Oil: single-ingredient natural skincare

I’m tired of all this nonsense about beauty being skin deep. That’s deep enough. What do you want, an adorable pancreas? ― Jean Kerr

My love affair with natural skincare continued once I saw the amazing effects of using raw honey.

Oil was the next step. Because:
  • One type or another – including its cousin butters, like shea or cocoa – is used in every culture around the world for skin and hair care. If it ain’t broke, etc etc.
  • In our over-complicated world, being able to replace cleanser, makeup remover, moisturiser, body moisturiser, hair treatment and hair serum with one oil is, simply, brilliant.
  • It unclogs, it conditions, it calms, it enriches. I repeat: with one product.
  • If the supply runs out, it’s possible to borrow more from the kitchen. Saying that:
Do please watch out:
  • What often passes for food-grade cooking oil is not what I’d ever put on the skin, which is our largest organ and highly penetrable – that’s how nicotine or oestrogen patches work, after all.
  • For skincare (and of course, for eating too), it’s best to choose an oil that has not been refined, diluted, hydrogenated or processed beyond mechanical extraction. So:
  • no corn oil, soya bean oil or the unspecified ‘vegetable’ oil.
  • Likewise, I’d avoid patented commercial products, like baby oil, which is really mineral oil – awful for the environment, highly processed and doesn’t offer the same benefits. All we need is a bit of the real stuff.
The oils I use:

Jojoba oil for the face. Jojoba is actually a liquid wax, but it has a very similar chemical structure to the oil on our skin and hair, so our bodies think of it as a friend.

Coconut oil for the body. Especially the Neals Yard Remedies version, which is not smelly. (Americans smell coconut oil and think of Hawaii; I smell it and think of Indian hair oil.)

Olive oil as a standby, as it’s the most readily available of the non-processed oils.

Ways to use oil:

1. Body moisturiser. Unless using a ‘dry oil’ like jojoba or argan, you will need to give it ten minutes before getting dressed. Frankly, it’s an opportunity (obligation) to dance around the room.

2. Hair treatment. Apply to the whole head or only the ends, and leave for ten minutes to overnight – depending on how much the state of your hair makes you sob – before shampooing. Also nice: rub two drops of oil in your palms and lightly run over your hair after drying.

3. Face cleanser and moisturiser. Here’s how:

  • Apply a few drops of oil to the face and massage all over. This is an exceptionally Good Thing for the circulation, and the oil prevents dragging.
  • Dunk a facecloth or face towel in medium-hot (not hot-hot!) water, wring out the excess then hold over your face for a few moments. The mild heat helps the oil to penetrate the skin (the oil+heat combo unclogs it).
  • Use the facecloth to gently wipe the oil off the face. Wash the cloth with hot water and soap after every use to keep things clean. (I use readymade muslin cloths from department stores, or try an eco baby shop where it’s sold cheaply by the roll, and cut into squares.)
  • Eye makeup can be similarly removed, with a few drops on a cotton pad, holding it against the eyes for a few moments to loosen the makeup first. It could leave a residue, so it may not be ideal for contact lens wearers, or if you plan to reapply makeup immediately.
  • Moisturising is not usually required at the end of this ritual, but if it is, just add one or two drops of the same oil back on any areas that feel tight.

What’s so great about this – popularly known as the Oil Cleansing Method, or OCM – is that all skin types benefit. Dry skins soak up the oil. Oily skins get balanced, even if that sounds counter-intuitive. And if you have freaky skin (as I do) that’s a bit of everything, then the oil makes all parts breathe calmly with minimal fuss.

Here are some other oils of possible interest:

Tamanu oil. This very rich, dark green oil is meant to be outstanding for hyperpigmentation. For me, it had a noticeable effect the first few days, but not so much thereafter. It may also stain clothing, so please use carefully. Avoid if you have a nut allergy!

Rosehip seed oil. Also known for its superlative restorative properties for hyperpigmentation, wrinkles and scars, including old ones. I tried it on a surgery scar and it had some effect but, given the price, I didn’t continue. Catherine Deneuve uses it on her face apparently. Hearing this made a 60something friend get a bottle; she said it’s terrific.

Argan oil. This Moroccan oil is the current favourite of many for skin and especially hair (I know! Extraordinary how even oils have their celebrity moments). Still, it doesn’t fully tame frizz. A hairstylist told me an oil+cream combo works best for frizz control. Ah, but did you notice I stress ‘single-ingredient natural skincare’? That’s how minimal I like it. Again, please note: avoid if you have a nut allergy!

I know people who use coconut oil for everything, and others who use argan or olive. Sesame is hugely popular in Ayurveda. There are no rules. Unless applied all over the body, a tiny bottle lasts for ages. It’s great to experiment (especially with what’s available locally) and see what gives the best results.

Wishing you oily times ahead!

The finest clothing made is a person’s own skin, but, of course, society demands something more than this. ― Mark Twain

Related Recommendations:

We love healthy oils. But greed for the other kind is ruining our planet:

music buttonHear Marvin Gaye sing his anthem to the environment in Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology) from his 1971 album, What’s Going On.

film icon‘Corruption is why we win.’ Watch Syriana, where oil wraps itself around corporate greed, international politics and terrorism.

website iconRead a dark but moving short graphic story, A Well-Oiled Mind by Simone Lia, commissioned by the Guardian newspaper.

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