Thursday, March 13, 2014

Bonus post: Olive oil- food or beauty bargain?

The answer is both!  And guess what?  A high quality bottle of olive oil is pretty cheap when you think of all the treatments it can provide.  But first let me tell you how I got there.

For the past few years I've been avoiding conventional beauty products when I can in a effort to reduce my exposure to chemical toxins.  The more I read about perimenopause and environmental toxins the more I understood why chemical fragrances added to health and beauty products effect me negatively.  (Google the subject and you'll never run out of reading material!)  It started with headaches when I wore perfume.  Even my favorite scents that I'd worn forever.  Then it was household cleaners. (I'll do another post about my favorite household cleaning alternatives.)  Soon my doctor noticed my hormones were imbalanced.  So I looked for options.  First it was L'Occitane products.  They aren't an organic company but being based in France their products can't contain some bad additives that are allowed here in the US.  (European countries also restrict the use of many chemicals used in food manufacturing here in the US.)  I liked and still use some of their body washes and I can't live without their hair oil.  But their skincare left me with small breakouts and who needs that?  Thus began my descent into olive oil, baking soda, apple cider vinegar, and coconut oil.  But today I'm only going to talk about olive oil.  There's just that many uses!

1)  Face Wash:  Mix 3 parts olive oil and 1 part castor oil.  (For more acne prone skin use more castor oil and less olive oil.  Read more about castor oil's benefits here.  It's antibacterial!)  Place a bit in your palm, about the diameter of a quarter.  Rub palms together to warm up the oil.  Rub gently on the face massaging the skin.  I use L'Occitane eye make up remover before the oil but the oil can remove eye make up too.  Depends on how much I'm wearing.  Place a hot rung out washcloth over the face for a few seconds.  Gently wipe off the oil.  Repeat as necessary to remove the oil or leave a little on if your face is very dry.  (In the summer I rinse out my washcloth three times but in the winter only twice.)  Follow with moisturizer if you need it and eye cream of your choice.

2)  Hair Detangler and deep conditioner:  My Little Miss Sweet 16 has been sick and in bed for a week. She woke up with the biggest tangled mess in her hair.   The plan was to hang out, have some mother-daughter brushing-bonding time, and watch Frozen via Apple TV. I couldn't get a brush thru her hair without her screaming like she was five years old.  Not a very bonding experience for either of us.  Olive oil to the rescue!  I simply poured a bit into a bowl, dipped my fingers in and massaged the oil into the knotted area.  I was even able to separate the strands a little before using the brush again.  All was as peaceful as a Disney movie before the mother dies.  To deep condition leave the oil on the hair for a half hour or more.  Be sure to protect your clothing with an old towel or wear an old t-shirt.  The oil may stain.  Rinse with warm water and then use shampoo.  Condition if you want but you probably won't need it.

3)  Lice Treatment:  Spread the  oil all over the head and cover with a disposable plastic shower cap.  Keep on overnight if you can.  Or start in the morning and wash the hair after dinner.  If there are any nits the oil will smother them.  Your child's school may still require the nits be removed.  If so go thru each strand of hair with a lice comb before you wash the hair and then again once the hair has dried.  (Now we know where the term "nit picking" comes from!)  This may be a good time to invest in a pair of magnifying reading glasses from the drugstore and some movies On Demand.

4)  Pump up your moisturizer:  Adding a few drops of olive oil to my face moisturizer can do wonders and doesn't make me break out.  I just mix it into the moisturizer with my fingers and gently rub it on my face.  I'm in my late 40's and like many women my age I'm trying to prevent wrinkles but unfortunately most anti aging creams leave me with the acne of a teenager.  I'm currently using CeraVe PM Facial Moisturizer.  It's not organic but it is fragrance free.  The added olive oil just makes it a bit better when my skin feels more dry than usual.  I tried their day version with sunscreen but it makes me breakout. Sigh...

