Monoi : Tahitian Beauty Secret

Andy’s recipe for a decadent and richly scented skin treatment

Last summer, I found myself surrounded by fragrant blossoms on a trip to the Florida Keys. By the time I came home, I simply could not take my mind off all of the gorgeously fragrant flowers I had experienced. All of a sudden, I was in search of something to preserve my memories of endless sunshine and clear, warm waters, and to my great fortune, I stumbled upon monoï.

monoi oil2

Monoï is a handcrafted creation from Tahiti, made by infusing coconut oil with fresh tiaré (Gardenia tahitensis) blossoms. When the velvety white petals are infused into coconut oil, the result is an exquisitely perfumed beauty elixir that smells like a night in paradise.

The small white flowers used to make monoï grow on evergreen shrubs native to the South Pacific, and as a relative to the grand Gardenia jasminoides that has inspired countless perfumes, tiaré is often likened to the gardenia in scent. Much like its richly scented “cousin,” tiaré emits a heady, white floral perfume, though it lacks some of the distinctive green accents of gardenia. Still, the scent is no less intoxicating, and as I take a long inhale from a bottle of monoï, it is easy to see why the people of Tahiti have used this special formula as a part of health and beauty preparations for countless generations.

Even if you have never heard of monoï, the creation of this fantastic oil is worth attention, as it mirrors the bygone perfumery technique of enfleurage. In this traditional method, fresh flowers like jasmine are layered repeatedly with fat, which absorbs the fragrance of the blossoms. While enfleurage may no longer be a popular technique in modern perfumery, using monoï is a chance to get an idea of the lush floral bouquet that can result from infusing a neutral oil with fresh, fragrant flowers. In this case, light and delicate coconut oil readily accepts the lush perfume of tiaré—the two are a match made in heaven.

monoi oil1

Of course, the uses for monoï are various, as you can use it on your body just like regular coconut oil. Coconut oil is a light, quick absorbing oil, so monoï is great for massaging all over the body before swimming to protect from drying sea or pool water. Monoï gives skin a natural, luminous radiance and an alluring fragrance, so I like to apply it lightly to my arms and legs before going out to summer parties and events. It gives my skin an extra-special glow and tropical scent, two benefits that I can appreciate equally. In addition, monoï can also be used as a moisturizing, deep conditioning hair treatment. Even on my short, fine hair, a few drops of monoï combed through before I go swimming seem to help keep my hair from the damaging effects of a day in the sun and surf. And for baths, a few teaspoons of monoï in the water adds moisturizing benefits as well as a lovely scent.

Nonetheless, of all my uses for monoï, my favorite is the scrub recipe I’ve included below. Easy to make, this scrub is perfect for summer, or any time of year when your nose and skin crave a touch of paradise.

Shopping for Monoï

When buying monoï, look for the Appelation d’Origine certification on the label to ensure that what you are buying is authentic. This certification ensures that your monoï was manufactured using real tiaré flowers and is not simply oil with added fragrance (unfortunately, counterfeit monoï is quite common).

Due to availability and the reasonable price, I like Monoi Tiaré Tahiti’s products, and recommend them to anyone who is trying monoï for the first time. I use this brand’s monoï, and while I would like to try others, the prices have kept me away (after all, I like to use monoï generously in the summer!). There are many other smaller brands that offer an extremely fine product, but the high quality is often reflected in higher prices.

Tropical Monoï Body Scrub

This recipe makes enough for one all-over application. I like to use a mixture of different sugars and sea salt for texture, but feel free to use any one or a combination of similar ingredients to make your scrub. If you would like to make a larger quantity in advance, it should be kept in a clean jar in a cool, dark place, where it will stay fresh for several weeks. In this case, measure out approximately 2-3 tablespoons of this scrub for each use.

1 Tablespoon sea salt
1 Tablespoon raw (turbinado) sugar
1 Tablespoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon monoï
1-2 teaspoons glycerin or honey

Mix all ingredients together, adding glycerin or honey until the scrub reaches your desired consistency. Use immediately, or store as directed.

To use, spread the scrub evenly over damp skin after a shower, focusing on dry or rough patches. Of course, be careful around delicate or sensitive areas. After massaging thoroughly, rinse off, and pat skin dry. The scrub will leave your skin exquisitely scented, lightly moisturized, and luminous, so feel free to use as often as once a day. Alternatively to using this as an all-over body scrub, this also makes an excellent treatment for tired, lackluster feet or hands. Enjoy!

