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Beauty products embrace 'natural' oils - but caveat emptor Add to ...

Having grown up on a steady diet of Seventeen and Sassy magazines, I remember all the beauty advice of yore distinctly leaning toward the goal of oil-free skin; much of it still does. How times have changed. Today, hair and skin care is decidedly oil-friendly, a trend that has been greased if you will by the insatiable desire for "natural," organically derived beauty products.

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Argan oil, for instance, is the current star of the class. Derived from the nut of the argan tree, it's the key ingredient in such trendy lines as "chic-ological" Josie Maran cosmetics and Morroccan Oil for hair.

Mama Mio, a celebrity fave that proffers Tummy Rub Oil for expectant mothers, consists of rosehip, borage and wheat germ oils. Other popular oils include jojoba, jasmine and olive.

Still, the use of straight-up oils on skin and hair has developed slowly rather than ignited, perhaps because of resistance born of all those admonitions against greasy skin over the years.

"We've been in business for over 10 years and, when we began, it was really hard to get people to use facial oils," says Kristen Ma, author of Beauty: Pure + Simple and co-founder of Toronto's Pure + Simple spa and skin care. Now, however, the tide has turned, Ma declares: Consumers are more than comfortable with the idea¸ as is the beauty industry, which is doing away with "traditional classifications of dry, oily and combination skin and [moving]toward a more gentle approach of supporting the skin."

Once acne-prone herself, Ma assures skittish clients that plant-derived oils don't cause breakouts. Using them, though, does come with a caveat: Not all oils are created equal. Josie Maran 100% Organic Argan Oil is exactly what it claims to be, but other products in the line can contain far more silicone, which is synthetically derived, than argan oil. Similarly, Morroccan Oil is made mainly of silicone. And some Sephora-brand oil products, such as Illuminating Bronzing Oil, consist of mineral oil, a by-product of petroleum.

In fact, most mainstream commercial products include silicone or mineral oil, both of which are cheap and plentiful. They are also effective, as judged by their use in frizz-calming conditioners. But for those who gravitate toward oils because they want a natural remedy, reading the ingredient label is imperative.

Of course, not every natural-oil trend takes off. Emu oil, touted by Vogue in the late nineties as the next big thing, never truly made it out of the gate. Perhaps this was because it was an animal product requiring the slaughter of birds for their fat.

So what's next? Ma of Pure + Simple predicts the popularity of sea buckthorn oil (from a Tibetan berry that helps with scars and pigmentation) and neem oil (an anti-bacterial and -inflammatory oil used in ayurvedic medicine).

What aren't on the hot list - at least in this trend cycle - are lotions and potions born in labs. As we all know, though, trendspotting can be a slippery slope.

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