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Snake Oil

The meaning of snake oil is familiar to us all: a product that purports to have, but actually does not have, real medicinal or therapeutic value. Interestingly enough, the original term comes from a Chinese body oil that was rich in healing omega-3 fatty acids--thanks to its origin, the Chinese water snake. It was commonly applied to inflamed joints and was initially received as a breakthrough tonic by Americans.

As has commonly occurred with many potent Chinese remedies, Americans wanted to replicate it but did not have the same special ingredient. Thus, in true American fashion, we redid it with what we had plenty of: rattlesnakes.

As you can see, it was easy for people to perhaps first believe, and then quickly disbelieve, the magical powers of this new, heavily-promoted cure-all. After a popular brand was found to contain nothing more than beef tallow and spices, public favor toward “snake oil” turned south and the term evolved into the trope we know and love today.

For our purposes, snake oil means any product that pretends to be something it's not, a product that claims to have health benefits when it is actually encouraging harm, a product that makes high promises and is unable to deliver on them. I'm guessing you can think of a product or two you have come across that fits that description.

We want you to know about every ingredient we use, and why we use it. It’s why we make these posts, and it’s why we love it when you send us questions. We’re endlessly curious about what science and magic are doing together to help not just ourselves, not just our personal skins, but also the world--inside and out. We want to know that what we are a part of is something big and beautiful.

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