Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Argan Oil: Worth Climbing a Tree For?

You know how you start seeing products that feature ingredients you have never heard of that claim amazing benefits?  Argan oil was one such for me.  It is a featured ingredient in Josie Maran's skincare and makeup line, which is where I first noticed it a few years back.  Then, I would see people commenting online about how they used argan oil for their hair or cuticles.  Now it's showing up in drugstore hair care and other products, so argan oil has achieved mainstream status.  It was only after I saw a documentary on Morocco that showed women harvesting argan oil that I started believing the hype, however.

Argan oil is havested from the fruit of the endangered argan tree, which is found only in a small portion of Morocco.  In the early 1990's, a Moroccan chemistry professor who was intrigued by the local traditional health and nutritional claims about argan oil decided to conduct some research.  What she found is that argan oil's high linoleic acid (precursor of vitamin E) and unsaturated fatty acid content make it a rich source of antioxidants and can indeed help lower cholesterol, reduce wrinkles, acne and scarring, and speed the healing of abrasions.

Goats climbing tree to get argan fruit.
Fast forward a few years and a local cooperative is founded that employs women to crack open the argan fruit and extract the 1-3 nuts inside, which then go through a mechanized process to extract the oil.  A vast improvement over the traditional method, which involved picking undigested pits out of the excrement of goats that like to climb the trees to eat the fruit.  But no way around it, harvesting argan oil is difficult.  Producing 2 pints of the oil require at  least eight argan trees, which explains why the trees have been under the protection of UNESCO since 1999, helping to ensure reforestation for sustained growth.

I use Josie Maran argan oil as a supplement with my regular moisturizer.  A few added drops gives me enough of a boost to counteract that tight, dry feeling my skin gets during the winter.  I also use Moroccan Oil shampoo and conditioner and Marrakesh Oil hair elixir, which all contain argan oil.  To be honest, what sold me on the Marrakesh Oil was the smell, but it does a great job of detangling and smoothing hair, so I'm happy.  Have you used any products containing argan oil?  What did you think?

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