Crash Course—Olive Oil
Olive oil production dates back to antiquity in the Mediterranean. It’s mentioned in the bible and used as a spiritual anointing oil, for lighting lamps, cooking and grooming. (Just think of Abraham and his wives sealing their curls with EVOO.) Fast forward 5,000 years, and this miracle oil from olives is still considered sacred, especially given its benefits for healthy hearts, hair and skin.
This nectar is extracted from the olives the old fashioned way, it’s crushed and ground into a paste and water is slowly added, which causes the oil molecules to concentrate. The mixture is stirred for 40 minutes or less, then placed on mats or pushed through a centrifuge to separate the liquids from the pulp. Later, the oil and water are uncoupled, and voila, the olive’s most popular derivative is ready for bottling.
The Mediterranean still has the market on lock. Chances are, the oil you’re using comes from either Spain (45% market share), Italy (20% market share) or Greece (13% market share). Not every olive oil is made the same. The oils are graded according to production method, flavor and acidity. Grades are just as important to olive oil as they are in school, and are determined by the International Olive Oil Council (IOOC). Olive oil is ranked according to taste and acidity. The extra virgins (tee hee) are the best culinary quality oils. Premium Extra Virgin Olive Oil is the smoothest, with the lowest acidity. It’s literally good enough to eat out of the bottle. Extra Virgin Olive Oil has a fruity taste and varies from pale yellow to bright green. The EVOO rule of thumb is the deeper the color, the better the flavor. Fine Virgin Olive Oil can’t have more than 1.5% acidity. Virgin Olive Oil has an acidity rate of 2% or less. Semi-fine Olive Oil clocks in at 3.3% or less acidity. It’s fine for cooking and cosmetic purposes (this is probably the stuff in most manufactured hair products)
With additional processing, olive oil loses the right to be called “virgin” and becomes “refined”. This oil is usually blended with virgin oils and used for foods packed in olive oil.
First and foremost, EVOO is a serious health booster. It contains monounsaturated fatty acids, which experts believe lower cholesterol, and may also aid in balancing insulin levels and controlling blood sugar, a plus for type 2 diabetics. Add it salads, cook with it, and use it as a replacement for fats like butter and other oils.
When it comes to hair, there’s no oil more used in textured hair products. Most Naturalistas opt for the extra virgin kind, though lesser grades are fine for most cosmetic purposes. Use it as a pre-poo hot oil treatment to coat, condition and soften dry, tangled curls, add it to conditioners and deep treatments for extra slip and conditioning power, apply it after a creamy or water based moisturizer as a sealant. Dab a few drops on your fro, for a glistening sheen. There’s hardly a wrong way to use olive oil. This oil is one of the few that actually penetrates the hair shaft, which means your strands can really benefit from its vitamin E and antioxidants. It also reportedly helps promote scalp health and prevent flaking.
Got dry skin? Try rubbing olive oil on it. Sure, you’ll smell like pasta, but your skin will be lubricated with little chance of an allergic reaction. Plus, olive oil offers mild protection against sun damage and skin cancer.
Check out our favorite homemade olive oil hair concoction: start with wet or dry detangled hair. Wear an old shirt, because this can get messy. Microwave ½ to 1 cup of oil for about 30 seconds. The oil should be warm, not hot. (Please use a microwave safe container, we don’t anyone accidentally getting fried.) Using fingertips, massage olive oil into your scalp, then smooth in on your hair strands in a downward motion. All of your hair and scalp should be completed coated in oil. For extremely dry hair, add 1 part honey to 2 parts olive oil. Wrap hair in a conditioning cap and sit for 30 minutes. Wash and condition as usual.