Spring has finally arrived in Chicago. It takes us a while to thaw out from our notorious bone chilling winters. The trees are budding now and flowers are springing up everywhere, which brings me so much joy. It’s my favorite season. To be fair, I have traveled quite a bit this year, catching spring early in various other cities. A trip to California and Arizona in January allowed me to miss the polar vortex you may have heard about, followed by London and Spain, in February and then another longer stretch west back to my beloved California. On my most recent trip, I was rewarded with an abundance of sunshine, bright orange poppies exploding over the curvaceous Antelope valley, train travel through strawberry fields, lemon groves and the rocky Pacific shoreline, which I observed through my window in conjunction to the misty mountains of Northern California on my right. I felt like I was being spoiled by mother nature. She was showing her good side to me and I felt lucky. The most luck I felt, however was in Spain when I came across the creme de la creme of the most significant ingredient in my personal history, olive oil.
Olive oil is one of the most ancient and widely used fruit oils in the world. Growing up, in my home, olive oil was like gold. It was cherished and valued not only in cooking, but also to heal and beautify. If a baby had cradle’s cap, my Abuelita would massage slightly warmed olive oil onto its head to soothe and alleviate this condition. I can still remember her calling to me, “Viqeña, toma tu medicina!” (Come take your medicine) and I’d come running to a spoonful of olive oil because she believed a spoonful a day warded off sickness. If someone was burned, again olive oil to the rescue, applied onto the skin to reduce scarring and aid as an anti-inflammatory agent. My aunt Marta used olive oil to condition her gorgeous, thick black hair, as well as promote the growth of her mile long eyelashes. At home, we preferred olive oil from the south of Spain. Andalusia to be more precise, where most of Spain’s olive oil is produced. A very common brand in any Spanish-American kitchen is Goya. I still buy bottles of it, especially when I run out of the many bottles I bring back from my summer trips to Spain.
Let me share why Andalusian olive oil is favored around the world. It’s home to some of highest mountains in Europe with a multifaceted landscape that includes desert, ancient oak forests, golden coastlines and dramatic cliffs. The terrain in Andalusia has been described as, “the ornament of the world” hosting some of the most stunning natural environment on earth. Before the Spanish Inquisition, this region was called Al-Andalus noted for its hybrid culturalism attracting scholars, philosophers, intellectuals and poets from China, India, the Arabic world and other parts of Europe. Al-Andalus oversaw a period of extraordinary cross-cultural creativity known as the Co-existence. It was rich beyond its glorious landscape, flourishing in ways the rest of Europe, stuck in the dark ages could not imagine nor accept. The many contributions brought to the area can still be seen and eaten (rice, from the Moors, saffron and other notable spices. We wouldn’t have paella had this not happened) today even after the burning of libraries and entire historical artifacts wiped away documented proof.
Olive trees were brought to Spain by the Phoenicians and later the Greeks, but it would be the Arabs who would perfect the production of olive oil pressing maintaining its pristine oil or juice as many refer to the result of cold extraction. The Romans honored olive oil and used it for every part of their daily lives. It has been said, olive oil was used to light the first Olympic torch. Now that you have a little history about olive oil I want you to know that after centuries of admiration and production most of the olive oil on the market today are fakes. (You can learn more about the big business of fake olive oil from this New York Times article.) In fact, the European Commission began implementing standards and regulating producers in order to crackdown on fraudulent olive oil. The International Olive Council was established requiring producers to list their POD, short for Protected Designation of Origin or PGI, Protected Geographical Indication. The U.S. is not a member of this organization and the FDA does not routinely check olive oil imported into the U.S., allowing for the fakes to land on grocery shelves and on your tables much more easily than you would like. Olive oil is as nuanced and characteristically varied as wine. For this very important reason I brought back some of the most exquisite, nutrient dense and antioxidant abundant olive oil I had ever tried. I remember thinking, “I need to bring gallons of this home.”
The olive oil I brought to my lab is from the province of Jaén in Andalusia, where most of olive oil production takes place. It is called, The World Capital of Olive Oil. Most of the olives grown in this region are of the Picual variety and are known for their pungent, herbaceous flavor, high polyphenols and stability to oxidation, rancidity, and the temperature cycles in frying. (You can indeed use good olive oil to fry.) The oil is vibrant in color, green as grass with a scent profile reminiscent of figs, tomatoes and forest leaves. I fell so in love with this oil and could not wait to share it with Karen who exploded with excitement when we unbottled our first pour. The first thing we did was buy fresh, crusty bread and tomatoes and drizzled a generous amount for a delectable taste of the sun, the Mediterranean sea, the Santa Catalina mountains, the forest floor and the fauna blossoming from this earth. This oil was both, a gift and treasure, on our lips and in our lab. (I promise you this is how we react to our ingredients much like the way many lovers experience butterflies in their stomachs or feel drunk in love.) We knew we needed to formulate something special with it and so we have. Secretly, I knew bringing it home it would be shared with you.
With that fervor and appreciation, we are introducing, a new expression of our Daily Elements Defense. This is a product many of you stock up on during the warmer months, although you really should use it all year long in my opinion. It’s just too good! We wanted to formulate a reiteration of this powerful free radical fighting face oil using our Spanish olive oil, plus a little extra. In this limited edition of Daily Elements Defense we’ve also added papaya seed oil in lieu of guava and a rich complex of biodynamic chamomile, blue cornflowers, calendula and osmanthus flowers. We’ve also added arnica, which is one of my favorite healing herbs, as well as rose geranium and blue chamomile CO2 extract. It smells so lovely and we’re so proud of this version, as well as it’s been the only face oil I’ve been using for a few months now. It's very likely I'll use it all summer as I head back to California and Spain during the hottest time of the year. I’ll also share more on the specific benefits with you on our Instagram stories in the upcoming weeks, but you won’t have to wait much longer to purchase because this Spanish version launches May 1, to kick off your summer travels and as a perfect Mother’s Day gift. We believe it's so very important to use products that not only nurture your skin while you’re exposing yourself to more sun, but also to actively fight the damage caused by free radicals. Daily Elements Defense has always been meant to target free radicals along with our Vitamin C serum and a fantastic SPF. If your goal is to keep your skin bright, smooth and prevent damage, I think this product is part of your dream routine.
I cannot wait for you to get your hands on our limited edition DED, it will only be available from May-August and soon I will show you my favorite way I’ll incorporate it into my summer skincare routine. I really hope you do as well.