Extra: Rose and Vanilla Treatment :: Perfumes with Monoï Notes

Have you ever used monoï oil? Let me know if you have any favorite perfumes that use this note.

In Europe, you can find monoï oils at the pharmacies. Klorane Monoï Beauty Oil For Body and Hair (Huile de beauté corps & Cheveux au Monoï Morinda Les Polysianes), 11.50 €/125 ml. In the US, look for them at the New London Pharmacy, health food stores and at Amazon.com. Certified monoï products are also available at www.monoi.com.

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59 Comments

  • Claudia: I received a bottle each of the frangipani and tiare oil from New London Pharmacy. I love them! While I shower, I put one in the sink filled with warm water. Such a treat for my very dry skin! And, each bottle was only around $10 September 16, 2014 at 9:32am Reply

    • Andy: I have both the frangipani and tiare versions of the brand pictured. I can’t say I found a lot of difference between the two, though. I wonder why. And you bring up a good point; since the coconut oil can harden at room temperature, letting the bottle sit in hot water is the best solution. September 16, 2014 at 2:23pm Reply

  • Ariel: I love the Elemis frangipani monoi oil, but it is pricy. Looking forward to trying the New London version. September 16, 2014 at 9:45am Reply

    • Andy: I’ve never heard of the Elemis one, but scrolling down the comments, I can see it’s popular! I’ll have to at least sample it sometime. It sounds like it must smell especially lush. September 16, 2014 at 2:24pm Reply

  • Patricia: Sounds like a lovely indulgence, Andy! I look forward to trying it. September 16, 2014 at 10:04am Reply

    • Andy: Absolutely! As the days get colder, monoï is my cure for the occasional doldrums. Pair it post-shower with your favorite beachy perfume (as I recall, you have quite a few favorites) and you’re transported straight to the summertime! September 16, 2014 at 2:32pm Reply

  • Tora: Your review was so enticing, that I ordered some immediately. I can’t wait to try this and make the scrub, too. Thanks! September 16, 2014 at 10:34am Reply

    • Andy: Oh, do let me know how the scrub turns out for you. I hope you enjoy the monoï for that and the many other uses you’re sure to find! September 16, 2014 at 2:34pm Reply

  • Austenfan: Lovely and practical post. I’m going to look out for this. Thanks for including where to find it in Europe. September 16, 2014 at 10:54am Reply

    • Victoria: Do you remember Desmecht herboristerie in Brussels (Place Sainte Catherine 10)? That’s where I found the same brand Andy mentioned in the post. September 16, 2014 at 11:18am Reply

      • Austenfan: Yes I remember it. Where I very reluctantly refrained from buying any soaps! Thanks for mentioning it 🙂 September 16, 2014 at 11:42am Reply

    • Andy: I do hope you enjoy your monoï. This is the perfect time of year to stock up, for me at least, as I find it such a great antidote for cold-weather blues. September 16, 2014 at 2:38pm Reply

  • key change: What a neat idea! It kind of reminds me of the recent argan oil craze (which is justified imho, both for its fragrance and effectiveness). I’ll keep a nose out for some of this when next I’m out. September 16, 2014 at 11:17am Reply

    • Andy: Yes, for sure. I like the increased enthusiasm in general for face and body oils, they’re such a wonderfully pure and simple way for us to take care of ourselves. In comparison, I no longer find even most cream or lotion style moisturizers truly effective. September 16, 2014 at 2:44pm Reply

      • Courant: Andy, I have switched to argan/almond/rosehip oils for moisturisers. Trilogy or Sukin are great for me. I apply a drop to even out foundation after applying it. Looks dewy, even on an old duck like me. Use it on your hair, elbows, feet. A little bit of Monoi to fragrance neck and ears and I’m feeling forty years younger. Remember the sun protection though! September 16, 2014 at 6:12pm Reply

        • Andy: Sounds like a great solution! The inner minimalist in me really likes how simple it is, just having one little dropper bottle of oil for all my moisturizing needs. Sun protection is another story, of course. I’ve liked what I’ve tried by La Roche Posay, though my preference is for a good zinc oxide based formula that blends in without looking chalky. September 16, 2014 at 6:44pm Reply

          • Courant: I live in New Zealand where the ozone layer is thinner than elsewhere on the planet. We have high melanoma rates, so the mantra is slip, slap, slop
            Slip-on a shirt
            Slap-on a hat
            Slop-on sunscreen September 16, 2014 at 7:24pm Reply

