Argan Oil for Skin: The Liquid Gold from Morocco
by Heather Smith on Mar 24, 2023
Experience the versatile benefits of argan oil, a nourishing and rejuvenating natural oil derived from the nuts of the Moroccan argan tree. Rich in essential fatty acids, antioxidants, and unique phytochemicals, argan oil is a valuable addition to your skin and hair care regimen.
Although it got its claim to fame for use in haircare, argan oil for the face is what we're focusing on today. This is part of our ingredient spotlight series about all the best face oils.
History of Argan Oil
The Argan tree is able to withstand harsh conditions like drought, high temperatures, and poor soil quality. Typically, the argan tree reaches a height of 8 to 10 meters with a wide, spreading canopy that provides valuable shade.
The tree trunk is often gnarled with thick bark that helps retain moisture. Small, leathery leaves are well-adapted for water conservation, and deep roots help the tree access water and prevent soil erosion.
The growth pattern of the Argan tree is slow, taking about 15 years to start producing fruit. However, once it reaches maturity, the tree can bear fruit for more than 200 years, providing a reliable source of income and resources for local communities.
The history of argan oil dates back centuries to the Indigenous Berber people of Morocco. The Berbers, also known as the Amazigh, have been using Argan oil for various purposes since as early as 600 BC.
Traditionally, the Berber people used Argan oil for culinary purposes, as a dipping oil for bread or a drizzle over couscous and other dishes. The oil was also used as a natural remedy for various ailments, such as arthritis and skin conditions, and as a protective balm against harsh weather conditions.
Goats are known to climb Argan trees. The goats are attracted to the fruit and have developed a remarkable ability to climb the branches. They are agile climbers and can often be seen perched, nibbling on the leaves and fruit. Although interesting to see, the goats can be damaging to the tree so protecting the plants is essential.
What is Argan Oil?
Argan oil is typically a golden-yellow colour with a mild, nutty aroma.
The process of extracting argan oil is labor-intensive and has been passed down through generations. Women typically gather the fallen fruit, remove the outer pulp, and crack the hard inner shell to obtain the nuts. The kernels are roasted (for culinary oil) or left raw (for cosmetic oil) before being cold-pressed to extract the oil.
While modern mechanical methods are used for large-scale production, traditional hand methods are still used by some producers to maintain the quality of the oil. The labour-intensive process and low yield contribute to the high cost of argan oil.
What Does Argan Oil Contain?
Like all carrier oils, argan oil is packed with nourishing anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and active phytochemicals.
The fatty acid composition of argan oil consists mainly of oleic acid and linoleic acids. Despite the high levels of oleic acid, argan oil is very unlikely to clog pores or worsen inflammation, that is because of the high linoleic acid content. The ratio between the two fatty acids is most important, and having a mix like the one seen below is what makes argan oil so beneficial for the skin. An approximate breakdown of the fatty acid profile is as follows:
- Oleic acid (Omega-9): 42-48%
- Linoleic acid (Omega-6): 30-38%
- Palmitic acid: 10-15%
- Stearic acid: 4-7%
In addition to its fatty acid profile, argan contains unique phytochemicals not commonly found in other carrier oils. Some of these are:
- Sterols: Schottenol and spinasterol, which are rare plant sterols that help to improve the skin's barrier function, retain moisture, and reduce inflammation.
- Polyphenols: Argan oil contains various polyphenols, which have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and potential anti-cancer properties. Phenolic compounds are responsible for the active effects of many botanical extracts.
- Squalene: Argan contains a small amount of squalene, a natural compound that helps to protect the skin against environmental damage.
- Triterpenoids, such as tirucallol and amyrenone, which have anti-inflammatory, antiviral, and potential anti-cancer properties.
Argan Oil Benefits
There are many benefits of argan oil. Although the focus is on its use for the skin and hair, it can actually be consumed as a culinary oil or used as a nutritional supplement.
The edible form of argan oil is typically extracted through a slightly different process than the cosmetic version. The kernels used for culinary argan oil are roasted before being cold-pressed, which imparts a nutty flavour to the oil.
As a nutritional supplement, pure argan oil can be taken in capsule form or added to smoothies, shakes, or other foods.
