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The many health and beauty benefits of native Moroccan Argan Oil

Updated: Apr 7, 2023

Argan oil has been used in Morocco for centuries. The oil has many uses, including as a moisturizer, a hair treatment, and a cooking oil.

Journey Morocco knows Morocco's best producers and manufacturers of this rare oil. We are happy to introduce you to the people who make your beauty products. We can even arrange for a custom blend to be created just for you. You are assured that your Moroccan Argan oil is produced entirely by hand, in the Berber and Amazigh people. The co-ops we partner with support the gainful employment of women in Morocco while memorializing our cultural heritage.

The benefits of argan oil have been used for ages by Berber women. Interest in argan oil for its beauty benefits has since spread beyond the borders of Morocco.

The history of argan oil has frequently been conflated with Moroccan history, turning it into the national symbol of Morocco. Different groups of people have used argan oil. Due to the exceptional luminosity that this oil emits, the Phoenicians utilized it as fuel for their oil lamps as one of the early uses for argan oil. Later, the Berber people learned about their nutritional and beauty benefits and started using them in their daily routines.

Argan oil is considered to be a natural remedy for a variety of ailments. The oil has a unique composition that makes it an effective treatment for skin conditions, hair loss, and joint pain.

The oil is extracted from kernels of the fruit of the argan tree, which is native to Morocco.

A brief history of argan oil

Argan oil is a plant oil made from the kernels of the Moroccan native argan tree (Argania spinosa L.), which is prized for its nutritional, cosmetic, and a variety of therapeutic benefits. Moroccan oil is another name for it when used cosmetically. The usage of argan oil for cosmetic purposes is growing in popularity. By 2016, there were more than one hundred personal-care products featuring argan oil as an ingredient on the US market, up from just two in 2007.

How did argan oil come to be harvested and used in beauty products?

The transformation of argan oil from a local resource to a global phenomenon took time. It took decades for the "liquid gold" to evolve into the "new olive oil" for gourmets and the newest darling of the cosmetic industry, partly because of women who developed their skills through time and a female scientist turned industry pioneer who was driven to preserve the environment.

The amber-colored oil comes from the argan tree that grows naturally on Morocco's Haha Coast. The Phoenicians have used oil for health and beauty since 600 BCE or earlier. And ever since, the tree's deep roots have played a significant role in how people live in that region of the world, particularly for the North African Berber people.

The kernel is made into an oil used as a cure for skin disorders, a beauty aid, and a peanut butter-like paste frequently consumed with bread. The wood and fruit are used as fuel and animal fodder, respectively.

How did the Berbers uncover the many benefits of argan oil?

For years, village women have been hammering stones together in circles on the ground to crack the argan nut's outer shell, which is thought to be 16 times tougher than a hazelnut. The activity has historically been regarded as women's labour due to the perseverance and talent needed to protect the one to three kernels hidden inside.

Argan oil was traditionally made from goat poop (yes, really!)

However, they received some assistance to get things going from goats that could scale trees. Goats would climb up trees to eat the argan fruit and then spit out the nuts since they were constantly searching for their next food.

The shell-cracking process started after those nuts were taken out of the goats' droppings using a method developed over centuries and handed down through the ancestors. Approximately 250 pounds of fruit, which yield only 4 kilograms of the kernel, must be processed into one liter of oil by grinding, pressing, and toasting (when used for culinary purposes).

The Berbers of ancient Morocco would gather undigested argan pits from the waste of goats that would climb trees to consume their fruit. This practice continued until the present era. The nut oil used in cooking and cosmetics was then created by pressing and grinding the pits.

Luckily, argan oil production methods have been modernised for improved hygiene

The oil used in the cosmetic and food goods currently on the market was probably extracted mechanically from the tree.

Since the oil will last 12 to 18 months and extraction is much quicker, it is becoming more and more significant for oil produced for sale. The dough can be immediately pressed without mixing with water when using mechanical presses.

How is the argan oil in my beauty products made?

The argan tree produces nuts-sized fruits that can be round, oval, or conical. Fruits have a thick peel that shields the fleshy pulp from the elements. A hard-shelled nut that makes up around 25% of the weight of the fresh fruit is encircled by pulp.

The nut has one to three kernels rich in argan oil. Depending on the extraction process, argan oil yields range from 30% to 55% from the kernels.

The kernels must be extracted to produce argan oil. The fleshy pulp of the argan fruit must first be removed before the seeds can be extracted after being dried outdoors. In some cases, the flesh can be mechanically removed from the fruits without drying them. Typically, the meat is fed to animals as food.

The argan nut must be cracked in the following step to release the argan kernels. Since attempts to automate this procedure have been unsuccessful, it is still done by hand, which makes it labor- and time-intensive.

The argan oil kernels needed to manufacture culinary argan oil are then lightly roasted. The argan kernels are ground and pressed when they have cooled. Pure, unfiltered argan oil is released by the tan-colored mash. Argan oil that has not been purified is then decanted into containers. After the argan oil has been removed, the press cake left is protein-rich and regularly fed to cattle.

Although the argan kernels are not roasted to prevent an overpowering nutty smell, cosmetic argan oil production is otherwise very identical.

After pressing, the argan oil is decanted and given about two weeks to rest. As a result, particles dispersed in the argan oil might naturally silt to the bottom. Afterwards, depending on the level of purity and clarity desired, the clearer argan oil may undergo additional filtration. There can be some sediment in pure argan oil. This is a typical step in the manufacturing process and has no impact on the argan oil's quality.

How did argan oil come to be a major export, and when did it become an intergral part of Morocco's economy?

