As Hanukkah is celebrated around the world this week, oil has a very special significance. But to a bystander like myself, I have never been sure as toâ€”why?
â€œThe real miracle of Hanukkah is that the Jewish army won the war against the Greeks,â€ explains Devon Portney, a former Hebrew teacher. â€œWhen they returned to the desecrated temple, they wanted to purify it by burning the remaining oil in the candelabra. But there was only enough oil to last for one day, but somehow it lasted for eight, which is why we celebrate for eight days.â€
Oil not only has huge religious significance at this time of yearâ€”traditional Hanukkah fried food is quite irresistible, latkeâ€™s anyoneâ€”it could also be a winter skin saver. Gwyneth Paltrow, for example, is a huge fan of face oils and Emma Stone adores the grape-see oil that she credits for having helped change her cystic acne to blemish free skin (she uses a dab of tea tree oil when a pesky zit makes an appearance).
But just like the quality of latkes, not all oils are created equal. A mineral oil will clog pores but basic oils such as camellia, macadamia and jojoba can even extract sebum from the skin.
And a firm favorite of mine is hand-made by Annee de Mamielâ€”donâ€™t be intimidated by the name, itâ€™s pronounced Annie and she grew up on farmland in Australiaâ€”who has combined her knowledge of Chinese medicine and acupuncture to create quite amazing facials with the basis in face oils. â€œA face oil balances the skin and helps control sebum production rather than stripping the face, which turns oil production into overdrive,â€ she says. De Mamiel also combines aromatherapy oils because: â€œEssential oils affect you externally and internally and they are so powerful being that they are absorbed into the system through the skin.â€ Now, de Mamielâ€™s oils come with an extra twist. â€œIâ€™ve added flower essences to give people clarity and calmness so that together with the aromatherapy oils the benefits are more than twofold because the flower essences more that doubly increases the effects. â€œAnnee produces four limited edition oils a year that work with the changing seasons (Â£60, $100). Plus her new Altitude Oil is just the thing for flying over the holidays (Â£22, $37).
Aromatherapy Associates have been a long-time obsession of mine, too, and their Revitalising Face Oil – Rose and Frankincense ($66)â€”which reminds me of another holiday storyâ€”is wonderfully soothing and works as well as some of the most technically advanced skincare. And Clarins recently re-formulated a classic, the Blue Orchid Face Treatment Oil ($50) to contain rosewood, patchouli, and blue orchid all in a hazelnut base, which is great for partied-out skin. Massage it in thoroughly to get the circulation going and add some color to those pallid cheeks!
If this is all looking a bit pricey, check out Spring Valley Vitamin E Skin Oil 12000 IU ($3.96), which is packed full of free radical fighting antioxidants. Add a couple of aromatherapy oils to create your own bespoke face treatment.
Also a hot tip: cleansing oils. Bought to the west by make-up maestro Mr. Shu Uemura, when he worked in Hollywood in the 50s (Cleansing Beauty Oil Premium a/i, $36), one is still sold every seven seconds. I always use an oil to take my makeup off and then another cleanser to clean off the deep city dirt. Johnsonâ€™s Baby Oil ($5,89) does a good job too: okay so itâ€™s mineral oil but if you use it to remove your make-up and then cleanse afterwards, whatâ€™s the fuss?
Now pass me those latkes. And Happy Hanukkah to all.