In Which Olive Oil Saves the Day

This is a really girly post, so if you’re a guy, you can go ahead and retrace your steps to where you were a few minutes ago and still have the masculinity you proved in Movember intact. That’s my disclaimer.

A few months ago, I noticed that my face was rashier than normal. I tend to blush quite easily, which is a pain in the ass, and my skin is really sensitive– so for a while I rationalized it away. Perhaps I was PMSing, or I ate too many oranges. Or too much butter. But then a few weeks ago, after washing my face, I realized that my face was a mask of bright pink and the only normal skin color was around my eyes! I’m a very light olive, so any shade of pink on me is glaringly obvious. To make matters worse, my skin was peeling off on my cheeks like a sunburn (though I didn’t have a sunburn) and my chin was flaky with dandruff. What the heck?

I had been using the same cleanser for a year with no problems, and the same moisturizer for three years with no problems, so it was a mystery to me. Also, I had allergies, so it could have been related to that. I stopped using the cleanser and used water instead– no change. I stopped using the moisturizer, but that didn’t last long because my skin was still flaky and peeling and my face felt as tight as a drum– like I would crack, like that talking sheet of skin on the first season of Doctor Who. You know, the one with Eccleston and Piper, and the Last Human, and they are all watching the Earth explode.

My grandmother used to use olive oil as a moisturizer, and my husband’s grandmother had just been talking to me about how her mother had washed her face with olive oil, so I went online to ferret out some instructions. I was pretty desperate and pretty broke, and my skin was peeling off. If I plastered foundation on it, the flakes were skin colored and creepy. Blech!

For a week, I massaged extra virgin olive oil into my face and then rinsed it off with warm water. The first day, it felt like a balm on my rashy skin. On the second day, the rash was subsiding! Every day it got a little better– just olive oil and water. For moisturizer I massaged a little extra oil into my skin and left it there.

This is a Tunisian stamp. Olives are just some of my favorite things. How many things come from pretty trees, you can eat them, make oil out of them, and cook with them? Hm?
This is a Tunisian stamp. Olives are just some of my very favorite things. How many things come from pretty trees, you can eat them, make oil out of them, and cook with them? Hm?

But olive oil on its own wasn’t quite enough, so I got a bottle of Vitamin E oil from Trader Joe’s and combined it– 3 parts olive to 1 part E. The consistency was perfect, but now I was beginning to feel like a salad. I use the same olive oil every day for cooking, so it was difficult to separate the two uses, perhaps. The next time I went to Whole Foods, I went to the essential oils section, and found that those teeny weeny bottles are freaking expensive! Luckily, I collect pelargoniums and love the smell of geranium leaves, because the citronella/geranium oil was the cheapest. I put four drops of it in my olive/E mixture– and suddenly my mixture smelled like a long-ago beloved Clarins potion my mom used to get for me when I had severe teenage acne.

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Olives_au_marche_de_Toulon_p1040238.jpg
Chili olives are my favorite, with herbed wrinkly black olives coming in a close second.

That’s when I thought, “Duh, you ninny, why haven’t you thought of this before?” In high school I was one big pustule. It was awful. Add to that my sensitive skin– no Retin-A for me, thank you!– and my allergic reaction to tetracycline– lumps all over my arms and in my throat!– and I was incurable. My mother forbade chocolate and butter, while my grandmother snuck in chocolate and told me hers went away when she was 25, and I’d just have to make the best of it.

During that time, my mom and I had found that the little bottles of scented oil by Clarins were the only thing that didn’t make the acne worse, so I used that. Clearasil, Alpha Hydroxy– all of those supposed acne medications just made it all angry. I am so glad my daughter takes after my husband. His whole family has collectively had maybe five pimples in their entire lives. It’s ridiculous.

Now here I am at week three of olive oil, and I don’t even have to wear foundation to cover the red anymore. It’s wonderful. I still have sneezy allergies, so apparently the skin thing and the sniffles and sneezes were not related. Since I go outside a lot, I do still wear sunscreen– and managed to find one without dimethicone–but this particular one doesn’t seem to be an irritant. Dimethicone is everywhere, in anything that wants to be silky smooth, whether it’s hair products, lotions, or face creams. I’m sure for a lot of people it doesn’t have any adverse effects, but it does for me. If I use  a hair product with dimethicone in it, I get a rash wherever my hair touches my face– so I sure don’t actually want to put it on my face on purpose. Who knows. Maybe it’s not the dimethicone, but whatever gets used along with it? In any case, if I avoid it, I get fewer rashes, that’s all I know.

I told you this was a girly post, and so there you are. If you have a rashy face, even if you are pimple prone, at least try washing your face with olive oil for a week. What do you have to lose? I know this isn’t about writing or cooking, but it was such a big deal to me to go from skin peeling off to wearing no makeup that I had to pipe up about it.

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