I once spilled nearly a half bottle of olive oil on my kitchen counter. I could have wept. To avoid it going to waste, I hand-squeegeed it into a Tupperware and moved it to the bathroom. I used it on my legs, my cuticles, in the tub, and in my hair. Anywhere I thought sounded like a good idea. It’s something my grandmother would have recommended, and let me tell you she knew what she was talking about.
Olive oil is packed with antioxidants, lipids, fatty acids, and squalene. These components can help protect against free radicals and plump and hydrate skin. It also has natural anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties.
Olive oil has a long history of skin care use. Considering that the olive tree is possibly the oldest known tree on earth, that’s not too surprising. In 2012, scientists carbon-dated olive trees in Gethsemane and found them to be at least 900 years old AND in excellent health.
The ancient Greeks thought that olive trees were a gift from the goddess Athena. As the story goes, the first king of Athens, Cecrops, who was half person and half snake, wanted to find a patron God or Goddess for his city. Athena and Poseidon were chosen to compete and after much fighting, presented a gift to the King and the city for judgment. Poseidon struck the earth with his trident and created a salt water spring. Athena, on the other hand, planted an olive branch in the ground. After a tree grew in its place, Cecrops chose Athena’s gift and the olive tree has remained a central part of Greek culture for thousands of years.
Ancient Greeks and Egyptians used olive oil in cleansers and as a moisturizer. Cleopatra is said to have used olive oil on her skin as part of her many famously luxurious rituals. Many ancient cultures including Indian and Greek believed that if you couldn’t eat something and put it into your body you wouldn’t put it on the outside of your body either.
Many of us have adopted a similar philosophy today. Beauty icons such as Gwyneth Paltrow, Miranda Kerr, and Chloë Grace Moretz have admitted to using olive oil in beauty treatments. But perhaps the most revered user is the legendary movie star, Sophia Loren. Throughout her life, she was often asked about her secret to looking young and beautiful and is quoted as saying “a love of life, spaghetti and the odd bath in virgin olive oil.". That is how I want to live my life. How about you? Pass the pasta, please.