By Vanessa Jordan
Ahhhhh, Tahiti! Expressed so superbly in the masterpieces of Paul Gauguin, the very name brings to mind gentle tropical breezes, majestic mountains, spectacular beaches and beautiful, friendly people sparkling with life. Surely nothing less than Mother Nature at her best. Simply put, heaven on earth.
For many of us, Tahiti remains an untouchable paradise, a place of mystery. Awe-inspiring, and full of many of nature’s wonders and secrets. One such well-kept Polynesian secret is MONOI DE TAHITI®. Now, the cat’s out of the bag because Monoi has made its way stateside. Produced by combining the redolent Tiare flower (Tahiti’s indigenous gardenia) and pure, refined coconut oil, MONOI DE TAHITI® is a natural product like no other.
Relax and read on as some of the top Monoi experts, manufacturers and long-time users of the product share more about this phenomenal beauty find and its many interesting uses.
Author’s Note: In respect to space and brevity, the trademark ingredient MONOI DE TAHITI® (authenticated by the Appellation d’Origineseal) will be featured as Monoi® for this story. Please be aware, however, that the proper name for the product is MONOI DE TAHITI® and that the word Monoi used alone can be an indication of a possible counterfeited product. See more about this in our “What to look for when purchasing MONOI DE TAHITI®” section of this story.
WHAT EXACTLY IS MONOI DE TAHITI®?
Pronounced MON-OY, MONOI DE TAHITI® is a natural oil which is used both alone and as the main ingredient in many Tahitian beauty products. It can be likened to aloe vera or shea butter. Monoi® is the marriage of two of Tahiti’s most precious natural ingredients: the oil of the Nucifera palm tree (coconut oil) and the fragrant Tiare flower (the Tahitian gardenia). This exclusive process begins by refining the coconut oil. The coconuts are harvested, cracked open and dried in the sun for a period of one week to ten days. The pulp from the coconut is then put into special fiber bags and sent to an oil mill. At the mill, the pulp is ground into the finest grade of coco flour. The flour is then heated and pressed into raw coconut oil. The oil is then refined several times to remove all impurities and produce the purest grade.
The process doesn’t stop there. Next, the refined oil is put into a huge vat where it is combined with aromatic Tiare flowers. The flowers are handpicked and put into the vats unopened with the coconut oil and buds. The final step, called “enfleurage,” is produced when the Tiare buds are left soaking in the refined oil for at least ten days. During this time the bouquet of the buds blend with the oil, producing the incomparable emollient agent, MONOI DE TAHITI®.
So special and unrivaled is Monoi® as a product that it holds the honor of being the only cosmetic to receive the mark of Appellation d’Origine– Guarantee of Origin – from the French Government. Usually reserved to authenticate fine champagnes and wines, an Appellation d’Origineis granted only to products of superior quality.
Monoi® is an integral part of the Polynesian culture and an age-old tradition in Tahiti. It has played an essential part in the lives of the people as a traditional medicine (treating everything from headaches to sore muscles). It has been said that Monoi® has followed Polynesians from birth to death. In ancient times, it was rubbed all over newborns, and also used to embalm and perfume the body of the deceased. In modern times, however, Monoi® is used predominately for personal care as a skin moisturizer, tanning product and hair conditioner.
A LOOK AT SOME OF THE TOP MONOI DE TAHITI® MANUFACTURERS
Used in everything from tanning products to body shampoos, MONOI DE TAHITI® enhances some of the best skin and hair care products available. While raw MONOI® is still made and sold in markets by Tahitian people, most consumers purchase theirs from the many manufacturers of the product.
Here are some of the best:
The “Grandfather” of MONOI® manufacturers, Parfumerie Tiki was the first company to mass-produce the product. In business since 1942, this family-run company produces a line of products ranging from pure Monoi Tiare Perfumed Oil (in eight different scents) to other fragrant lotions. All of their perfumed oils contain their unique signature: a flower in every bottle. Our favorites: Monoi Tiare Tahiti Coconut Perfumed Oiland Monoi Tiare Bath Salts.
This company specializes in a wide range of Monoi products. They also carry many traditional Tahitian products like Noni Juice and Tamanu Oil. Our favorite: Monoi De Tahiti Tiare Sun Oil with SPF 10. We also love their exotic soaps (in such pleasing scents as pineapple and banana) and their easy-to-use travel size items.
