Argan oil is one of the rarest and most expensive fixed oils in the world yet it is the current buzz ingredient in the skin care world, thanks to its incredible moisturising and cell-rejuvenating properties.
Argan oil, derived from the seeds of the argan tree, Argania spinosa, is a unique vegetable oil and one of Mother Nature’s treasures. Its unique medicinal, culinary and cosmetic properties are now being verified by science.
In its natural south-western Morocco habitat, the argan tree is an important link in the food chain and the environment. The leaves and fruit sustain goats (that actually climb the trees to reach their food!), the leaves provide forage for camels and sheep, cattle live off the press-cake that remains after the oil has been extracted from the seeds, humans eat the oil, the nut shells are used for fuel, and the wood is used for crafting.
TRADITIONAL AND COMMERCIAL CULTIVATION
Until recently, argan oil was still extracted predominantly by traditional methods, a laborious process taking about 12 to 20 hours of hand processing to produce about one litre of oil that can keep for three to six months. However, dry and cold-pressing is now increasingly important for oil produced for sale, as the oil will keep for 12 to 18 months and extraction is much faster. Argan oil is currently produced by several women’s co-operatives in the region and is becoming a viable commercial enterprise with a poverty-alleviation profile that deserves support. Top-quality, cold-pressed argan oil is not cheap, as the nuts are cold pressed without the use of chemicals, solvents, alcohol, or preservatives and it takes over 100 kg of seeds to process one to two litres of virgin oil.
Virgin cosmetic-grade argan oil is yellow in colour with an acceptable characteristic odour. Berber women have used argan oil for their skin, hair and nail care for centuries. Argan is considered an effective anti-ageing oil due to its high vitamin E content – an antioxidant that helps neutralise free radical damage and control ageing, which is important for skin exposed to polluted Western environments. It also contains saponins, which are skin-softening agents, and it is reputed to help reduce wrinkles by restoring the skin’s hydro-lipid layer thanks to its high unsaturated fatty acid content.
Argan oil is ideal for products such as hand creams, body balms and lotions, and regenerative creams for around the eyes. Argan is not greasy and is even safe for baby skin, and for those with sensitive skin. It can be used in any cosmetic product as an active principle or as a carrier in the oily phase, without any proportion limit.
In addition to this, argan oil is anti-inflammatory and has sun-protective and disinfectant properties. The unroasted oil is used for skin ailments and is claimed to soothe chickenpox, acne, psoriasis, and dry eczema (not to be used on broken skin or weeping eczema), and can also help to reduce scarring and prevent stretch marks.
Although costly, argan oil is definitely worth the investment and a little does go a long way.