Imagine a fruit so nutritious that goats will climb trees just to eat them! Inside that little fruit, is the little nut that gives us argan oil. (1)
For generations, natives of the argan woodlands in Morocco have pressed the nut to extract this precious oil, to use argan oil benefits as a dietary supplement; for wound treatment and rash relief; and to nourish skin and hair. These slow-growing trees are so revered that in 1998 the argan forest was declared a biosphere reserve by UNESCO. (2a)
What is argan oil? It’s a rare oil that is high in both oleic (omega 9 monounsaturated nonessential) and linoleic (omega 6 unsaturated) fatty acids, both of which aid acne-prone skin (which is usually deficient in linoleic acid in the subum). (2b) Depending on its sourcing, argan oil contains about 35–40 percent linoleic acid and 42–48 percent oleic acid. While linoleic acid will reduce inflammation and acne and increase skin moisturization levels, oleic acid can improve the skin’s permeability and assist other ingredients penetrate the skin more easily. (2c)
In addition, when judged by how much it clogs pores (comedogenic rating), argan oil rates out as a zero, as in it does not clog pores. (2d) These are just some of the reasons why argan oil has become a popular carrier oil for acne sufferers and others.
Argan Oil Benefits Throughout History
Produced from the kernels of the argan tree (Argania spinosa L.), this plant oil is exclusive to Morocco but historically argan oil use was not. People throughout the world have taken advantage of the many argan oil benefits to help treat skin infections, bug bites and skin rashes. And now it is used by men and women all over the world seeking an effective, all-natural moisturizer for skin and hair. (3)
One of the main reasons that argan oil is so therapeutic is because it’s rich with vitamin A and vitamin E. However, Moroccan argan oil is also packed with antioxidants, omega-6 fatty acids and linoleic acid. Research shows that when applied to skin, argan oil benefits include easing inflammation while moisturizing the skin. (4)
When applied externally, trocopherol from the vitamin E helps to boost cell production while promoting healthy skin and hair. This is why cosmetic companies are including it in their high-end anti-aging, hair and skin care products.
The good news is that to get argan oil benefits you don’t have to purchase luxury hair and skin care products. You can purchase just the oil, making it a versatile addition to your beauty routine. Although 100 percent argan oil can be expensive, just a drop or two will nourish hair and skin throughout the day.
Top 12 Argan Oil Benefits
Here are 12 ways that you can incorporate this all-natural oil into your daily beauty regimen.
1. Nighttime Moisturizer
Argan oil absorbs quickly and does not leave an oily residue. After cleansing your skin with an all-natural cleanser, pour a single drop into your palm to warm. Apply in a circular motion to your face and neck.
In the winter months, or in dryer climates, you may need a second drop but remember to use sparingly. This oil is gentle and safe to use around your eyes.
Apply one drop to your face, using a tapping motion, from the bridge of your nose to your temple and back again. Then apply a drop beneath your eyes with the same gentle tapping. The vitamin A and vitamin E can help to reduce fine wrinkles and keep this delicate area moisturized. Plus, a 2015 study shows argan oil benefits also include anti-aging effects. (5)
2. Skin Toner
Skin toning is an important step in your skin care routine. For an all-over glow, add 2–4 drops to 8 ounces of your favorite toner, or better yet, make your own chemical-free, all-natural toner at home.
Simply pour 1 cup of boiling water over a green tea bag and let steep for 7–10 minutes. Remove the tea bag and allow to come to room temperature. Add a drop or two of your favorite essential oil (orange, lemon or tea tree are great) and 2–4 drops of argan oil and seal in a jar. Use morning and night after cleansing and before moisturizing.
Do-it-yourself exfoliators are not difficult to make and are significantly less expensive than what you can purchase in the store.
To experience the argan oil benefits while exfoliating, just mix 1 tablespoon of brown sugar with a couple of drops of argan oil in your hand. Rub into your face in a circular motion for two to four minutes; pay special attention to acne-prone areas and areas that are dry. Rinse with warm water and pat dry.
Regular exfoliation helps to remove dead skin cells and reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, while giving you a younger, fresher complexion. With the aid of the brown sugar, the argan oil’s nutrients are more readily absorbed into your skin.
Use this exfoliator for more than just your face. If you have dry elbows or heels (or during an at-home pedicure), mix up a bit more to massage the dry and dead skin away.
4. Acne Remedy
Great news for anyone who is suffering from acne — argan oil has been proven to reduce sebum levels in individuals with oily skin. (6) Women who have never had acne before are finding in that in their 30s and 40s this pesky condition arises, and it is often difficult to treat.
Chemical creams can be expensive and, in the long run, truly do more harm than good. Argan oil’s high linoleic acid content helps to reduce inflammation caused by acne (not to mention rashes, infections and bug bites) while helping to soothe damaged skin cells.
If you are using argan oil as your moisturizer, but are still fighting acne, consider adding argan oil to your list of home remedies for acne. Place a drop in the palm of your hand and lightly dab a bit extra into problem areas. To fight stubborn or persistent white heads, be sure to make the toner above, using a couple of drops of tea tree oil.