            • Andy: Slip, slap, slop–I love that mantra! September 16, 2014 at 7:27pm Reply

      • rainboweyes: The problem with creams and lotions is that they often contain alcohol and glycerine which dry out your skin. I mostly use skin products where both ingredients appear at the end of the INCI list, do their content minimal.
        I’ve always thought Monoi Oil wasn’t of interest to me because of the tropical scent but now that you mention its protective effect in pool water I’ll give it a try! My skin gets very dry and flaky after swimming in a pool, maybe a massage with monoi oil will help… September 17, 2014 at 4:59am Reply

        • Andy: I’m not particularly sensitive to pool water, so I can’t comment in more depth on monoï’s effectiveness, but like any other body oil, it makes for a great skin protectant. September 17, 2014 at 6:46am Reply

  • Annie O: Wonderful article! A most underrated flower/scent.
    When I need a hit of the Islands, be it winter or summer, Monoi has me basking in turquoise waters, palm trees rattling over head.
    A friend turned me on to “Carol’s Daughter Monoi Oil” which is pricey, but a lovely quality product that is soft and gentle, and I’m told is all natural. It is for dry hair, but I only use it on my body. Thank you for bringing this to the site! September 16, 2014 at 11:33am Reply

    • Andy: I’ve read about Carol’s Daughter monoï, but haven’t tried it yet, thank you for the extra recommendation. The way I understand it, most of the more commercial and inexpensive monoï oils (including the one I mention) do have a small amount of added fragrance, to buttress the fragrance from the real flowers, but are otherwise completely natural. September 16, 2014 at 2:50pm Reply

  • Wordbird: I have been using Monoi for years, since I bought a bottle in a supermarket in France. It’s amazing stuff and it keeps for ages – my bottle is still good even after a couple of years. September 16, 2014 at 11:43am Reply

    • Andy: That’s another great point. I’m not sure, but I think in a fairly stable carrier oil like coconut, fragrance has a pretty good chance of lasting well without turning or becoming otherwise altered. One of my bottles is a couple years old as well, and it has lasted perfectly. September 16, 2014 at 2:54pm Reply

    • Sylvia: I have a bottle from Yves Rocher that is 10 years old and its fabulous! But their new bottles are not coconut oil only. Need to try this brand. September 18, 2014 at 4:18am Reply

      • Andy: Good to know–I do tend to prefer a plain coconut oil base over ones that may contain mineral oil, even if it may have a somewhat shorter shelf life. September 18, 2014 at 7:38am Reply

  • Annette Reynolds: I’m crazy about the Elemis Sp@Home Frangipani Monoi Body Oil. The fragrance and feel is pure luxury. Yes, it’s pricey. But truly worth it.

    Because the oil “hardens” in cool weather, you need to put the bottle in hot tap water so it will become an oil again. This only takes a minute. And then you have a warm oil that takes away winter’s chill. It’s fabulous.

    I’ve found it on beauty.com in a great set that includes the oil and the to-die-for shower cream for only $60. These are full sized products! Here’s the very long link: http://www.beauty.com/products/prod.asp?pid=506630&catid=298688&trx=GFI-0-EVGR&trxp1=10782&trxp2=506630&trxp3=1&trxp4=506630&btrx=BUY-GFI-0-EVGR September 16, 2014 at 11:58am Reply

    • Andy: Thank you, Annette. The Elemis body oil sounds absolutely divine, and I appreciate the link. I consider myself now officially tempted! September 16, 2014 at 2:58pm Reply

    • Hamamelis: Thank you for sharing this Annette, I have been looking for a pure coconut oil based body product for a long time. This sounds heavenly, and it can be delivered to the Netherlands where I live. I have to start saving for it though! But I suspect a little goes a long way. September 17, 2014 at 3:59am Reply

  • Devon: Ohhhh I must have some. This sounds so delightful! Thank you for the wonderful post! September 16, 2014 at 3:12pm Reply

    • Andy: Of course! These kinds of temptations are my favorite kind–exquisitely scented yet relatively inexpensive. September 16, 2014 at 6:11pm Reply

  • Sarah: What a lovely thing to share! Thanks so much. September 16, 2014 at 3:32pm Reply

