturizer, instead of lotion. In my mind, I envisioned my friend working at the olive grove, then toiling at the shed with the presses, out in the country, where their accommodations were, um, less than luxurious. Now she had a lovely home in the city, but out where the olives were grown and pressed and bottled, that was a more primitive set up. I pictured my friend looking around for something, anything, to put on her poor, sun-parched skin; in desperation, she reached for the one thing that was available in abundance: olive oil. She rubbed it on her skin, and smelling like a salad in an Italian restaurant, fell into her little cot in the corner and slept the slumber of an exhausted farmer. (Or so my fantasy went.)

One day she asked me to make a delivery for her, and I was happy to help. I had two boxes to deliver to a home in an upscale neighborhood – I was a little nervous about that part. But I found the address, parked in front of the house, and grabbed the boxes. Just as I was about to hand off the boxes to the customer, the box on top slid off and hit the cement, with a sickening tinkle and crunch of broken glass. The customer was so gracious, she went inside to grab paper towels and an old box to put all the broken glass in. It was only one bottle that broke, and fortunately I had another bottle in my car to replace it. All was well again. As I turned to walk back to my car, I realized that I still had olive oil all over my hands – and I needed to open my car door. Not wanting to get oil all over my car door, seat belt, and steering wheel, I wiped each hand on the opposite arm. This was my defining moment, where I realized suddenly that all those commercials and ads were wrong – oil is not evil! It’s not greasy or sticky, it’s…..nice. Oh, it’s really, really nice! In seconds, the olive oil had absorbed into my skin, and it felt great! The whole drive home, I kept touching my arms and marveling at how soft they were. I might have smelled a little bit like a salad, but I didn’t care.

So here is what you can do – and should do – with olive oil:

  • Use it like lotion, after a bath or shower; a little goes a long way, that’s a good thing!

  • Remove your eye makeup with it;

  • Use it on your face instead of a night cream;

  • Use a little oil on a warm, wet cloth for gentle cleansing for very sensitive skin; rinse with warm water. This is, by the way, how moms took care of their baby’s skin for hundreds of years. Soap was considered way too harsh for a baby’s skin.

  • If the smell bothers you, mix in a few drops of essential oil, like lavender or chamomile; keep that bottle on your bathroom vanity, so it doesn’t get used on salad or other food.

Now that you know the truth, why buy lotions, creams, and moisturizers in those tiny bottles and jars when they are mostly water? Yes, they contain as much as 85% water – that’s why they can be called moisturizers. Because they contain moisture, which is just a fancy name for water. When you get out of the shower or bathtub, your skin is hydrated from the water. Soaking the skin with water will plump up your skin cells and cause the skin to be temporarily soft and smooth – but the water will quickly evaporate unless there is a barrier to help retain the moisture. Your skin does produce an oil, called sebum, that is a natural barrier to keep the skin soft and hydrated. But sometimes sebum is not enough. The best time to apply a barrier product is right after bathing, so use olive oil or other plant-based oils to keep your skin soft, smooth, and healthy!

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