Monday, May 17, 2010

Argan Oil

If you haven't heard of argan oil yet, consider this your moment of enlightenment. Hairdressers, beauty journalists and regular folks alike are all learning of argan oil.

Argan oil comes from the kernels of the argan tree, native to Morocco in northern Africa in a region called Essaouira. The Berbers of Morocco have used the fruit of the argan tree for centuries in cooking and cosmetics, extracting the oils by hand or in a more complex and unsanitary way. Goats eat the fruit of the argan trees when they're ripe and the locals gather the kernels after the goats have expelled the pits which contain the kernels oil can be extracted from. Due to the recent global interest in argan oil's anti-aging and restorative properties, the fruit is harvested and the oil extracted by machine in a much more efficient and sanitary way.

Goats in Argan tree - photo by Lottelies on Flickr

Argan trees and the production of argan oil is protected and moderated by UNESCO. The Argania species is endangered and UNESCO hopes that the interest in the anti-aging and medicinal benefits of the oil will allow the trees to regain a foothold. So far, this is happening - the trees are being protected from the goats that climb the trees to eat the fruit and the local people understand the value of the trees and aren't chopping the trees down for wood.

Extracting the oil is traditionally the work of Berber women and women-run cooperatives have cropped up in the region. The NY Times did a travel story about argan oil entitled Liquid Gold in Morocco and if you travel to one of Essaouira's argan co-ops you may be invited in to watch the woman extract the oil from the olive-like argan fruit.

Argan oil is lightweight and exceptionally high in Vitamin E, antioxidants and fatty acids which make it excellent for soothing dry hair as well as dry skin. Despite this never use an argan oil product meant for hair on the skin, however unless it's specified that you can use it on both. Often argan oil products are a blend of argan oil and other ingredients (such as silicone) which may make it irritating to the skin. 

Moroccan Oil is the best-known brand of argan oil available. It's being touted by magazines such as Instyle, People and Marie Claire as well as hair stylists. They have a line of hair products containing argan oil including the original Moroccan Oil Treatment, Glimmer Shine Spray, hair masks, shampoo, conditioner, styling cream and curl cream. The Moroccan Oil Treatment Oil is $39 US$ for 100 mL. 

Kiehl's has line of argan oil line products for the skin including the Superbly Restorative Argan Dry Oil, Cleansing Oil, Skin Salve and Body Lotion. Their Argan Cleansing Oil contains salicylic acid which works to slough off dead layers of skin cells as well as the argan oil to soothe and moisturize the new skin cells. Their Argan Dry Oil is $30 US$ for 4.2 oz and $42 US$ for 8 oz.

I stumbled across a drugstore argan oil haircare line recently. Live Clean is available at Shoppers Drug Mart in Canada, is priced reasonably and their Exotic Nectar Argan Oil line is silicone-free, unlike Moroccan Oil. As well as the Live Clean Argan Oil, there's also shampoo, conditioner and a styling cream. The Live Clean Argan Oil is $11.99 CDN for 110 mL.

There are numerous other brands of argan oil and argan oil products. Here are a few:

I have tried Marrakesh Oil, Moroccan Oil and Live Clean's argan oil and I'm hooked. My favourite of the three would have to be the Marrakesh Oil. You only need a few drops of this stuff - too much and you'll have heavy, oily hair - and the scent is subtle, very pleasant, natural and exotic, similar to shea butter.

With all of these, I apply a few drops to my damp hair and work it through and then style as usual. Most days, I did not need to put anything in my hair after I'd dried and flat-ironed it and the argan oil made my hair incredibly glossy and smooth. On humid, rainy days, I use a little bit of it after I've styled my hair to smooth away fly-aways and it can be carried with you for just this purpose as well. 

I can only speak for my own (fine, straight, colour-treated, normal to oily) hair but if argan oil does not weigh my hair down, it will certainly not weigh down thicker hair. If it rids my stick-straight hair of frizzies and fly-aways, it will certainly do the same for curly hair prone to frizziness. I say that if your hair is on the dry side, coloured or highlighted, damaged or prone to frizz or if you want glossy, sleek, healthy-looking hair with a minimum of fuss, you MUST try argan oil. It's not called the miracle hair product for nothing!

Have you ever tried argan oil or any of the argan oil products in your hair or on your skin? What did you think?



  1. Nice Cath! Argan oil is great for both skin and hair indeed.
    However there are 2 things to consider: the cosmetic-grade argan oil is expensive if used daily and skin, which is human's largest organ, should be given some rest.
    It is then wise to alternate physical application on the skin with food-grade argan oil intake. You get the benefits from the inside out at a much cheaper price.

  2. I absolutely love the Moroccan hair oil as I have blonde highlights and my hair is quite dry. The downside is that it can change the colour of the blonde somewhat but they now have compensated for that and made a new one specifically for blonde. I believe it's something in the dark nut itself that changes teh colour. It's a wonderful product and worth every cent to me.

  3. Absolutely True! Argan oil is very effective to both skin and hair. Argan oil is lightweight and enriched with vitamin E and fatty acids. Currently i am using it and its results are awesome.