I Tried An Ancient Hawaiian Beauty Secret & Loved It

Kelsey Nguyen

Apologies to my beloved coconut oil, for I have sinned and found love in another alternative: Hawaiian kukui nut oil. Don't look at this as betrayal — consider it more of a beauty awakening. Kukui oil is your ticket to paradise, a land where velvety tresses and radiant complexions roam free. After a week of baptizing my skin care and hair regimen in the wonder that is kukui oil, nothing will quite ever be the same again. That, and for seven days, I could ~pretend~ like I was drinking out of a coconut on Ke'e Beach when really I was just lugging laundry and Trader Joe's grocery bags up six flights of stairs in glorious NYC humidity.

What's exactly the deal with kukui nut oil? Well, for one Hollywood starlet, it's the ultimate miracle elixir. "I use Hawaiian kukui oil on my face," Lupita Nyong'o dished to Glamour in 2014. "I like to keep things natural, simple and straightforward." So, lesson learned: kukui oil is essentially Lupita Nyong'o's goddess complexion in a bottle. Um, count me in.

But let's backtrack for a moment — back to when early Polynesian voyagers first brought the kukui nut to Hawai'i from Asia. The rest, as we know it, is history. Kukui nuts were initially reserved for ancient Hawaiian royalty, with chiefs believing that wearing kukui nut leis symbolized social status and divine powers. Eventually, the oil variety entered the scene.

Kelsey Nguyen

According to Discover Oahu, ancient Hawaiians realized that kukui oil made the perfect natural moisturizer due its fatty acids and vitamins A, C and E. Naturally, the pros don't end there. Thanks to its antimicrobial properties, kukui oil was also used to treat wounds, burn injuries, and fungal skin, as reported by Future Derm.

I tested out three kukui nut-based products for a week, and spoiler alert — the results are magical. Fair warning though: don't be surprised if you suddenly find yourself daydreaming about a spontaneous weekend getaway to the Aloha state...

1. Hawaiian Body & Body Unscented Kukui Nut Oil

Kelsey Nguyen

Unscented Hawaiian Kukui Nut Oil, $12-$30, Hawaiian Bath Body

First up: playing with kukui nut oil in its pure, rawest form. Hawaiian Bath & Body offers the best of the best — their kukui oils are cold pressed locally on O`ahu's North Shore and also come in lavender and lemongrass scents. I opted for the tried and true classic: the Unscented Kukui Nut Oil.

The product description recommends using the kukui oil as a moisturizing morning or evening facial treatment (the oil can also be used for sunburn relief and dry/chapped skin, which I fortunately have been spared from). A little goes a long way, so I made sure not to get too kukui oil-happy. I *may* have a problem with boundaries or two...

Kelsey Nguyen

My plan of attack was mixing kukui oil with my everyday moisturizer (Embryolisse Lait‑Crème Concentré, FYI). The process is straightforward — simply spritz in a few drops into your dollop of moisturizer and voilà. After day one, I woke up and discovered that my skin actually looked less oily than its normal AM state. More matte, less pizza grease. I was amazed by this overnight magic elixir.

Another night, I decided to skip my moisturizer and solely use the kukui oil instead. After cleansing and toning, I went in to apply a generous layer of kukui wonder. The oil actually felt a little heavy on my skin at first, to the point where I was worried about the oil clogging my pores (AKA the bane of my existence). Luckily, I'll later learn that kukui oil is actually noncomedogenic, so it will not imprison my precious pores. Alas, the next morning my skin felt nourished and with a natural glow to boot — and no clogged pore debacle.

I'd also like to thank my kukui oil for making my skin dreamily smooth — as in, silk sheets/Don Draper status. I've never noticed how "rough" my skin was before until those fateful seven days of kukui oil moisturizing. I'm s-o-l-d.

2. Captain Blankenship Mermaid Hair Oil

Kelsey Nguyen

Mermaid Hair Oil, $34, Sephora

You already had me at "mermaid". From Captain Blankenship comes the mane brew fit for every Pisces/beach babe: Mermaid Hair Oil, an organic hair and scalp oil treatment crafted with — you guessed it — kukui nut oil. A cocktail of essential and natural oils, this treatment is designed to moisturize hair, repair damaged strands, tame frizz and soothe itchy, dry scalps. Basically, my holy grail hair oil.

To apply, you rub a few drops into your palms and massage through damp or dry hair, concentrating mostly on the ends. As a religious curling wand devotee, I'm always using heat on my hair, so I was excited for my hair to be restored to natural, moisturized goodness. The best way I can describe the oil scent is fresh and natural — nothing too overpowering or fragrant, but still an olfactory kick.

Kelsey Nguyen

I tested out the oil two ways: first on damp, then dry hair. Both times I noticed a decrease in frizziness — this was especially life-changing as I tend to get (very) frizzy tresses on days I don't wash my hair. Strangely enough, the oil also made for an unintentional hair detangler. Bonus points!

After a week on the Mermaid Hair Oil diet, I can 120 percent report that my hair definitely feels and looks healthier. There seems to be a natural shine now, and my ends look revitalized compared to its tragic former state. I especially loved that despite how moisturizing the oil was, it never felt sticky or crunchy à la hairspray.

3. The Body Bar & Co. Kukui Nut Volcanic Scrub

Kelsey Nguyen

Kukui Nut Volcanic Scrub, $58, The Body Barco

Will sell my soul for a quality face scrub — specifically, this one. Hailing from the Pacific Northwest, The Body Bar & Co. whips up natural sustainable skincare products for every skin type. Whether you're team sensitive dry skin or combatting against environmentally-stressed skin, there's bound to be a peel or serum out there just for you. Consider it responsibly-sourced skincare galore.

Kelsey Nguyen

Naturally, I was after the Kukui Nut Volcanic Scrub — a mildly foaming volcanic pumice scrub made with the one and only kukui nut, shea butter, green tea, spinach and of course, pineapple (one must never forgo the pineapple). According to the product description, the scrub is perfect for refining, smoothing, cleansing and exfoliating twice a week. However, the description warns that those with sensitive skin and rosacea should avoid using this scrub.

Kelsey Nguyen

I'm always game to experiment with a new scrub, and let's say I was pretty satisified with the Kukui Nut Volcanic Scrub. What I first noted right away was how quickly the scrub seemed to absorb on my face, leaving almost a transparent, cloudy gray residue. Scent observation: a cross between New Age spa and the beaches of Kauai. The texture of the scrub does feel "volcanic" — rocky, grain-like almost. I instantly felt a "cooling" effect the minute the scrub hit my skin. For that one minute of gentle face massaging and listening to my 8tracks meditation playlist, I actually did feel like I had escaped my West Village bathroom and into a lush island spa.

Then, it was merely rinsing and following up with the usual — toner, serum, moisturizer (with unscented kukui oil of course), a spritz of rosewater. The consensus? My face felt like it had been cleansed from all its daily impurities and negative energy. Again, like I had experienced with the kukui oil moisturizer method, my skin felt velvety smooth. Did I also mention how clean my skin felt yet???

Douse me in everything kukui oil or give me death.