Moroccan Argan Oil
Last Updated: February 19th, 2018
It goes by many names - Argan Oil, Moroccan Oil, the "liquid gold of Morocco" - they all represent the hottest trend right now in the attempt to achieve beautiful hair, skin, and nails. But for those who specifically refer to it as Moroccan argan oil, is this just a redundant title, or a necessary distinction? We'll give you all the necessary information you need to know about this rejuvenating beauty oil, and inform you why there may be a difference between Moroccan argan oil and plain old "argan oil" in the near future.
The Origins of Moroccan Argan Oil
Currently, the names "argan oil" and "Moroccan oil" are basically interchangeable because of where the oil comes from. There is a unique region in the Southwest corner of Morocco where the argan tree, the plant from which argan oil is harvested, is well-suited to grow. Over the centuries, local farmers (almost exclusively Berber women) discovered that the seed kernels within the pits of the argan fruit contained essential nutrients.
When processed into a versatile oil, the locals realized that these nutrients were great for virtually all aspects of health and beauty. Prior to processing, the seed kernels can be roasted, releasing a nutty flavor, and the roasted version of the oil is often used as a topping on food the same way that olive oil is used in other parts of the world. Best of all, this culinary version of Moroccan argan oil is choc-full of essential fatty acids, which are excellent for improving heart health and reducing heart disease.
When the kernels are not roasted prior to being processed into Moroccan argan oil, the resulting product becomes an invigorating beauty tonic. And you can pretty much use it from head to toe: Moroccan argan oil can condition your hair, firm your skin while protecting it from premature aging, fortify weak, brittle nails, and even soothe and condition chapped lips.
While the local denizens have been enjoying the health and beauty benefits of argan oil for hundreds of years, this miracle product has only been on the radar of western culture for a few years. Less than ten years ago, you could count the number of Moroccan argan oil beauty products available for sale on your fingers and toes, with room to spare. Today, there are hundreds. In another decade, there could be thousands. However, not all of those products will be made with 100% pure, authentic Moroccan Oil. There is a good chance that the argan oil in many future products will be coming from other parts of the world.
Moroccan Argan Oil Goes Global
There are two reasons that argan oil has been exclusive to Morocco for so long: the growing needs of the argan tree, and the labor-intensive harvesting process. The tree itself is not as hardy as the word "tree" might have you believe. Not only do they require a very specific climate in order to thrive, but they can be easily damaged, especially by the goats which most Moroccan farmers also own. As a matter of fact, for many years it was necessary to own goats in conjunction with argan seed kernel harvesting. The goats would eat the fruit and expose the central pit, making it easier for farmers to collect them.
Once they have the pit, farmers then and now have to crack it open by hand. This is more difficult than it sounds, because the outer shell which houses the argan oil seed kernels is up to 10 times harder than a hazelnut. To this day, there is no way to re-create the nut-cracking process mechanically, so the process is still handled by hand by Berber women of the local community.
The commercial explosion of Moroccan argan oil has brought a lot of attention to the fact that the argan tree has been slowly becoming endangered within the last century or so. And several different countries are now trying to get into the argan game, whether for profit or environmental conservation (possibly both).
The official government of Morocco has deemed the argan forests within its borders an environmentally protected biosphere. This should, in theory, result in Moroccan argan oil producers being held to strict standards with regard to sustainable farming methods and fair wages for the Berber women who harvest the seeds. Additionally, nearby countries are trying to increase the number of argan forests in the world. Countries with similar climates are setting up argan biospheres within their own territories to help protect the plant from extinction, as well as to cash in on its commercial success. Therefore, in the near future, there may be a very real distinction between "Moroccan" argan oil, and argan oil which has been grown, harvested, and processed from other countries.