When many of us think about argan oil the first thing that springs to mind is the image of lustrous and bouncy hair.
But, the use of argan oil for skin care is also increasing in popularity with natural beauty enthusiasts as more becomes known about its remarkable benefits.
Commonly referred to as ‘liquid gold’, it’s been used in its native Morocco for health and beauty purposes for over 800 years.
It’s packed full of beneficial nutrients and highly regarded for its moisturizing and anti-aging properties which has led to its increasing use in homemade and commercially available cosmetic preparations.
However, like a lot of natural skin care treatments, its popularity has also led to a lot of exaggerated and inaccurate claims about its use and effectiveness.
In this article I’ll cut through the hype and tell you what we really know about the benefits of argan oil for skin, and show you how you can easily incorporate it into your regular beauty routine.
- 1 What Is Argan Oil?
- 2 The Benefits Of Argan Oil For Skin
- 3 How To Use Argan Oil For Skin Care
- 4 How To Choose The Best Argan Oil
- 5 Side Effects & Precautions
- 6 Common Questions
What Is Argan Oil?
Argan oil is produced by extraction from the kernels of Argania spinosa, otherwise known as the argan tree.
The tree is native to a hot and arid area of the Western Mediterranean encompassing the South West of Morocco and the province of Tindouf in Algeria.
For hundreds of years people living in the Souss-Massa-Draa and Essaouira areas of Morocco have been the primary producers and users of the oil.
Today, an area in this region known as the Arganeraie Biosphere Reserve has been given protected status by UNESCO to help preserve the argan forest and its valuable harvest.
The fruit that’s obtained from the argan tree is small and round, with a thick peel that covers the flesh of the fruit. In the centre of the flesh is a hard nut that must be cracked open in order to obtain the kernels encased inside from which the oil is extracted.
Production of the oil is a job carried out by local women, who work together in fair-trade co-operatives. The traditional way of extracting the oil involves the following steps:
This traditional method can take one woman up to three days to extract one litre of argan oil.
These days, modern technology has largely replaced the hand-kneading process and has enabled the large scale extraction of cold pressed ‘virgin’ argan oil without a reduction in quality, and with a reduction in production time and price of the final product.
With the spread of the argan tree to other countries in the world, these days about 10% of the argan oil on the market comes from Algeria, Israel, and Mexico. But the most highly valued oil comes from Morocco.
Argan oil is made up of 99% fatty acid esters, with the main fatty acids that are present being oleic acid at 43-49% and linoleic acid at 29-36%.
It also contains a 1% unsaponifiable fraction that is rich in vitamin E, sterols, carotenes, triterpene alcohols, and xanthophylls, which many of its health benefits are considered to be attributable to (1). In particular, the ability of vitamin E and sterols to act synergistically is thought to be of great benefit.
Argan Oil Uses
Argan oil has been used for centuries in Morocco both for culinary purposes and for a range of health related ailments (2). While not extensively studied in clinical trials, some of the problems it has traditionally been used for include:
Is Argan Oil Good For Skin?
Argan oil has a lengthy history of topical use and a reputation for its ability to improve the complexion and treat the skin.
It’s a well established tradition in Morocco for women to use the oil as a skin moisturizer and to keep a fairer skin tone.
Argan oil benefits also include the ability to reduce skin inflammation and to treat a number of skin conditions including eczema, psoriasis, and acne.
And it’s been used extensively over the years for its anti-aging properties
Today, argan oil can be found as an ingredient in a range of body lotions and moisturizing creams that are commercially available.
The Benefits Of Argan Oil For Skin
One of the most common reasons that people use argan oil on their skin is because of its great moisturizing properties.
It’s easily absorbed and creates a barrier that prevents your skin from losing moisture, helping to keep it looking and feeling well hydrated.
Scientific studies have supported this effect. In one study, application of topical argan oil every night was demonstrated to increase moisturization of the skin, with a decrease in transepidermal water loss (3).
In another study, daily topical application of argan oil by 60 women volunteers led to a significant increase in skin hydration (4).
Argan oil contains a number of powerful antioxidants including saponins, polyphenols, sterols, and vitamin E.
When applied to the skin, these can be absorbed and provide protection from damage that is caused to the structural proteins in your skin by free radicals generated after exposure to UV light in the daytime and environmental toxins.
This damage is one of the main causes of fine lines and wrinkles that appear on your skin as you age.
