Ask any French woman or bohemian goddess what's in her beach bag, and she'll likely pull out a bottle of monoï (pronounced Mah-noy) oil. Loaded with antioxidants, it's a nourishing natural elixir that's vanilla-y, slightly chocolaty, ambery, and very, very sexy. It is made from the petals of the white star-shaped Tahitian gardenia—known as Tiaré in French Polynesia—where it's manufactured commercially under strict Appellation of Origin rules. The extraction process is called enfleurage (flower soaking), in which tiny batches of handpicked petals are macerated in coconut oil for 15 days to produce an unctuous liquid with immense soothing and nourishing properties: split ends, sunburn, high-sheen limbs, beach-dry feet, insulation while diving, you name it.
My seasonal obsession with monoï has begun in earnest, and I'm regularly applying masks infused with it to my thick, coarse, and colored hair, sprinkling it into homemade aromatherapy blends for a little extra somethin' somethin' and slathering myself head-to-toe before bed—a slightly slippery habit, I might add! Why? The scent is a total nostalgia trip, and as with most things that I love, it inspires me infinitely.
The painter Paul Gauguin featured the Tiaré flower widely in his paintings of the South Seas, falling in love with the islands and the women who lived there who used monoï oil to polish and decorate their hair and anoint their bodies. The original trailblazer in the movement Monoï Tiare Tahiti and the mastermind behind a cultish line of nine monoï-oil-based products, has paved the way for brands like Carol's Daughter, Soleil Des Iles, Nars, and ORS, to establish itself as one of beauty's next-level ingredients.
Like coconut oil, it contains high levels of essential fats like lauric acid, but unlike coconut oil, whose beauty-from-the-inside-out benefits are widely known, all of its benefits are still TBD. I, for one, think it would make an amazing addition to any kind of baking because the elixir retains both its healthy fats and fibers, plus it smells like an absolute dream. A new superfood that works as the most luxurious after-shower balm and could be slathered on avocado toast or just eaten by the spoonful? Nothing would be better.
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