Leo Africanus wrote about argan trees in Europe for the first time in 1510. A pioneering specimen was shipped to Amsterdam, where Lady Beaufort raised it at Badminton House in 1711.

Argan oil was attempted to be introduced to European markets as early as the 1500s, but the product was never successful. To plant oranges, tomatoes, and other crops seen to be more profitable. In the 20th century, an increasing number of farmers started removing long-standing argan trees.

National and international agencies, including UNESCO, which designated the biosphere the tree calls home as protected in 1998, intervened at that point and started taking action to reverse the trend and promote cultivation.

Zoubida Charrouf, a scientist and lecturer, located in Morocco, also hoped to protect the crops. She made the case that the argan tree served as a "green curtain," essential for fending against the Sahara desert. She also understood that if the area benefited economically from the oil, there would be a greater need to grow and care for healthy trees.

Her team at Mohammed V University conducted studies confirming the oil's high antioxidant content and invented techniques for improving quality and output. Later, in 1996, Charruof established cooperatives for the extraction of oil. Argan oil was the first product from an African country to apply for Protected Geographical Indication (PGI). The Moroccan government quickly took up the cause by initiating a program to enhance production.

The cosmetics sector, from huge brands like L'Oréal to smaller specialized businesses, was captivated by research proving long-heralded benefits mixed with dependable supply networks.

Most manufacturers identify the chance to empower Moroccan women as their main incentive, although the methodology and process vary widely. Charrouf thinks that coops have helped to change perceptions of rural women who labor outside the home and pursue education.

Changes to ways the argan kernels are harvested

Production of argan oil altered as it became more well-known outside of Morocco. The goat phase is omitted more frequently in favor of just plucking the fruit straight from the tree. Furthermore, crucial steps in the procedure, like the pressing of oil and the crushing of nuts, are now carried out by machines.

According to a report written by a group of researchers and published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the modifications have contributed to making argan oil the most expensive edible oil in the world, selling for $300 per liter and bringing wealth to families who have access to argan trees.

Beauty tourism is flourishing in Morocco

Signs for women's co-ops and stands selling face cream jars and shampoo vials can be seen throughout the famous beach town of Essaouira and the nearby countryside. Today, it's thought that 5000 women work in these cooperatives and make a living salary.

The protagonists of the argan oil narrative have remained the same, despite some process elements being modified. Groups of women still sit together and use rocks as instruments to manually crack open the hard nut to protect the liquid gold inside the shells.

The history of argan oil

The Berber tribes of Morocco have valued this oil much over the years.

Due to its beauty benefits, individuals use argan oil primarily to protect their skin from arid conditions.

The tree that produces the fruits from which we extract the oil of Argan was practically extinct at the start of the 1990s.

Although the demand for other crops was gradually replacing the usage of this oil, in 1999, UNESCO recognized the Argan tree as a World Heritage Site because of all its health-promoting qualities and extensive history.

When the cosmetic industry learned about the advantages of this oil, it decided to concentrate on the Maghreb. It started to take advantage of the tree's cultivation by creating different cosmetic products with argan oil as one of the main ingredients.

Why does the argan tree thrive in Morocco?

The argan tree has endured and adapted to the dry climate of Morocco for thousands of years. Each specimen can grow to a height of 10 meters, and this prodigy can live up to 200 years. It can draw atmospheric moisture at night to store water and gradually release some of it to the earth through its roots, which can occasionally sink to a depth of 30 meters in quest of water to assist you in navigating scorching stations.

The argan tree enters a condition of hibernation when the weather is too severe, losing its leaves to prevent evaporation and emerging when the humidity level rises.

It can draw air moisture at night to store the water and gradually release some of it to its roots, which can occasionally sink to a depth of 30 meters in quest of water.

The tree is well suited to southwestern Morocco's challenging environmental conditions, including drought. Argania, a genus that formerly blanketed North Africa, is currently threatened and protected by UNESCO. The argan tree naturally grows in semi-arid soil, and its extensive root structure aids in preventing soil erosion and the Sahara's northward march. The Arganeraie Biosphere Reserve is a vast intermontane plain that spans more than 2,560,000 hectares and is bounded west by the Atlantic and the High and Little Atlas Mountains. Due to its tiny and extremely restricted growth regions, argan oil continues to be one of the rarest oils in the world

When is fruit from the argan tree harvested?

Between May and June, the argan tree bears its fruit. These fruits have an olive-like appearance, although they are a bit bigger and rounder. This fruit contains an almond from which we extract argan oil.

Argan oil production is a meticulous, handcrafted process that requires much effort. It is manually gathered, then placed outside to dry in the sun.

Our argan oil is created by pressing the almond and then processed without heat or solvents, preserving 100% of the oil's nutritional value.

What makes rare argan oil so special?

This natural oil that fights aging has now achieved global fame.

While only a few kilograms of fruit are produced by the argan tree each year, argan oil is considered "one of the rarest oils in the world."

Selena Gomez, Eva Mendes, Taylor Swift, Charlize Theron, Madonna, Angelina Jolie, Jennifer Aniston, and Scarlett Johansson are just a few of the A-list stars who directly endorse and use cosmetic argan oil (just to name a few.)

Women who favor utilizing natural, organic products on their skin over synthetic, potentially hazardous chemicals are particularly fond of argan oil nowadays.


When it comes to stocking up on beauty supplies during your travels, it’s important to remember that not all products are created equal. In fact, some of the most sought-after items are only available in certain parts of the world. Argan oil, for example, is a rare and precious commodity.

Journey Morocco will connect you with the most exceptional argan oil producers in Morocco, who manufacture the highest quality oils in the world.

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