The skin protective properties of the antioxidants in argan oil mean that it has anti-aging benefits when used regularly.
In addition, one study has shown that daily topical use of argan oil leads to a measurable and significant increase in skin elasticity (5), leaving the skin feeling more supple and looking more youthful.
Argan oil is good for people with excessively oily skin.
Studies have indicated that it can help to regulate the skin’s sebum production with regular use on the face.
In one study, 20 volunteers with oily and combination skin applied an argan oil based cream on a daily basis for a period of 4 weeks. The results showed a clear reduction in the amount of sebum produced in 95% of patients with a noticeable improvement in the appearance and greasiness of their skin (6).
The above mentioned sebum regulating ability of argan oil is especially useful for acne patients.
The excessive production of sebum by the skin is a contributory factor to the development of the condition in many patients.
It’s also a safe facial oil to use as it’s non-comedogenic with a 0 rating on the comedogenicity scale. This means that it doesn’t block skin pores, which could further worsen the condition.
Its high levels of vitamin E and other antioxidants can also play a part in acne prevention by protecting your skin from free radical damage.
When this damage occurs to sebum in the skin’s pores it creates the ideal breeding ground for the acne bacteria to flourish. This is considered to be a key stage in the formation of acne.
In addition, argan oil is a known antibacterial (7), although whether it kills P.acnes is yet to be determined.
Argan oil can also help with skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis, dermatitis, and rosacea.
It’s ability to moisturize the skin and prevent it from easily drying out, without causing irritation, is of great benefit for people suffering from disorders involving dry, flaky skin who are looking for a natural moisturizer.
It also contains vitamin E which is easily absorbed by the skin and has anti-inflammatory properties. Vitamin E has been shown in studies to be of benefit for people with atopic dermatitis (8).
Using a skin toner is an important step in many people’s skin care regimes, but some people find that they dry out their skin or cause a small amount of irritation.
By adding 4 or 5 drops of argan oil to an 8 oz bottle of your favorite toner you can prevent some of the harsh effects of the astringent and chemical ingredients often found in commercially available products.
Alternatively, you can make your own natural skin toner using the following method:
Directions For Use:
1. Get a green tea bag, a bottle of organic virgin argan oil, and a bottle of your favorite essential oil (e.g. tea tree oil).
2. Put the tea bag in a cup and fill with boiling water.
3. Allow the green tea to steep until the water cools to room temperature.
4. Remove the tea bag from the water.
5. Add 2 drops of the essential oil.
6. Add 4 drops of argan oil.
7. Keep the toner in a sealed container.
8. Use every morning and evening after you cleanse and before you moisturize.
Skin Lightening And Hyperpigmentation
A common and traditional use of argan oil by Moroccan women is to lighten the skin.
Studies have shown that it inhibits the production of melanin, the pigment that accumulates in the skin and gives it a darker color (9).
Not only is it useful for skin whitening, but it can also help with hyperpigmentation, blemishes, age spots, and melasma.
Wounds And Burns
Studies have indicated that argan oil could help with wound healing.
Studies performed on rats have shown an increased rate of healing of second degree burns when it’s applied daily to the damaged skin (10).
If you’ve developed rough areas of skin, for example on your knees or elbows, then argan oil can help to make the skin smooth again.
By rubbing a few drops into the rough areas every day you will rapidly improve the skin texture.
Argan oil’s moisturizing properties make it a great salve for chapped lips.
By rubbing in one or two drops of oil each day you will keep them soft, smooth, and well hydrated, and maintain healthy skin.
If you have dry or cracked skin on your heels or feet then the regular use of argan oil can provide a solution.
Rub a couple of drops into the problem area each day. If possible, leave the oil to soak in overnight and gradually work its moisturizing and skin rejuvenating magic.
Both men and women can benefit from using argan oil after they’ve shaved various parts of their anatomies.
Razor burn can make the skin feel sore and looks unsightly, and it’s not uncommon for frequent shaving to leave people with dry and irritated skin.
Argan oil is soothing for dry, irritated, and inflamed skin, and helps to improve its appearance post shave.
Argan oil makes a good makeup remover. In particular, its very useful for cleaning eye makeup such as eyeliner and mascara from your skin because it doesn’t hurt if it touches your eyes accidentally.
If you’ve spent too long exposed to the sun and your skin is looking red and sore, then argan oil can provide soothing relief.
Its ability to moisturize the skin and ease the itchy sensation is valuable.