5)  Keratosis Pilaris:  You know those little bumps on the back of your arms?  If you don't then consider yourself blessed.  I've had these my whole life.  (It runs in my mother's side of the family and until I was in college I thought it was a genetic defect called "Bashuk Bumps" that was named after our family!  Then I met my friend Lauren who gets them too.  She once asked her dermatologist about her "Bashuk Bumps".  Seriously.  It was hilarious!) It's officially called Keratosis Pilaris.  I've tried many, many methods to remove the bumps including some dermatologist recommendations but nothing worked.  And then I found my friend olive oil.  I mix it with a heavy cream (I'm currently using CeraVE SA Renewing Cream.  I swear I don't work for them.  I think I got a coupon and just ran with it!) as described above but I use about 5 drops of olive oil.  Rub it on twice a day.  Wait a few minutes before dressing.

6)  Cuticle oil:  This is a no brainer.  Simply massage it into your nail beds at night or whenever you're handling olive oil in the kitchen.  (I'f I'm rubbing oil on a chicken I wash my hands first and then wipe a bit of the oil that's dripped on the side of the bottle.  You really don't need very much.)  If you've got an empty bottle of store bought nail oil (the kind with a nail polish brush) just use a tiny funnel to put the oil in and keep it by your bed side.  If not buy a little travel bottle but put it on in the bathroom so you don't stain your sheets.

There is a wide range of olive oils on the market.  I prefer to buy minimally refined organic oil.  My favorite is an oil imported from Greece by the owner of a local diner.  The olive orchards have been in his family for over 100 years!  (If you're ever on Chicago's beautiful North Shore check out Cafe Buon Giorno in Winnetka.  They serve delicious soups, salads, breakfast dishes, and sandwiches all made from real ingredients.  No freaky flavor enhancers. )  Buy the best quality you can afford.  The skin is the body's largest organ and it absorbs the things we put on it.  After I'd been using the olive oil face wash for a few months I was due for some blood work.  My HDL was never better and my overall cholesterol was down too.  I can't say this will impact your health in the same way but it's an added benefit if it does!

My favorite olive oil.
Giving up conventional health and beauty products doesn't have to be all or nothing, just like healthy eating.  Eliminating just one product in your bathroom reduces your overall chemical exposure.  I've found alternatives for shampoo, conditioner, and deodorant too.  I'll post those another time.

Have you tried any of these uses for olive oil?  If so tell me about your experience in the comments below.  I hope this information is helpful!



  1. I usually keep a bottle of olive oil in my pantry and another in my power room, both high quality, and reach for them nearly as often in both spots. I have very, very dry skin (and also uber sensitive) skin and have oil oil to be one of the few things that can help it stay soft and supple, especially during the winter. I also love it for getting waterproof mascara off!

    Big hugs & many happy Friday wishes,
    ♥ Jessica

    1. I use a separate eye make up remover because the oil makes my contacts blurry but I may have to try it for the waterproof mascara. I rarely wear it but when I do it's very hard to remove.

      Thanks for the idea! Happy Friday to you too!

  2. "Giving up conventional health and beauty products doesn't have to be all or nothing, just like healthy eating."


    I haven't used olive oil as a beauty product. Thanks for sharing these recipes.

    Like you I have bad reactions to most added fragrances. Plus, Phthalates! When possible I buy fragrance-free items.

    1. Yes, those nasty Phthalates! I'm avoiding those too! Scary how many bad chemicals are available.

  3. You've inspired me to try some of these again. I tried coconut oil as a face cleanser a few years ago and also as a moisturizer. I sometimes use organic shampoo and conditioner but I have to intersperse it with with something stronger and more conventional occasionally as my hair is annoyingly oily. Thanks for these tips!

    1. Aileen, when I do the post on other beauty alternatives I'll tell you about what I use to wash my hair. It may be helpful to you. My hair isn't oily but since I've been using this new method I only need to wash my hair twice a week. I've gone for an entire week in a pinch without looking like I had dirty hair.

      I've tried coconut oil as a body moisturizer but I didn't like it so much.

      Thanks for commenting!