Argan Oil - Rare Liquid Gold

If you ever happen to hear about goats climbing trees, believe it. They really do. In Morocco – home to the Argan tree – goats will literally navigate their way up the trunk and branches to reach the coveted argan nuts.

Argan trees grow wild and are close to impossible to cultivate. They are also heavily guarded by the small communities that make their living from hand picking and hand-processing this rare liquid gold otherwise known as argan oil (INCI: Argania Spinosa). Argan oil is among the priciest carrier oils on the market today.

Multifunctional Uses

Argan oil has a long history and has been used for centuries by the Berbers of the Atlas for both culinary, therapeutic and cosmetic purposes. It is praised for its restorative properties and has a long list of other plusses we'll look at more closely in a minute.

The Process

The fruit of the argan tree is about the size of a walnut, hidden under the pulpy core of a hard shell that contains 1-3 kernels called arganons. It is from the arganons that the oil is made.

The arganons are carefully stripped of their outer layer by hand, dried in the sun, then cold-pressed to produce a golden brown oil with a mild, slightly nutty and quite pleasant scent. For culinary use, the nuts are gently roasted before pressing.

The Goats

When the fruit of the argan is eaten by goats, the core is usually regurgitated 24 hours after ingestion. Because argan oil is so coveted, it is (unfortunately) common to find oil made from cores that have been eaten by goats and collected from the ground. Making oil from partially digested, sometimes mouldy arganons will not only drastically alter the oils properties, it also results in a heavy, fecal-smelling product.

I have had occasion to both sniff and feel argan oil that I believe was made from pre-eaten arganons. It was nothing like the argan oil I know and work with. The color was quite a dark brown and the smell was potent and reminded me of rancid sesame oil. The person who proudly showed me their 'original argan oil' had brought it back from a trip to Morocco and was using it for cooking. I couldn't bring myself to share my suspicions with them.

Argan and Sustainable Development

The argan oil I use is sourced from a trusted supplier that delivers documentation right down to the name of every person in the 72-woman strong Fair Trade cooperative that produces it. They also guarantee the nuts have not passed through any goat (or other animal's) digestive system prior to pressing. It is so pricey that I have as yet to try using it in anything but personal oil blends (where it adds the most exquisite silky feel).

Argan on the Market

You have to wonder exactly how much argan oil there is in the 'argan shampoos' you see advertised on TV by the major cosmetics companies. How can they sell it at supermarket prices?

Four possibilities
- They're using tip-ins
- They're using inferior (goat-quality) oil
- They're using diluted oil
- All of the above

Properties of Argan Oil

Argan oil contains more than 75% unsaturated fatty acids, is rich in vitamin E, sterols, and phenolic compounds. Its antioxidant properties offer regenerative and restorative action for the skin, helping tone and firm. It's absolutely fabulous for moisturizing hair whether used on dry tips or all over. Argan oil feels so utterly luxurious on skin that it can easily replace a lotion or cream. If ever the words 'feeding the skin' could be used about an oil, argan fits the bill. Here is a checklist of argan's many beneficial properties.

For Skin

- Especially suitable for dry and dehydrated skin
- Firming – restores elasticity
- Softening
- Antioxidant, anti-aging
- Extremely nourishing and healing: effective on cracks, burns, scars
- Protective: limits the effects of sun, wind
- Improves the skins barrier function and microcirculation

For Hair and Nails

- Helps strengthen brittle nails
- Restores shine and brings luster to dull, tired hair

Argan Oil's Active ingredients 

(percentages vary some from batch to batch. The percentages listed here are from the documentation of the batch I am using at present)
- Essential fatty acids, polyunsaturated (PUFA or AGE) or Vitamin F: linoleic acid (omega 6) (33.77%)
- Monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA) oleic acid (45.74%)
- Saturated fatty acids (SFA): palmitic acid (12.56%), stearic acid (6%)
- Tocopherols (vitamin E)
- Phenolic compounds (ferulic acid, syringic and vanillic) antioxidants
- Triterpenic alcohols (beta-amyrin, butyrospermol, tirucallol)
- Sterols (spinasterol and schottenol) 
- Carotenoids and xanthophylls
- Triacylglycerides

LisaLisa Products With Argan Oil

Personalized Oil Blends

Have you ever tried argan oil?


lilyford5 said…
Where do you recommend someone purchase this oil for use by a small hand crafter shop?
LisaLise said…
Hey there Lilyford5 - Ask some of the suppliers you normally use and trust if they have a possibility of procuring some (be sure they can document its authenticity!). I have a few suppliers that will actually point me to others if I ask for a product they don't carry. Where are you located? I have a European supplier that I can recommend but have no clue where you could find this in North America
Anonymous said…
Hej Lise, jeg kunne godt tænke mig navnet på den europæiske forhandler:)
LisaLise said…
Hej !

Prøv at kigge links forneden til højre. Firmaet hedder Aroma Zone og ligger i Frankrig. Det er ikke altid de har olien, så du skal måske væbne dig med tålmodighed.. held og lykke med det. :)
Unknown said…
Hi there :), would you mind to share with me your supplier of argan oil, please? I was going to gave up using argan oil on my face, because I dont see any results except for more acne. My argan oil is almost transparent without much scent, so I thought this acne could be caused by oil of not a good quality. I would really appreciate your advice, I am based in the UK. Thank you very much :).
LisaLise said…
HI Unknown - I have a close friend who brings me the oil from their regular trips to Morocco. It sounds to me like the arrange oil you have might be highly diluted. Sorry I couldn't be of more help.