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Oil’s well that ends well—in a soothing skin sensation

Andrea Macko, Dishing It Out

Grease is the new word when it comes to your complexion.

Consider this the cosmetic equivalent of the “back to nature” trend that’s taken over food: rather than slather on chemical-based creams, more people are turning to natural oils, often organic, to ease epidermal ailments. Oil is mistakenly considered to be bad for the skin, but there’s actually some kind of oil in every moisturizer on the market; it lubricates and protects the skin, regardless of its source.

The upcoming winter weather, plus powerful indoor heating, can make the most normal skin dry and irritated. If this feels familiar — or if you’re just looking for something closer to nature — it may be worth it to search out an oil to provide a concentrated hit of moisture, minus the fragrance and chemicals that can often irritate skin more than assist it.

It’s challenging to find unbiased information on oils, as most sites also have an online shop promoting their own products. Instead, talk to salespeople (such as those at The Gentle Rain in Stratford) to discover what’s best for you. Generally speaking, most oils have the moisturizing fatty acids and damage-fighting antioxidants skin craves; it comes down to personal preference.

Jojoba is a good choice to start with, as its chemical structure is very similar to the oil our skin produces. Argan, grapeseed, almond, and even basic olive oil are also nice options. Once you’re confident that the oil you’ve selected is helping your skin, you can delve into essential oils — like lavender, chamomile and tea tree, to name a few — to boost the benefits of your base oil, but they’re a whole other column!

Many of these oils (save those jugs of olive oil!) come in small vials with droppers. Don’t be put off by the perceived price, as a little goes a long way.

If you’re using the oil on your face, for example, start with just two or three small drops, rub gently between your hands then massage your skin gently to spread it around. Your skin should look glowing, not greasy.

Unless you have extremely dry skin, it’s best to use your oil before bedtime, as it may take a while to absorb completely, and not everyone is a fan of this residue.

While most people would use oil in place of moisturizer, there’s also a movement to use it as a facial cleanser. According to www.theoilcleansingmethod.com, soap strips the skin of what it needs most — its own oil — and forces the skin to overcompensate, causing acne and aging. Proponents believe that washing with oil dissolves only the extra oil that’s hardened in your pores, especially when combined with steam. The process as described on the website is rather involved, so I’ve been testing a lazier version during my daily shower. I massage jojoba oil on my face as soon as I get in, and wash it off with a very gentle cleanser at the end. It’s a few days in and, so far, I’ve not experienced any breakouts, and my skin feels supple. It may be too moisturizing for the summer months, but it’s lovely on my slightly dry skin right now.

Virgin coconut oil is practically in a class of its own when it comes to beneficial oils. Depending on who you’re listening to (including personalities like Dr. Oz), it can ease the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease and athlete’s foot… and those are just the ‘A’s! I’m going to leave the validity of these claims to medical professionals in favour of its proven topical benefits. It’s loaded with soothing Vitamin E and is anti-fungal and anti-bacterial. It has
successfully treated keratosis pilaris (that bumpy “chicken skin” many people get on their arms), eczema, psoriasis, and other skin conditions. It’s also unusually cheap, for such a miracle worker.

Since coconut oil is a saturated fat, it’s solid at room temperature. Rub a bit between your hands until liquefied, then use as you would any other moisturizer. It can also be applied to hair as a deep-conditioner before shampooing, a tradition in the tropical regions where coconuts are native species.

It may be a bit heavy as a facial moisturizer, however, unless your skin is very dry.

Oils, on the skin or in your food, feel luxurious, and truffle oil — oil infused with the earthy flavour of truffles — is one of the most indulgent. A small bottle goes a long way as a finishing touch on many dishes, including this idea for a Christmas side dish.


Sweet Potato Puree with Goat Cheese and Truffle Oil (from epicurious.com)

2 1/2 lbs. sweet potatoes, peeled, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
1-125g package soft goat cheese, crumbled
2 tbsp. butter
1 tsp. white truffle oil
Cook sweet potatoes in boiling salted water until tender, about 15 minutes. Drain. Mash with cheese until smooth, then mash in butter and truffle oil until just combined. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer to bowl and serve. Can be prepared in advance and refrigerated.

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