    • Andy: Thank you, Sarah. It’s my pleasure. September 16, 2014 at 6:12pm Reply

  • Courant: We holidayed twice at the Club Meds in Tahiti where Monoi scented soaps and shower gels grace the bathrooms. It is popular in Fiji also.
    The Club Meds don’t exist any longer, so the scent of Monoi brings back so many happy family memories with my now adult children, who learned to water ski, scuba dive and play better tennis under expert tuition, not to mention the song and dance routines. Monoi is simply Heavenly September 16, 2014 at 4:12pm Reply

    • Andy: Thank you for sharing your memories, Courant. It is so interesting to hear from someone who not only uses, but has memories attached to the scent of monoï. The matching scented soaps and shower gels sound great, makes me want to spend time searching for such products online. September 16, 2014 at 6:28pm Reply

  • Gían: Andy, ahhh… You brought me back home. I lived in Key West for 10 years & I still go back often & I plan to move back there when I complete my studies. You’re right- the Keys are awash in deliciously fragrant flowers & plants. And much the same as salt brings out the flavour in food, the surrounding dense & salty marine air always seemed to intensify the fragrance of the tropical flora to nature’s own Extrait de Parfum… The scent of green mangos hanging from their insanely long stems, the ripe & potent ylang-ylang tree would project its distinctive bananas & white floral symphony across an entire block, the Lakeview jasmine seemed to follow you wherever you went, rotting coconuts that broke on the pavement would remind me of cocktail hour & the famous sunset. Indeed, it was the scents of the Keys that made me aware of the pleasure my sense of smell could give me & the beginning of my path into perfume. It was wonderful & Monoi oil is absolutely a gem! I was back down there again this summer- I wonder if we were there at the same time? Thank you for this fantastic article- it took me right back home! September 16, 2014 at 5:03pm Reply

    • Andy: What I remember best from my trip was all the deliciously scented plumeria, as well as catching whiffs of jasmine and gardenia that I could never seem to find the source of. You’re right, the climate seems only to intensify the wonderful fragrances even further. When I was there, I didn’t even wear any perfume–in part because of the heat, in part because I just didn’t need to!

      Thank you so much for sharing your scented memories of living in the Keys, it was so much fun to read. Makes me want to go get a jasmine or gardenia scent maybe and spritz away! September 16, 2014 at 6:38pm Reply

  • jaime: You reminded me to use my monoi oil today, and the scent instantly makes part of the day feel more like a tropical break. I ordered my bottle from Yves Rocher and it is one of the authentic ones with that certification that you mention, but does not break the bank. (Definitely worth a try, since they have lots of sales thru out the year.) September 16, 2014 at 8:36pm Reply

    • Andy: When I was in Germany this summer, I saw Yves Rocher stores all over the cities. I was on a tight schedule though, so I didn’t stop in any. I wish I had now, because their monoï and matching products are something I have wanted to try. September 16, 2014 at 8:53pm Reply

    • Annette: Prompted by your comment I went today to my local Yves Rocher store and sampled both the monoi oil and the EDT (they also had shampoo and body spray from the same line). The skin on my arm feels very smooth and faintly scented, and the quality of the oil seems tip top. My other arm smells of the EDT and I must say it is delicious. I’ve been on a gardenia binge lately 🙂 so it’s great to compare this scent to the others I have tested.
      Thank you for sending me the YR.
      And thank you Andy for your lovely post! 🙂 September 17, 2014 at 8:20am Reply

      • Andy: Another great endorsement for the Yves Rocher monoï, thank you, Annette. When I get the chance, I’ll definitely give it a try. September 17, 2014 at 5:20pm Reply

      • Jaime: Annette, You’re so lucky to have a YR store in your area!
        I have been going through a gardenia kick this past summer, too, and was so pleased to discover something that can do double-duty as a perfume and moisturizer. Have never tried the edt, but I hear good things about it and how it’s related to Guerlain’s Terracotta edt. September 26, 2014 at 11:18am Reply

        • Annette: Jaime, in fact there are plenty of YR stores in my city. So probably I am more than lucky:). Incidentally, just a couple of hours ago I tried again the Monoi EDT to compare notes with myself-from-nine-days-back (so to speak) and must report that I am still -incurably- smitten by Andy Tauer’s Gardenia. SHE is my reigning queen and my next FB buy.
          Just out of curiosity, what are your favourite gardenia scents? September 26, 2014 at 11:46am Reply

  • Kandice: This oil sounds wonderful and so does your scrub. I must try both right away! Thanks for the great article. September 16, 2014 at 9:36pm Reply