REVA DE TAHITI®
This veteran Monoi®manufacturer became popular by specializing in top tanning and after-sun products. The company also makes a spectacular fragrance spray – which happens to be our favorite – Eau de Tiare.
USES FOR MONOI DE TAHITI®
As An Aromatherapy Bath Experience:
Add a few drops of Monoi® oil to your bath water. Not only will it moisturize your skin, but will fill your bath with the relaxing scent of Tiare flowers.
As A Skin Moisturizer:
Massage Monoi® oil into damp skin after a bath or shower to soothe and moisturize. Apply an extra “layer” of oil onto your skin once the first has been absorbed. In Tahiti, Monoi® is used to counteract the damaging and dehydrating effects of the sun and salt water from the ocean. You have only to look at the beautiful skin of any Tahitian woman to see that it works.
As A Cuticle Conditioner:
Massage Monoi® oil into the base of your nails. Adding a bit of extra product to your hands will help relieve dry, jagged cuticles.
As A Hair Conditioner:
Massage Monoi® oil into dry hair before shampooing. Leave on your hair anywhere from 15 minutes to one hour (the longer the better) then shampoo as usual. For an added bonus, try using one of the many Monoi® shampoos and conditioners available from the manufacturers listed here in our feature.
As A Body Perfume:
Yes, you can use Monoi® oil as a fragrance. Simply apply a small amount of oil to your pressure points (wrists, back of your ears and knees, the nape of your neck). The warmth from your body temperature will release the delicate scent of Tiare flowers.
As A Body Spa Treatment:
Using a loofah, body brush or mitt, gently dry brush your body (going in circular motions – always working in the direction of your heart). Start at your feet and work your way up. Next, rinse yourself off under a warm shower. Follow your dry brushing with a wet one, using a Monoi® cleansing product. Thoroughly rinse off with warm water. Prepare a warm to hot bath, using a few drops of Monoi® oil. But not too hot – it dehydrates the skin! Soak for eight to ten minutes, brush your body again, and then rinse off in a warm shower. Follow with another bath soak, this time for about five minutes. Next, apply an exfoliating product (you can make your own by adding a few drops of Monoi® oil to a half-cup of sea salt). Concentrate on dry areas like your elbows and knees. And remember to be gentle – you’re not scrubbing a pot. Leave the product on for a minute or two, rinse in a warm water shower, then a cool one. Apply some Monoi® to damp skin and let your body “air dry.” Finish by wrapping up in a comfortable bathrobe, sipping a large cup of herbal tea (peppermint or ginger are good choices) and getting the rest you now want…because this has been work! Your skin is the largest organ on your body – treat it with care.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR WHEN PURCHASING MONOI DE TAHITI®
There are indeed many Monoi® products on the market. But like anything else, some are good and some aren’t. Since all Monois are not created the same, it is very important to look for the Appellation d’Origineon the label when purchasing any Monoi® product. This is your guarantee and assurance that the product is made with real MONOI DE TAHITI®. Imitation might be the sincerest form of flattery, but that isn’t the case when counterfeit Monoi products are the culprits. The Appellation d’Originelets the consumer know if the Monoi® they are purchasing is the real McCoy.
Implemented in April of 1992, a company must adhere to the strictest of regulations to have its product qualify for the Appellation d’Origine. The company must first be registered with the government. It is then inspected and approved by authorities. The Monoi® must then be processed under the legal cosmetic definition in accordance with the government’s standard. Before being used for any products, the MONOI DE TAHITI® must meet four specific qualifications: (1) density; (2) melting point between 24 and 26 degrees Celsius; (3) acid number lower than 5 mg; and (4) saponification value between 240 and 270 mg koh/gto Monoi®.
Another very visible sign of quality Monoi® is that MONOI DE TAHITI® naturally solidifies in temperatures of 72 degrees or more. This does nothing to harm or change the quality of the product – it’s a natural process. To liquefy and reverse the process, simply warm the product under hot water or leave it in direct sunlight for a moment.
Like any product, whichever Monoi® product you choose is a matter of personal preference; however, the Appellation d’Originedoes make shopping easier.
The author wishes to thank the following people for the enormous amount of time and assistance lent to in preparing this story:
Frederic Turconoi, Peter Cannon, Caroline Hercz, Lisa Okino and Marysa Benjamin, Karell Volkl of the Tahiti Tourism Board. And, a very special thank you to Daniel Langy of Parfumerie Tiki who shared a wealth of information and history about Monoi and Tahiti.
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