I remember the first bottle of Rodin Olio Lusso I ever held. It was 2011; I was fresh out of college and interning in the fashion closet of a glossy magazine. A messenger delivered the highly coveted oil to the office after the fashion assistant placed a phone order for it at Barneys. I watched mesmerized as the assistant took the rectangular bottle out of the box, unscrewed the white dropper, and smoothed the sunflower-colored liquid all over her face. Not only was it a revelation that you could use oil on your face (like many in the years leading up to the face-oil revolution, I assumed that it would break me out) but, as someone who was about to enter an industry with a starting salary of about $30,000 a year, I couldn’t fathom spending $170. While I had a consistent skin-care regimen in high school and college, my medicine cabinet consisted mostly of drugstore products. Occasionally my mom would buy me a Clinique or Caudalie moisturizer, and I would use it sparingly until the last drop. It stayed that way until I started working and I was fortunate enough to be gifted beauty products to review — including Rodin Olio Lusso, which I’d been lusting after on the shelves of high-end boutiques (where I couldn’t afford beauty products, let alone clothes) since the first day I saw it.
By the time I got my hands on my own bottle of Olio Lusso, I already knew about the benefits of face oils. Still, when I, at last, tried the concoction of 11 potent essential oils, I was unprepared for how my skin would actually change. No longer was my face dry and dull; instead, my complexion was supple, radiant, and hydrated even on the harshest winter day. It didn’t hurt that the formulation carried an intoxicating scent of jasmine and neroli that doubled as my perfume by adding a drop to each wrist. When I finished that first bottle, I almost couldn’t bear to toss the empty container. Pained by the price tag, I tried a few cheaper face oils before eventually shelling out $95 for the first bottle I bought with my own money. (I started with the 15ml bottle before moving to the more expensive 30 ml one.)
Before Olio Lusso, which roughly translates to “luxury oil” from Italian, I couldn’t imagine spending that much money on a beauty product — but there was no denying that this one was worth the sticker shock. My skin was the best it ever looked and felt just as good to the touch. Over the years, just the act of buying the oil became a form of self-care. I would time the purchase to special occasions, like my birthday or a promotion, as a kind of reminder that my skin is worth investing in and treating with care.
I relayed all of this to Linda Rodin when I met her in 2016. The former fashion model and stylist founded Rodin Olio Lusso after initially creating it for herself in her kitchen. The homemade formula was a hit with friends and clients, so Rodin launched it for the public in 2007. There are many reasons for the cult fame that soon followed: not only was word of the product’s effectiveness spread by everyone in fashion (the best form of marketing), but there was also the sleek packaging, the epitome of Instagram gold just as the minimal aesthetic was taking off on the grid, and the “natural” formulation just as many consumers were starting to question ingredients like parabens, sulfates, and synthetic fragrances.
In 2014, Estée Lauder acquired Rodin Olio Lusso, which by then grew to include hair oil, hand cream, and a few other oil-driven products. This acquisition was marked by numerous category additions over time: “fragrance” additions to the oils (lavender and geranium & orange), lipsticks, a mermaid-themed collection of bronzers, an eye cream (which coincidentally happened to be the last product I previewed in person before New York went into lockdown as a result of the pandemic). While I tried many of the other offerings, none took off in my vanity the way Olio Lusso had.
Since I was first introduced to the product a decade ago, several brands brought oils to the market that achieved similar cult status — Vintner’s Daughter, Sunday Riley, and Drunk Elephant, to name a few. Because Rodin Olio Lusso helped me see some big-ticket buys not as unnecessary splurges but as investments, I’ve come around to spending money on products that make me feel like the best version of myself (at least on the outside): Kérastase shampoo and conditioner, Byredo fragrances, and Pat McGrath makeup. I still treat these purchases as rewards to myself, often limiting them to special occasions and brimming with excitement when I get them gifted.
When Estée Lauder announced on Monday that it was closing Rodin Olio Lusso, I wasn’t surprised. It seemed like another case of a brand expanding into too many categories at breakneck speed when it should have just focused on the thing that propelled it to fame in the first place. I didn’t run to stock up on the face oil as I did with foundation brushes when Clarisonic announced its closure, nor will I be saving the bottle I currently have in my bathroom. While Rodin Olio Lusso was the product that introduced me to the concept of spoiling the only skin I’ll ever have, there are other products out there now that have left me feeling similarly pampered and my complexion looking good.
None of them, however, will teach me the importance of truly caring for my skin. Luckily, that’s already been done.
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