Fashion

This Nigerian-inspired body oil has actually changed my skin life and I’m getting my beauty klaxon out for it


I am sitting at my desk with a small bottle between my thighs. No, this is not the latest pelvic floor gadget or sex toy! But it’s just as joy-sparking.

Here’s what’s going on: I’m trying to melt the very last scraping of LIHA’s Idan Oil from a tiny glass bottle, so that I can pour the final two – three if I’m lucky – sacred droplets into my palms and smother that precious nectar onto my forearms.

This multi-purpose high-grade coconut oil is made without thinning agents, so it remains solid at room temperature – like any natural butter or oil. Once upon a time I’d see these types of body products and think ‘who the hell has time to melt a product before using it?’. Me now, apparently, and I am grateful to this oil for teaching me not to be such an impatient arsehole.

But there is so much more to be grateful for. First, let’s meet this bottle.

I came across LIHA in late summer. At the time, the beauty industry was waking up to its blinkered white privilege and realised it needed to support, lift and promote more black-owned brands.

As GLAMOUR staffers, we have been actively doing this for many years, but there is always room for more learning, awareness and action, so I read this article on 29 black-owned beauty companies to support to update my database. LIHA caught my attention. The two founders, Liha and Abi, are pals living between Cheltenham and London; they make small-batch body products inspired by their Nigerian heritage and family rituals, all from a cottage in the Cotswolds. I hit their website to find out more. I liked the simplicity of it all: one beautiful skin and hair oil, two types of raw shea butter, one soap and one candle. That’s it. With the excess, overwhelming options and over-saturation in the beauty world right now, this was a breath of confident, easy, simple fresh air.

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A number caught my eyes: 186 five-star reviews for their Idan oil. Woah. For that many people to comment on such a small brand, it must be good. Idan is the word for ‘magic’ in Yoruba, the language spoken in Nigeria; the multi-use oil is cold-pressed coconut oil with a few drops of tuberose fragrance, and immersed into each bottle is a small tuberose flower. The comments were bordering on evangelical – I had to give it a try.

It was love at first swipe. Such a nurturing, thick oil that spreads beautifully and doesn’t ‘sit’ but sinks into your skin. And that smell. Wow. Ironically, I loathe the smell of coconut and I’m not keen on rich white florals such as Tuberose. These are the dominant scents in this oil and, somehow, when combined, they bring out the best in each other: all the nutty, creamy-fresh crunch of coconut flesh, plus the tropical-island sweet warmth of those soft petals. It’s suntan lotion without the synthetic plasticky linger. It’s ‘fleeting’ rather than ‘hanging’ but present enough to act like a subtle perfume. From that first application, I was hooked.

It can be used in other ways too. Once warmed up – I leave mine in the bathroom basin full of hot water whilst I shower – it can be applied to the face, which I tried as a pre-bed massage on clean skin and it was gorgeous. (Perhaps avoid this if you’re very prone to breakouts as coconut oil could congest problematic pores). It’s recommended for very dry hair too – particularly curly afro hair so I asked my fellow GLAMOUR writer Ateh Jewel, who has tight 4C coils and her own bottle of Idan oil, for her application tips.

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“I put it in my hair when it’s wet out of the shower to help nourish my coils,” says Ateh. “It can be deep conditioning treatment too: I use it on my daughters Ola’s 3A curls and Adanna’s 4A curls like a serum on dry hair for definition and nourishment. You can use it on your scalp and braids too; it really is magical.”

For me, it’s as a body oil where things go from “ooh that’s nice” to “I urgently need to write 1000 words about this for Glamour’s 8m audience because it is actually phenomenal.” In short, it has completely changed how I care for my skin.

For years I would apply a quick slap of lotion onto post-shower limbs, and I now realise that’s done absolutely f-all for my skin quality or self-care. I’ve tried hundreds of body creams, thousands probably, yet I still own arms peppered with Keratosis Pilaris (those tiny red in-grown scars), and calves cloaked with a mosaic of dry, snake-skin patches that leave actual leg dandruff on tights and leggings. I use those exfoliating gloves, I’ve gone through countless jars of scrubs, I’ve switched to shaving rather than waxing, I’ve used medicated creams. It never, ever improves. There was a particularly low moment when my toddler stroked my arm in the summer and said ‘scratchy mummy’. It happened to be on the very same day I read about LIHA.

The stars aligned and guided me to this bottle of goodness. I’m not saying it has cured my dry, bumpy skin, but it’s made a massive difference both in the look and feel of my skin in just three weeks. Instantly: my legs and arms look like they’re on the Graham Norton Show, gleaming with glossy fabulousness like only A-listers can miraculously achieve. Long term: my skin feels so much smoother and less ‘scratchy’, and the red dots have slightly faded.

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It’s made me realise how much I ignore my body skin. Within 60 seconds I will have usually hurried my arm/leg/torso moisturising session (not even daily), yet I spend 25 minutes every single morning strategically layering several face serums, cream, SPF and makeup. That’s so messed up. No wonder my arms and legs look so horrid: they are neglected, unloved, unseen and therefore miserable and shrivelled up, like those sad, scrawny donkeys you see on rescue appeal adverts. “We urgently need your help” they keep whining to me.

I’m listening now. And I promise I won’t change the channel.

The entire Idan ritual has become a bit of an addiction: the warming-up waiting game, the careful pour of oil into your palm (too much and you’re screwed), the long, deep sweeps up and down your skin like a French grand-mère rolling out pastry, the anxious replacing of the cap where one slip could create a sparkling, greasy, shattered-glass crime scene. And the rising perfume of paradise snaking its way into your senses and resetting every cell to chill mode. I salivate when thinking of my next hit.

And so here I am with this small glass vessel between my thighs. I got three drops; not bad after a month of daily use in tiny doses. But I’m not sad it’s finished. It means I can crack open the big-sized 100ml fully-paid-for currently bottle sitting in my bathroom, which I ordered the same day as that first application. You didn’t really think I’d leave a gap between bottles did you? Seems I’m still an impatient arsehole after all.



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