Its been a while since Argan oil became the new darling of the beauty industry and the fascination with this Moroccan oil is still going strong! I thought I’ll try dig out some science data about Argan oil and see if the scientific community has any strong evidence supporting all the touted effects this oil supposedly has on our skin and hair.
Argan oil -background
Argan oil is derived from the nuts of the Argania spinosa tree which is native to the semi arid southwest region of Morocco. The tree and its fruit are very much central to the local economy in the region. Argan oil is primarily used as a cooking oil in these regions in addition to being used to treat skin problems. The oil for cosmetic use is extracted from unroasted nuts so that there are no unwanted nutty smells to the oil. Due to the increased global interest in Argan oil both as a gourmet food ingredient and a cosmetic ingredient, it is currently one of the most expensive edible oils!
The Argania spinosa tree nut from which Argan oil is extracted. (source: wikimedia commons)
Composition of Argan Oil
Argan oil is rich in Tocopherols (vitamin E) and fatty acids (oelic acid, linoleic acid, palmitic acid and stearic acid). Additionally, triterpene alcohols, sterols, carotenoids and squalene are also present.
Argan oil in skincare
The skincare market is flooded with products, both high end and slightly more affordable versions, claiming to give you the benefits of Argan oil. If you are interested in purchasing a product with argan oil, I suggest you check the ingredient list. If Argan oil is listed among the first 3 to 4 ingredients in the ingredient list that means there is a significant amount of the oil in the product. The higher on the ingredient list a particular compound or oil is listed the more of it there is in the product. When purchasing 100% pure argan oil make sure the ingredient label doesn’t just say Moroccan oil (higher chances that its adulterated with other oils) but states either 100% pure argan oil or 100% pure argania spinosa oil with no other ingredients along with it. Now lets take a look at some of the claims that manufacturers state in their marketing material and see if there is any independent scientific evidence backing those claims 🙂
- Reducing skin oiliness and associated acne
Acne is a complicated issue since the cause of acne cannot be narrowed down to a single factor. Many people who have oily skin (excessive production of sebum which is the natural oil secreted by our body) are prone to acne attacks. It has been shown that Argan oil can help combat excessive oiliness of the skin and this in turn can help reduce acne breakouts. The study published a while ago shows that there was a reduction in the oiliness of facial skin after 4 weeks of applying an argan oil based face cream (Journal of clinical dermatology).
- Hyperpigmentation/sun damage
Argan oil has been used for centuries by Moroccan women for skin lightening and to treat chicken pox scars. This has led some manufacturers to claim that Argan oil helps deal with pigmentation spots. Hyperpigmentation primarily occurs when there is an increase in the activity of enzymes responsible for melanin production due to triggering factors such as ultraviolet light or prolonged exposure to to the sun. A study was done on the effect of Argan oil on skin depigmentation where they concluded that the overall skin depigmenting effect was due to the inhibition of melanogenic enzymes expressions attributed to the main components (tocopherols) and/or the synergistic effect of all the argan oil components (Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine ).
- Hydrating dry skin
There are no studies which demonstrate this…however considering the fact that argan oil is very rich in vitamin E and fatty acids like linolic acid, I am tempted to say yup its got to be hydrating! Check out my post on skin hydration for more information.
- Anti aging and anti wrinkle properties
Now, there haven’t been any studies which demonstrate the anti aging properties of Argan oil atleast to my knowledge ,so do take it with a pinch of salt when companies claim that their products are anti aging solely due to the addition of argan oil in their creams or serums. I do have to point out that most of the research on argan oil is focused more on the benefits it has on the human diet than as a cosmetic ingredient so hopefully someone will soon publish some data either proving or disproving its supposedly anti aging properties 🙂 As you maybe aware, one of the best ways to prevent premature aging is to keep your skin hydrated, so in a way slowing aging can be tied to its ability to moisturize the skin.
Argan oil in haircare
Unfortunately there are no peer reviewed studies showing the benefits of using argan oil on the hair. Again at max we can speculate that hair does get shiny when we use argan oil (the pure one) due to the high concentration of fatty acids and vitamin E which coats the hair and imparts a shine. Alot of the hair care products in the market which have argan oil in them also contain other ingredients like silicones in large amounts which help control frizz so keep in mind that its not the Argan oil doing the work in such products! Also there are no studies which show that Argan oil can promote hair growth or help with hair loss so don’t fall for that one!
Like I mentioned, most of the peer reviewed studies on Argan oil have been on its nutritive benefits rather than cosmetic uses. Hopefully, the current boom in the beauty market for argan oil based products will push the scientific community to study the cosmetic benefits of this oil in more detail ! Considering how expensive pure argan oil is many of us are tempted to go after cheaper versions we see online..a word of caution when purchasing from shady sources online..argan oil can be easily diluted or adulterated with vegetable oil, so if you do plan to try this out do your homework 🙂
Till next time ciao!