    • Andy: I hope you enjoy! While the oil is great on its own, I do think it really shines in its full potential with the scrub. It’s easy to make and yet very effective and uplifting too. September 16, 2014 at 9:39pm Reply

  • Katy: I love the Yves Rocher Manoi de Tahiti, which is only 50.5% Manoi De Tahiti, but is never the less a lovely and inexpensive product. I layer this oil with all my white florals and rub it in my scalp and hair in the evening for over night treatments several times a week. The Monoi de Tahiti Lagoon Hair and Body Wash is lovely too. September 17, 2014 at 10:27am Reply

    • Andy: Thank you for sharing your thoughts on the Yves Rocher. I’ve wanted to try their monoï for a while now. September 17, 2014 at 5:18pm Reply

  • casey23: I am a big biiiiig fan of monoi !! I’ve been looking for a good oil for a while now. Nars version was a lot pricey so I never bought it but last may I made a trip to Paris and bought some bottles from Hei Poa (don’t know if it is a certified brand but they are good!). Also when I came back to Turkey I bought Elemis’ and Yves Rocher’s monoi oils. All of them smells great (but again not sure of the authenticity)… September 23, 2014 at 6:48am Reply

    • Andy: If you enjoy all those different monoï oils, I wouldn’t get too worried about authenticity. Monoï is simply a scented oil, and whether or not it’s been manufactured with real flowers, it is a beautiful and indulgent treat. 🙂 September 23, 2014 at 8:05am Reply

  • Kimberly Walbridge: I am big on anything tropical from Hawaii and Tahiti especially. A favorite of mine is Monoi Tiare Tahiti Vanille by Parfumerie Tiki since 1942. Their products are great and the price is more affordable. I use the shampoo, shower gel,oil,fragrance (eau de toilette)all in the vanilla scent and I get the most compliments from that one. January 25, 2016 at 12:22pm Reply

    • Victoria: I’ll have to look for them. January 25, 2016 at 2:12pm Reply

      • Kimberly Walbridge: Victoria I buy from this business in Washington State . It is called Tahiti iti Imports . Her prices are great . I live in Maryland so shipping is not hateful lol. Maybe even try a search engine or Amazon, eBay so on for price comparison. Good luck and hope you find it. Great stuff and thanks for the reply 🙂 January 27, 2016 at 10:18pm Reply

      • Nancy Chan: Still on the subject of scented oils, if you love tuberose there is a body oil by Liha Beauty which produces tuberose scented oil. The process is similar to the monoi oil, whereby the flowers are infused in coconut oil. August 11, 2018 at 11:35am Reply

        • Victoria: Thank you! August 14, 2018 at 11:04am Reply

        • Andy: This sounds positively luscious, quite tempting. August 14, 2018 at 11:06am Reply

          • Nancy Chan: Andy, please try the tuberose body oil it is absolutely gorgeous. It is a British brand, and I think they do a 30ml sample size. It is bit more pricy than the Tiki Monoi body oils, but definitely worth trying for that gorgeous tuberose scent. Please let me know what you think of it. I highly recommend it. August 14, 2018 at 1:13pm Reply

  • Kimberly Walbridge: Sorry,I forgot to mention this Monoi Tiki Tiare product comes in many different scents so for those not keen on Vanilla there are many other choices. I also save money by mixing a bit of the oil into a favorite body lotion ,add a bit of eau de toilette for more fragrance,and add a shimmering product by Physicians Formula Argan Wear Argan Oil(usually at a drug store like CVS in the cosmetics section) It adds an incredible shimmer. I mix all this together for a more affective moisturizer and my oil and fragrance and body lotion last so much longer. January 25, 2016 at 12:40pm Reply

    • Andy: Sounds like such a fragrant, moisturizing, combination of products! You must smell great, and thanks so much for sharing your own favorite way to use monoi. January 25, 2016 at 10:36pm Reply

      • Kimberly Walbridge: Hi Andy and thanks for your reply. I had the very best luck with the Vanilla scent . A young cashier at 711 who thought his coworker was baking cookies. That was the best laugh. 🙂 and a customer that had shopped past her lunch time and was already starving. The pros&cons of gourmet scents. They make everyone including oneself hungry. I also love the Tiare scent bit big on Vanilla . Of course my favorite part of the morning is when my coffee is brewing in my Mr. Coffee machine. I always get the French Vanilla, Toasted coconut ,or macadamia chocolate or vanilla macadamia nut coffee something flavored. January 27, 2016 at 10:37pm Reply

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