You’ve seen it as the key ingredient in your skincare products and your shampoos, or maybe even tasted it drizzled over a salad. It has been given the nickname ‘Moroccan gold’ and is occasionally labeled as Moroccan oil, but it’s more commonly known as argan oil.
Argan oil is hailed as a cure-all in Morocco and it’s used for seemingly everything. People use it in their hair as a conditioner, on their face to reduce wrinkles, and on their bodies as a moisturizer. Then, they’ll even use it as a bread dip or slather their bread with some amlou—a nutty spread made using argan oil.
How it’s made
Argan oil is made by hand pressing the kernels of the Argania spinosa tree. This tree is native to southwestern Morocco and is almost exclusively grown in the area. The trees grow along the Sahara desert and the area has been designated as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve to protect and conserve the trees. Most importantly, the Argania spinosa trees help prevent desertification, the process by which fertile productive land becomes desert. Desertification is a problem that has been declared the “greatest environmental challenge of our times.”
Berber women, indigenous to the region, hold the centuries-old secret to making argan oil. The argan oil industry is dominated by these women, many of whom have gained autonomy and agency with the increasing popularity of argan oil in cosmetics and cooking in a highly patriarchal Moroccan society.
The task of extracting argan oil from the seed is labor intensive, taking a few days just to produce one liter of oil. After gathering the fruit, the nut must be husked from the shell and the women accomplish this by cracking each of the pods with two rocks. The brown pits are then ground into a paste, which is then kneaded or pressed with some water to extract the oil. For culinary argan oil, there is an addition step that involves roasting the kernels before grinding into a paste. Much of this work is done at the all-women cooperatives and the women do it by hand, but other firms have begun to use mechanical presses to aid in their work.
Because extracting the oil is so labor intensive and the trees are only really found in southwestern Morocco, the price of argan oil is high but its benefits are many.
Argan oil is pricey, but it’s chock-full of great ingredients for your skin. It has twice as much antioxidants as olive oil. These antioxidants include vitamin E, squalene, and fatty acids among other beneficial ingredients. These antioxidants help reduce the appearance of wrinkles and other signs of aging and also have anti-inflammatory properties that soothes redness. They also work to block free radicals from the body. It’s often used as an ingredient in skincare products such as those from our Argan Oil line.
In addition to how great argan oil is for your skin, consuming argan oil is also good for your health. Consuming argan oil can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. The unsaturated fatty acids help manage your cholesterol and the oil has been recommended as a way to meet your daily fat intake without compromising your health. It can help reduce your risk of cancer and its high concentration of antioxidants help repair cellular damage. Argan oil can also decrease insulin resistance and help your body fight against diabetes.
Argan oil has many wide ranging benefits for your body, hair, and skin. It’s full of antioxidants with anti-inflammatory properties that are amazing for your skin. Studies have shown that consumption of argan oil can help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, and diabetes.
You can pair it with some bread as a snack, use it to soften the calluses on your feet, or massage a few drops into your scalp and hair and leave it as an overnight conditioner. Now that you’ve heard all about Morocco’s ‘liquid gold,’ how will you incorporate argan oil into your daily routine?