Emu Oil: A Review

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Petroleum jelly is like the polyester of the skincare world—it holds its shape well and can look good on other people, but personally, it feels artificial and dull against my skin. I know, every Top Shelf-er has a beautiful grandma who slathers on only Vaseline every day and is the most glamorous woman anyone’s ever known. Well, that’s great. But I will never be that grandma. And for everyone who doesn’t respond with such gusto to petrolatum products, may I suggest an alternative soothing ointment?

Emu oil. Yes, that emu. The animal, the bird, the legend. This is a paste of the birds' gizzards and intestine-couching fat. While its provenance can be a little unsettling, this oil is restorative, an anti-inflammatory, and to me, no weirder than Vaseline.

Maybe you have reservations about animal products, and I can respect that. But if God didn’t want us to use emu oil, then why did he write a New York Times article about the buoyancy of the emu oil industry and the farmers who produce it?

The virtues of emu oil were first extolled to me by a very handsome hairstylist while I was in a vulnerable, besmocked moment last winter. He could tell that everything about me was flaky—my hair, my scalp, my face, and my resolve to be blonde much longer. The panacea for nearly all these problems was emu oil, he said (OK, he might not have said “panacea'). And his suggestion was bolstered by positive Amazon reviews (six out of seven geriatric Minnesotans can’t be wrong, right?). I decided to try it.

I went with Longview Farms Emu Oil. I like to think that I supported this brand because of its local, family-owned pedigree, but it may also have been because it was on sale at GNC when I was picking up probiotics and ginger tea.

It goes on a tad gooey. It has a neutral smell, strangely redolent of a person you haven’t met. The scent reminds me of winter, if only because that's when I use it the most. Be warned: When it’s cold, some of the oil may solidify a tad, and come out of the bottle with little beads gelled in. Fear not. These little corpuscles will melt onto your skin with only the briefest of encouraging massages. The overall effect is of a warm, soothing blanket. And the most magical quality of emu oil is that it can be used in tandem with other products. It's very “if I go down, I’m taking you with me”— apply emu oil with a retinol or other oil of choice and they sink into the dermal depths together.

And if I go down, you can bet your ass I'll be grabbing for this bottle on the way.

—Trace Barnhill

Photo by Trace Barnhill.