In the time it’s taken for oils to migrate from the kitchen to the dresser, research has discovered many new uses for them. And we're still uncovering the full potential of these super ingredients, both for therapy and cosmetics. Oils are having a moment. After all, what other single product can claim to lower cholesterol, zap zits and tame frizzy hair? In their purest forms, they are chemical-free and gentle on your system.
So what makes oils such a across-the-board favourite? Simply put, they’re versatile. Don't like the taste? Use it on your skin. Not a fan of the stickiness? Inhale it (think aromatherapy). To find your magic potion, do a quick skin evaluation to see if it suits your type, then read the fine print on the packaging to make sure you’re getting the potency you need. For example, tea tree oil is kind of a miracle cure that can fix oily skin and dry scalp. But most products that claim its benefits use it in a concentration too low to actually work. Your best bet is to buy pure oils — just a few drops are enough to get the job done.
TEA TREE OIL
The only oil on this list that you can't use in the kitchen makes up for this little deficiency with its strong antibacterial and astringent properties.
ON THE DRESSER: It works wonders on acne by disinfecting the pores and drying out blackheads and whiteheads. On the scalp, it’s effective in fighting dryness, itchiness and dandruff thanks to its moisturising abilities. It's the entire beauty package, but if you have sensitive skin or eczema, this one's not for you.
AT HOME: Tea tree oil is a natural, all-purpose cleaner and disinfectant. Just add two teaspoons to a bottle of water and spray all over your home — it freshens up carpets and rugs. You can even sprinkle some in your closet to prevent mildew.
IN THE MEDICINE CABINET: Its antiseptic and bacteria-killing properties fight fungal infections, and it’s a natural insect-repellant which can also alleviate itchiness caused by bug bites when used as a poultice. And as long as you don’t swallow any, tea tree oil is an effective mouthwash and soothes sensitive gums and teeth.
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It’s packed with antioxidants as well as antibacterial and hydrating agents. Go ahead, throw any skin problem at it and Popeye's girlfriend has got you covered.
ON THE DRESSER: It’s the perfect base for home-made scrubs, and works well as a make-up remover. Try it in place of shaving foam for a closer, smoother shave on your hands and legs — it will leave your skin feeling soft and hydrated. Pro tip: Use one part olive oil with two parts of any mild face wash to clean make-up brushes.
IN THE KITCHEN: Olive oil is naturally free of cholesterol, sodium and carbohydrates, which makes it ideal to cook with. And contrary to common belief, its smoke point is high enough to withstand stir-frying. For deep frying, regular, not extra virgin is a better option — it coats rather than penetrates so food tends to feel less greasy.
IN THE MEDICINE CABINET: Add a few drops to any DIY remedies for wounds; its antibacterial properties protect from infection and prevent scarring. It’s also a remedy for eczema.
Packed with vitamin E, antioxidants and essential fatty acids, argan has the dream team of ingredients.
ON THE DRESSER: It does everything from taming frizz to strengthening and repairing damage. In its purest form, you can use it as a post-styling product— just a drop or two is enough. Leave it in your hair overnight for deep conditioning, apply it to your face (it has anti-ageing properties), and use it to prevent stretch marks during pregnancy.
IN THE KITCHEN: Extracted from the nuts that grow on argan trees, this oil isn’t safe for consumption at high temperatures, so use sparingly. Drizzle over cooked dishes or salads as an alternative to olive oil.
IN THE MEDICINE CABINET: This multi-tasker has excellent anti-inflammatory properties, ranging from lowering cholesterol to easing arthritic pain. It can also be used topically to ease skin problems like eczema, psoriasis and acne.
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In the oil form, this fruit is just as packed with goodness. It’s high in Omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins A,C,E and K, fibre, proteins, minerals and anti-oxidising agents.
ON THE DRESSER: It’s high in biotin, which strengthens hair, and is also not as sticky as olive or coconut oil so you can use it to smooth frizz and fly-aways. The unrefined version has a natural SPF of about four to 15 — if you aren’t exposed to very intense sunlight all day, this is an effective alternative to chemical sun block. Avocado oil also offers deep moisturisation because of its high fat content, and works especially well as a make-up remover. Glutathione, a strong antioxidant used in various skin-lightening procedures, is naturally present in avocados, making the oil a safer brightening agent than most.
IN THE KITCHEN: It’s high in monosaturated or good fats, making it one of the healthiest cooking oils.
IN THE MEDICINE CABINET: Its high content of vitamin E strengthens skin, hair and the immune system, and it can soothe sensitive, irritated skin, too.
It's high in fat — the good kind. Even if you're not a vegan or an Ayurveda fiend, you'll get your money's worth from a bottle of cold-pressed coconuts.
ON THE DRESSER: Most Indian babies are massaged in warm coconut oil, and this is a good ritual to hold on to. Due to its high fatty acid content, coconut oil deeply moisturises skin and hair. Dry skin? Leave it on as a night cream. Like olive oil, it makes a good base for DIY scrubs and you can use it to remove make-up. Dab a bit on your cheekbones, cupid's bow and under the eyebrows for a dewy look.
IN THE KITCHEN: It’s being touted as the perfect substitute for butter in vegan baking, and you can even pour some on your morning toast, in your mashed potatoes or on a corn on the cob.
IN THE MEDICINE CABINET: Coconut oil is the best candidate for oil pulling, an ancient Ayurvedic practice that's fast gaining popularity. It involves swishing oil in your mouth, between your teeth and tongue, for 20 minutes before spitting it out. This ‘pulls’ germs and toxins from the mouth that enter the bloodstream, causing acne and other infections.