|June 11, 2024

What Is Argan Oil, and Why Your Skin Needs It Now

By Mary Squillace
Reviewed by Theresa Greenwell for Scientific Accuracy on 06/11/2024

What Is Argan Oil, and Why Your Skin Needs It Now

  • Argan oil is a vitamin E- and fatty acid-loaded oil derived from trees native to Morocco, and it poses a bunch of benefits for hair and skin.
  • When applied to your face, argan oil may help protect against sun damage, hydrate skin, reduce signs of aging, and even help control oily skin.
  • One study suggests that argan oil may prevent and treat stretch marks in their early stages.
  • Argan oil may also have benefits for hair. Historically, Moroccans used it to treat hair loss. More recent research suggests it can help repair damaged hair.

If you heard of a golden elixir that promised better skin and hair and literally grew on trees, the too-good-to-be-true sirens would probably start going off in your head. However, if the cure-all in question is argan oil, you can quiet your inner alarm bells. Turns out, argan oil packs some pretty amazing science-backed benefits for your skin, hair, and body.

What is argan oil?

bottle of argan oil and argan fruitArgan oil comes from the argan tree, which grows almost exclusively in southwest Morocco. Argan oil is extracted from the kernels of the argan fruit, which resembles a large olive.

Traditionally, Moroccans applied argan oil topically to treat everything from eczema and psoriasis to wrinkles and hair loss.

You’ll find argan oil primarily in two forms: edible, food-grade argan oil, which comes from roasted argan kernels and can be ingested, and cosmetic argan oil, which is extracted from unroasted kernels, and is intended to be applied directly to the skin or hair.[1]

Nutritionally speaking, argan seeds punch above their weight. They’re chock-full of monounsaturated fatty acids and antioxidants, and contain more vitamin E than olive oil. All of this helps give argan oil its skin- and hair-boosting benefits.[2]

Though argan oil can be used as a supplement, it is high in inflammatory omega-6 fats and isn’t considered Bulletproof to take orally.

Argan oil benefits

Hydrates skin and boosts elasticity

woman applying argan oil at bedtimeArgan oil has become a cosmetics-counter staple for the many benefits it has for skin. Perhaps the most obvious of these is argan oil’s ability to make skin feel soft and supple. Argan oil’s composition of fatty acids and vitamin E give it moisturizing properties and the potential to improve skin’s hydration.[3] What’s more, a 2015 study found that argan oil, both when consumed orally and applied topically, was associated with improved skin elasticity among postmenopausal women.[4]

Prevents and treats stretch marks

woman holding pregnant bellyAnd argan oil is just as useful below your neckline. A small study published in the journal Clinical, Cosmetic and Investigational Dermatology found that applying an argan-oil-containing cream showed the potential to prevent and treat the early signs of stretch marks.[5]

Reverses and prevents sun spots

sun burnIn addition to improving your skin’s texture, argan oil could improve the look of your skin. An itchy, stingy, red sunburn isn’t the only havoc UV rays can wreak on your skin. Sun exposure can lead to hyperpigmentation (aka dark spots or age spots). But argan oil has the potential to help reverse and prevent skin discoloration, according to a 2013 lab study. Researchers believe this ability comes from argan oil’s high concentration of antioxidants — and particularly its vitamin E content — which helps neutralize the free radicals and prevent oxidative damage to pigment cells.[6]

Controls oily skin and reduces breakouts

man applying skin products in mirrorThough counterintuitive, argan oil may also be a saving grace for those with oily skin. A small study that examined argan oil’s anti-sebum powers (sebum is the oil secreted by our skin) found that using a topical argan oil cream twice a day for four weeks was linked to reduced sebum levels and a less shiny complexion.[7] This could make argan oil an effective way to treat acne.

Protects hair against damage

woman with long, beautiful hairTreating hair loss and dry hair were among argan oil’s earliest uses. Though the scientific literature specifically on how argan oil benefits hair is thin (pun intended), there has been some promising evidence to support its mane-enhancing abilities. Research published in the Journal of Cosmetics, Dermatological Sciences and Applications suggests that using argan oil after receiving a hair-color treatment can decrease the damage caused by dying strands.[8] Other studies show that plant oils in general help protect hair and enhance shine.[9]

What to consider when buying argan oil

You can work argan oil into your daily routine using either a pure argan oil or an argan-infused skin or hair product. If you’re using the pure stuff, you can simply apply it directly to your face and hair. However, if you are going this route, keep in mind that the shelf-life for pure argan oil is around three to four months.

Because argan trees are rare and the process to extract the oil from the fruit is labor-intensive, argan oil doesn’t come cheap — nor should it. The demand for the product has lead to exploitation in the industry — namely unfair labor practices and poor wages. Meanwhile, the argan tree, which prevents soil erosion and protects water resources in Morocco’s barren land, is under threat from overuse and deforestation. Be sure to shop sustainably sourced products with fair trade practices. Here are a few clean argan oil beauty products to get you started:

Argan oil for face, body, or hair

Kahina Giving Beauty 100% Organic Fair Trade Argan Oil, $36

Certified organic, cold pressed and made in small batches by artisans in rural Morocco.

Josie Maran 100% Pure Argan Oil, $48

This one-ingredient organic argan oil is a cult-fave among beauty junkies.  Use it on your skin or hair.

Moroccan Elixir 100% Pure Organic Argan Oil, $45

First cold-pressed, chemical-free and sourced directly from a fair-trade cooperative in Morocco.

Tata Harper Beautifying Face Oil, $78

For a lighter-weight alternative to straight argan oil, this blend of organic oils imparts skin with a healthy glow — sans grease.

Pai Echium & Argan Gentle Eye Cream, $54

This product harnesses the powers of argan oil, alongside anti-inflammatory echium, to target the delicate under-eye area.

Argan oil for hair

Badger Argan Hair Oil for Dry Damaged Hair, $18

Bring dull, brittle strands of hair back to life with this leave-in treatment. Simply work a pump through your hands and apply it to dry hair, starting at your tips and working your way toward roots.

Read Next: Hyaluronic Acid: The Anti-Aging Elixir That Keeps Skin Smooth & Supple

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