Argan oil is produced from the kernels of the fruit of the Argan tree, a tree found naturally and exclusively in south west Morocco. While it has traditionally been used for flavoring food in Morocco, it has become well known across the globe for its wide range of benefits, particularly cosmetic. It is a highly sought after product, but those looking to buy pure Argan oil need to be careful that the product they are purchasing is truly genuine.
Producing the oil is a labor-intensive process that requires the fruit to be dried before the pulp is removed. The kernels are found in the stone of the fruit, so the stone must be cracked open. No successful way of doing this mechanically has yet been discovered, so this task is performed by hand, usually by local women. It takes three days for someone to produce a single liter of oil.
Argan oil that is to be used for cooking will be roasted, but the oil destined for cosmetic use will not, because roasting causes a strong, nutty scent to develop. The Argan kernels are then grounded and pressed to produce the oil. It’s left to settle for around two weeks, and then filtered to remove the sediment. However, it’s not unusual for pure Argan oil to still contain some of the residue, and this is often a sign of quality.
Argan oil has many uses, partly due to its high levels of vitamins A and E, antioxidants, Omega-6 fatty acids, and linoleic acid. It also contains higher levels of γ-Tocopherol than other oils.
When consumed as a whole food, there is evidence to suggest that it can offer the following benefits:
- Stimulate the nervous system
- Reduce joint and rheumatic pain
- Reduce hypertension
- Increase pepsin to aid digestion
- Assist with stabilizing blood sugar levels
It’s also used cosmetically:
- To tone and moisturize facial skin
- Reduce acne, particularly when skin suddenly becomes oily in adulthood
- For exfoliating, when added to brown sugar
- To prevent stretch marks during pregnancy, or reduce their appearance
- As a leave-in conditioner and styling product, particularly for smoothing hair
- To strengthen nails and soften cuticles
- To moisturize the whole body, and treat dry feet and heels
Unsurprisingly given how labor-intensive Argan oil is to produce, pure Argan oil is expensive, which has led to unscrupulous companies trying to take advantage of consumers. While not infallible, there are a number of indicators that consumers can look for to try to ensure that what they are buying is indeed pure. These indicators are:
- Ingredients – the only ingredient should be Argan oil (Argania Spinosa), although the label may also include the word kernel. Any other ingredient will affect the quality, as they cause the oil to start to degrade.
- Packaging – the oil should be supplied in a dark, glass bottle. This protects it from the damaging effects of light, which reduces the benefits of the oil.
- Appearance – as mentioned above, pure Argan oil may still retain some of the sediment from its processing, and this is a sign that it is genuine. If the oil looks a little cloudy to begin with, allowing it to sit should cause it to clear as the sediment sinks to the bottom. The oil should also be a light golden color. If there is no color, it has probably been diluted. A dark color indicates that it is for cooking.
- Scent – although Argan oil can vary in scent dependent upon the time of year it was harvested, it should have a light, nutty scent. If the scent is too strong, then it is probably from kernels that were roasted to make cooking oil. If it is odorless, it may have been watered down, deodorized (which affects the quality of the oil), or it may be fake. If it smells rancid, then it has gone bad, and should not be used.
- Texture – it should feel smooth and silky, never watery or sticky.
- Certifications – if there is an EcoCert certificate, then it is Argan oil.
- Price – while cheap oil should raise concerns, so should overly expensive oil, which may simply be due to packaging. It’s worth comparing prices to establish what is a reasonable price.
Argan oil has become easier to find, and, although much is still purchased online, it can now be found in department stores, drugstores, and beauty salons.
The number of brands has increased but, as with most products, there are a number of websites that review the different makes of Argan oil, so begin by checking three or four websites for their recommendations. Once you have a shortlist, try to find online reviews of the products, focusing on the quality of the product.
Personal recommendations are also useful. Many hair stylists and beauticians now recommend Argan oil to their clients for the benefits it provides, so ask yours which brand they suggest. It could be that they stock their preferred brand and, if they use it as a regular product with their clients, they may allow you to sample a small amount before you commit to buying.
There are a small number of Argan oil brands which are regularly recommended by experts. Two of the most highly recommended are Pura D’Or and Poppy Austin- both are available to buy on amazon.com.
The Pura D’Or brand is a good, all-round oil, suitable for the skin, hair, and nails. Although it is one of the less expensive brands, it is cold-pressed and EcoCert certified as pure.
Poppy Austin’s brand is also designed for cosmetic use. This brand is more expensive than Pura D’Or but it’s the leading brand in the USA, recommended by top celebrity hairdressers and dermatologists. It also comes with a thirty day money back guarantee for peace of mind.
Pure Argan oil has become recognized as beneficial for both health and beauty. As its production is labor-intensive, and the tree is indigenous to just one small part of a country, it is costly, but its multitude of uses makes it worth the price tag. When buying, purchasers should be careful, as its value has led to companies offering inferior products. Considering the factors above before purchasing a product will help ensure that they get the full benefits.