And the vitamin E it contains can also minimize the further damage to the skin that continues to occur for many hours even after you have left the sun, reducing the next day severity of the sunburn (11).
How To Use Argan Oil For Skin Care
Argan oil can be used on its own or with other natural skin care ingredients to make homemade face masks and moisturizers.
Here are some recipes to consider:
Argan Oil On Its Own
Directions For Use:
1. Get a bottle of organic argan oil.
2. Put a few drops of the oil on your fingertips.
3. Gently massage into the skin in circular motions.
4. If you use too much oil you can easily remove the excess using a tissue or cotton ball.
Rosehip Oil And Argan Oil For Skin
Rosehip oil is very moisturizing, and it also can help to stimulate collagen synthesis and cellular regeneration in the skin due to the vitamin C and trans retinoic acid it contains.
Directions For Use:
1. Get a bottle of organic argan oil, a bottle of organic rosehip oil, and a bottle of an essential oil of your choice (e.g. rose oil).
2. Put 1 tablespoon of argan oil in a small bottle, preferably with a dropper.
3. Add 2 teaspoons of rosehip oil to the bottle.
4. Add 10 drops of the essential oil to the bottle.
5. Put a lid on the bottle and shake to mix the oils together.
6. Take a few drops of the oil on your fingertips and massage the oil into your skin.
7. Use in the morning and in the evening before going to bed.
Argan Oil, Honey, & Cinnamon Face Mask
Honey has antioxidant, exfoliating, and antibacterial properties.
Cinnamon has antibacterial properties that have been demonstrated in studies to be capable of killing the acne causing bacteria P.acnes. It also has anti-aging benefits.
Applying this face mask is good for reducing acne, clearing away blackheads, and leaving you with glowing skin.
Directions For Use:
1. Get a jar of organic, raw honey, a jar of ground cinnamon, and a bottle of organic argan oil.
2. Add 1 tablespoon of honey to a small bowl.
3. Add a teaspoon of cinnamon to the bowl.
4. Add 8 drops of the argan oil to the bowl.
5. Mix the ingredients together using a fork or spoon.
6. Apply the face mask to your face using your fingers.
7. Leave the face mask on your skin for around 15 minutes.
8. Wash your face with water and pat dry with a clean towel.
9. Use daily to see the best results.
How To Choose The Best Argan Oil
There are a few things to consider when buying the best argan oil for face care:
It’s recommended to make sure that the oil you are buying is organic.
This way you can be confident that your skin will not be absorbing any left over chemical residues from the extraction process or pesticides.
Check that the oil you are buying doesn’t just say ‘Moroccan oil’ on the ingredients list. Instead, look for one that states that it’s 100% pure argan oil.
This will make sure that you are not buying an oil that has been mixed with other oils.
Also, make sure that argan oil is the only ingredient listed if you are looking for the pure oil.
Argan oil that’s for use in skin care should be cold pressed.
If the oil is not cold pressed it may have been extracted using methods that can reduce the amount of beneficial nutrients it contains.
Argan oil which retains a natural scent is extracted by cold pressing and undergoes a single filtration.
This argan oil is close in its texture and scent to a hand-pressed traditional oil, even though the filtration process is usually mechanical.
Many people prefer to use unscented argan oil, which is commonly available for skin care.
This has undergone a second filtration to produce a colorless oil with little smell.
Side Effects & Precautions
Does argan oil darken skin?
No, argan oil does not darken the skin. In fact, due to inhibiting the production of melanin it’s commonly used to keep the skin looking fair.
Can argan oil dry your skin?
Pure argan oil doesn’t dry out your skin. It forms a protective barrier that prevents the skin from losing moisture helping to keep it well hydrated.
Can argan oil irritate skin?
When using pure argan oil very few people notice any skin irritation. However, it is possible for your skin to be sensitive to it or to have an allergic reaction so care should be taken when trying it for the first time.
Can argan oil tighten skin?
Regular use of argan oil increases skin elasticity, so it could help to tighten skin.
Does argan oil protect skin from the sun?
It can prevent some damage to the skin due to its antioxidant content, but argan oil is not a substitute for a sunscreen if you will be in the sun for a prolonged period of time.
Is argan oil good for mature skin?
Studies have shown that argan oil can increase skin elasticity and improve the moisture content. This makes it a good choice for mature skin.
Have you used argan oil for skin care? Please tell us your experiences in the comments section.