In Tahiti, monoi oil has a history as rich as its fragrance. For centuries, Tahitians have concocted this oil by steeping native tiare gardenia flowers in pure, locally harvested coconut oil. Tahitians hold monoi, which translates to “sacred oil,” in high estimation and for good reason. This simple, sweet-smelling oil offers beauty benefits that range, quite literally, from head to toe.
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At the cosmetics counter, monoi oil often shows up in hair products. You can find this coconut derivative in shampoos, conditioners, hair masks, moisturizers and frizz-control serums, among other items. Sources including Elle report that, when applied to the hair, monoi oil bolsters shine and decreases frizz and flyaways. This deeply moisturizing oil also repairs hair by realigning the keratinous scales of each fiber. As a preshampoo treatment, monoi conditions and protects hair from environmental damage, according to the Elevate Magazine website. Additionally, research conducted by the cosmetic-producing company Carol's Daughter found that one use of a monoi-based shampoo and hair mask reduces hair breakage by about 96 percent and greatly increases overall hair elasticity.
While monoi's coconut oil foundation -- which is rich in essential fatty acids, vitamin E and free radical-fighting antioxidants -- makes for strong skin-moisturizing ability, the tiare flowers used to create the oil contain methyl salicylate, lending it anti-inflammatory properties. Research from the nonprofit Institut du Monoi indicates that 28 days of monoi use bolsters skin elasticity by about 27 percent. In addition to moisturizing and soothing the skin, Elle's executive beauty editor April Long says that monoi lends the skin a gentle glow. Skin-focused products that contain monoi oil include soaps, body washes, bronzers, lotions, scrubs, sunscreen, anti-aging creams, makeup, bath salts, moisturizers and perfumes.
Due to its emollient properties and soothing tropical fragrance, masseuses often use monoi as a deep-tissue massage oil. In Tahiti, locals rub monoi oil into their hair and on their bodies, using it everywhere from the face to the feet. In addition to its beautifying properties, Tahitians use the oil to treat itchy insect bites and fade stretch marks. Speaking to Huffington Post, dermatologist Dr. Whitney Bowe recommends using monoi oil on dry heels and elbows.
Beyond the Basics
While regular coconut oil offers many of the same benefits as monoi, the protein-rich, Tahitian-grown coconuts used in monoi give the oil a less greasy feeling. As a standalone ingredient, the Institut du Monoi reports that pure monoi oil is a hypoallergenic substance. Of course, monoi oil's signature fragrance accounts for much of its appeal; speaking to The Banner, Diana Avakian O'Donnell of Moana Beauty says, “You take that first whiff of fragrance and, like magic, you are instantly transported to the tropics.”