Should only French women know?
Updated: Jun 19
You and I have all witnessed the explosion of essential oils on the market – organic oils, farm-direct oils, for your face, your body, your hair, your nails, your cuticles… How do we sort it all out?
(*) FENUA = Tahiti, in French Polynesian language
From the beautician at the cosmetics counter to the scientific magazine contributor, you find many theories that mostly cause confusion.
Argan oil, lavender oil, jojoba, chia, coconut, almond oils - some are heavily processed, some are less.
FIRST QUESTION: WHAT SHOULD YOU LOOK FOR IN A GOOD-QUALITY COSMETIC OIL?
1) Oil vs. Water
Because it takes many pounds of seeds, nuts, or flowers to extract a precious ounce of essential oil, you can imagine that water is added to those little bottles by the time they hit the shelves. Whether the final product is thin or thick will be a good indicator of its water content, and you would be surprised to see that you often pay for a few drops of oil diluted with a large amount of water… Since water is rather inexpensive, you see where the profit is when you pay $35.00 for a bottle with a 5% concentration of oil. Most oils on the market today range between a 1% and a 15% concentration… not great.
2) The other ingredients
Also called “compounds”… Those are whatever the laboratory decides to add to stabilize the oil, i.e. organic (at best) or synthetic compounds…
SECOND QUESTION: IS THERE A SECRET OIL OUT THERE?
As some of you might know, I am a firm believer in natural products. Besides, I love the South Pacific. What a fabulous combination! Who would not love the South Pacific?! The beautiful flora, the food from the ocean and the land, the lifestyle, the simplicity, the history, and of course and most of all, the people, the natives’ inner and outer beauty… It is paradisiac!
When we think “Tahiti”, we think “beaches and bungalows”. There is so much more! There is also... the tiare. The tiare? Yes, the “beauty” flower.
The tiare is venerated, and the natives heavily rely on this sacred flower. Tahitian women have beautiful skin. That is a fact. It is undeniable. Yes, the climate is quite humid there, but the sun is intense and brutal. Yet, Tahitian women spend no money on facial and body creams. How come?
Somewhere on the main island, near Papeete, is the “Institut du Monoi”.
I, like many French women, knew about the Monoi oil of Tahiti made with the famous tiare flower, and I wanted to know more about it. So, I made an appointment when I was on the island, and I received the warm welcome of Olivier who took half a day to show me the immaculate facilities where the tiare both in its wild and cultivated forms is processed. I will never forget the intensity of the fragrances of the flowers, the plants, and the nuts all combined, the Tahitian vanilla, the local coconut, the tamanu oil and other native plants all concocted together to produce a handful of marvelous oils. I asked Olivier what makes the Tahitian oils stand out.
Rather than being focused on mass-production, it is the quality of the oils that is important for Olivier and the staff. The Tahitians care about the product. They know that the Monoi oil is a winner, and they want to make sure that it stays a winner. They will not sacrifice potency for productivity. In other words, they will not jeopardize the sacredness of the tiare. And the reason why very few people outside of France and French Polynesia know about it is because it cannot be mass-produced, therefore it cannot be mass-marketed to the industry giants.
There is quite a range of fragrances that start with 30% concentrated oil - imagine that! That is twice what the best brands offer, yet, they call it “dry oil”. Most of their “standard” oils have a concentration of 50%… and one tops it off with a concentration of 99%! Unheard of! Unbeatable!
I must say though, when you start reaching the 50% concentration, solidification at ambient temperature below 75 degrees F can be an issue. That is actually the best proof that it is the real thing! I personally don’t mind. I soak my bottle in hot water a few minutes ahead of time, and it turns liquid again.
(*) FENUA = Tahiti, in French Polynesian language
Besides the wonderful properties of the Monoi oil (massaging / hydrating / anti-aging, etc.) and the numerous applications (for your face, your body, your hair, your nails… all in one bottle!), it is subtly, muskily, tropically fragrant, and the fragrance stays for a long time. It is VERY MUCH LIKE A PERFUME.
As a side question, do you know the difference between eau de toilette, eau de parfum, and perfume? The higher the concentration of oil, the longer the fragrance lasts on your skin. Perfume has the highest concentration of oil. As a result, it is the most expensive of all three... and it stays the longest!
Also, the tiare oil ("monoi oil") has the “Appellation d’Origine”, which certifies its origin and authenticity. Careful though, some other brands are available but not original. The true, authentic Monoi oil is rich, natural, and effective. Its production is limited, and copies are... common.
I cannot omit the Tamanu oil, a very good oil charged with multiple medicinal properties, but that by itself would be another three or four minute read, and I will save it for later.
In the meantime, take a few minutes to reflect on this superb Monoi oil and to take a quick, virtual tour of magical Tahiti. The French call it the “trip of a lifetime”… Some come back with great memories… and some stay there, expats to be…