Tea tree oil complements the argan oil benefits beautifully with its rich antioxidant content and inherent antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal properties. (7) Together, they can help fight stubborn acne while reducing the inflammation and scarring.
The fruit of the argan tree is small, and round, oval, or conical. A thick peel covers the fleshy pulp. The pulp surrounds a hard-shelled nut that represents about 25% of the weight of the fresh fruit.
The nut contains one to three oil-rich argan kernels. Extraction yields from 30% to 50% of the oil in the kernels, depending on the extraction method.
Extraction is key to the production process. To extract the kernels, workers first dry argan fruit in the open air and then remove the fleshy pulp. Some producers remove the flesh mechanically without drying the fruit. Moroccans usually use the flesh as animal feed. A tradition in some areas of Morocco allows goats to climb argan trees to feed freely on the fruits. The kernels are then later retrieved from the goat droppings, considerably reducing the labour involved in extraction at the expense of some potential gustatory aversion. In modern practice, the peels are removed by hand.
The next stage involves cracking the argan nut to obtain the argan kernels. Attempts to mechanize this process have been unsuccessful, so workers still do it by hand, making it a time-consuming, labour-intensive process. Berber women often engage in this arduous task.
Workers gently roast kernels they will use to make culinary argan oil. After the argan kernels cool, workers grind and press them. The brown-coloured mash expels pure, unfiltered argan oil. Finally, they decant unfiltered argan oil into vessels. The remaining press cake is protein-rich and frequently used as cattle feed.
Cosmetic argan oil is produced almost identically, though the argan kernels are not roasted to avoid an excessively nutty scent.
The decanted argan oil is left to rest about two weeks so the suspended solids settle to the bottom. The clearer argan oil is further filtered, depending on the required clarity and purity. Pure argan oil may contain some sediment.
Properties and uses
Fatty acid Percentage
Argan oil has a relative density at 20 °C (68 °F) ranging from 0.906 to 0.919.
Argan oil contains tocopherols (vitamin E), phenols, carotenes, squalene, and fatty acids, (80% unsaturated fatty acids) The main natural phenols in argan oil are caffeic acid, oleuropein, vanillic acid, tyrosol, catechol, resorcinol, (−)-epicatechin and (+)-catechin.
Depending on the extraction method, argan oil may be more resistant to oxidation than olive oil.
Culinary argan oil (argan food oil) is used for dipping bread, on couscous, salads and similar uses. Amlou, a thick brown paste with a consistency similar to peanut butter, is used locally as a bread dip. It is produced by grinding roasted almond and argan oil using stones, and then mixing the argan oil and almonds in honey.
Various claims about the beneficial effects on health due to the consumption of argan oil have been made. A research article published in 2010 found that argan oil contained higher levels than other oils of γ-Tocopherol, which possesses strong chemopreventive and anti-inflammatory properties.
The increasing popularity of Argan oil in cosmetic products has prompted the Moroccan government to plan for increased production, with their aim being to increase from around 2,500 to 4,000 tonnes by 2020.
The argan tree provides food, shelter and protection from desertification. The trees’ deep roots help prevent desert encroachment. The canopy of argan trees also provides shade for other agricultural products, and the leaves and fruit provide feed for animals.
The argan tree also helps landscape stability, helping to prevent soil erosion, providing shade for pasture grasses, and helping to replenish aquifers.
Producing argan oil has helped to protect argan trees from being cut down. In addition, regeneration of the Arganeraie has also been carried out: in 2009 an operation to plant 4,300 argan plants was launched in Meskala in the province of Essaouira.
The Réseau des Associations de la Réserve de Biosphère Arganeraie (Network of Associations of the Argan Biosphere Reserve, RARBA) was founded in 2002 with the aim of ensuring sustainable development in the Arganeraie.
RARBA has been involved with several major projects, including the Moroccan national antidesertification programme (Programme National de Lutte contre la desertification, PAN/LCD). The project involved local populations and helped with improvements to basic infrastructure, management of natural resources, revenue-generating activities (including argan oil production), capacity reinforcement, and others.
The production of argan oil has always had a socioeconomic function. At present, its production supports about 2.2 million people in the main argan oil-producing region, the Arganeraie.
Much of the argan oil produced today is made by a number of women’s co-operatives. Co-sponsored by the Social Development Agency with the support of the European Union, the Union des Cooperatives des Femmes de l’Arganeraie is the largest union of argan oil co-operatives in Morocco. It comprises 22 co-operatives that are found in other parts of the region.
Employment in the co-operatives provides women with an income, which many have used to fund education for themselves or their children. It has also provided them with a degree of autonomy in a traditionally male-dominated society and has helped many become more aware of their rights.
The success of the argan co-operatives has also encouraged other producers of agricultural products to adopt the co-operative model. The establishment of the co-operatives has been aided by support from within Morocco, notably the Fondation Mohamed VI pour la Recherche et la Sauvegarde de l’Arganier (Mohammed VI Foundation for Research and Protection of the Argan Tree), and from international organisations, including Canada’s International Development Research Centre and the European Commission.