Cosmetic argan oil is not intended for internal use and may have undergone different processing.
A list of potential benefits of argan oil includes:
- Hair care: Argan is known for its ability to nourish and moisturize the hair, preventing dryness and frizziness. It also helps promote healthy growth, reduce split ends, and protect against heat and UV damage.
- Nail care: Argan can strengthen and moisturize nails and cuticles, preventing breakage and promoting healthy nail growth.
- Anti-inflammatory: Argan oil has anti-inflammatory properties that reduce inflammation and soothe various inflammatory conditions.
- Cardiovascular: High monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids (oleic and linoleic acids) can help to maintain healthy cholesterol levels, which may reduce the risk of heart disease.
- Antioxidant: The high concentration of antioxidants (tocopherols, polyphenols, and sterols) in argan oil helps to neutralize free radicals, which can protect the body from oxidative stress.
- Healing: Antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties help to promote minor wound healing and prevent infection.
Argan Oil for the Face
When it comes to argan oil for face and skincare, it's an excellent oil for overall skin rejuvenation. It provides the skin with essential nutrients and protection from environmental stressors while reducing inflammation and improving hydration.
Some of the ways argan oil works for the face are through its:
- Natural emollient properties, which help to soften and soothe the skin
- Fatty acids that keep the skin hydrated by reducing water loss
- Antioxidants, including vitamin E and polyphenols, can help protect the skin from environmental stressors like UV radiation
- Ability to be easily absorbed and deliver a range of beneficial nutrients directly to the skin
- Anti-inflammatory properties that soothe and reduce irritation and inflammation
- Ability to help regulate the production of sebum in the skin as well as antibacterial effects that can improve acne
Will argan oil clog pores? Unlikely.
The comedogenic rating of argan oil is 0-1 which means it's considered non-comedogenic and is unlikely to cause acne breakouts.
In combination with the effects seen on sebum production and the antibacterial properties, argan oil is one of the oils recommended for people with oily or acne-prone skin.
Argan Oil for Hair
Is argan oil good for hair? Yes!
Argan oil is one of the best oils for use in hair and beard care.. You can make an argan oil hair mask by massaging 8-10 drops into your hair and scalp, wrapping your hair in a towel or hair wrap and leaving it on overnight before washing it in the morning.
You can also add 1-2 drops of argan oil to your usual shampoo, use it as a leave-in conditioner by rubbing 2-3 drops into towel-dried hair once or twice a week or use it as a styling product by applying 1-2 drops to your clean, dry hair to reduce frizz and protect against heat styling.
How Argan Benefits Hair
Like the reasons argan is great for your skin, antioxidants and fatty acids in argan oil lubricate the hair shaft and maintain moisture.
Argan oil can be beneficial for curly hair, as it can help to moisturize and define curls while also reducing frizz. Curly hair is often prone to dryness, and argan oil can help to nourish and hydrate the hair, improving its overall health and appearance. It can be applied as a leave-in conditioner, styling product, or hair mask to help enhance curls and reduce frizz.
Argan oil helps improve hair's overall health and appearance. Additionally, it may prevent damage to the hair and scalp, supporting healthy hair growth.
Risks and Side Effects
Argan oil is safe for use on the skin, but some people may experience side effects or allergic reactions. These can include skin irritation, acne breakouts, sun sensitivity, and issues related to quality and purity. That's why patch testing is always recommended, especially if you have sensitive skin or allergies.
It's essential to choose a high-quality, pure product - and proceed with particular caution if you have a known nut allergy.
Sustainability and Ethical Considerations of Argan Oil Production
Argan oil production is sustainable, with little waste generated during the process.
The argan tree's deep roots help prevent soil erosion and desertification while providing shade and shelter for other plant species and animals in the region.
The global demand for argan oil is increasing. This has led to the establishment of women's cooperatives in Morocco, which play a crucial role in preserving the traditional techniques of Argan oil production while providing economic opportunities for local women.
In 1998, UNESCO designated the Argan tree's region as a Biosphere Reserve, highlighting the need for conservation efforts to protect the unique ecosystem and cultural heritage associated with the Argan tree. Additionally, the United Nations declared May 10th as the International Day of Argania.
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