Argan oil has been called “liquid gold”. The hype is in the stratosphere, but when it comes to skincare, does it really have the Midas touch?
Argan oil has quite an alluring story, even before you taste, see or apply it. It’s made from the fruit of the thorny argan tree, which only grows in Morocco… where a virtual army of mostly women workers extract the oil from the nuts of the fruit by a tedious hand process.
Argan oil has multiple pharmacologic properties that together with its flavor, appearance and scarcity are partly responsible for its sky rocketing demand and growing list of alleged beneficial effects.
The actual oil is copper or golden colored, hazelnut flavored, and is rich in antioxidants, especially Vitamin E and an omega-6 fatty acid called linoleic acid. It has twice as much Vitamin E as olive oil and since linoleic acid deficiency can cause poor wound healing, its high content may be responsible for its traditional and historical use for treating skin inflammation, acne, dry skin, psoriasis, dry cuticles, dry hair and even hair loss.
Argan oil now appears as an ingredient in hundreds of skincare and haircare products with claims ranging from improving the feel and texture of skin and hair to antioxidant and antiaging properties for facial skin. Despite the growing list of skin benefits, there is very little evidence at this time from independent researchers to support those claims, especially those concerning acne and anti aging. As a topical antioxidant, it's unlikely to be effective due to lack of penetration through the skin without chemical carriers to enhance its penetration.
One medical study from Bulgaria alleged evidence of sebum control from a topical product containing other ingredients in addition to the argan oil, but without controls, you can’t conclude which ingredient was responsible for decreasing skin oiliness.
That being said, many patients tell me how they love the effect of argan oil on their cuticles and the way it leaves their hair feeling. These are two examples of clear, beneficial effects of argan oil, but frankly, I’ll bet that there are much less expensive products that can do the same.
Some skincare companies have included argan oil in proprietary ingredients with catchy names like Argatensyl, promoted to help fight wrinkles and sounding remarkably similar to other established wrinkle fighting ingredients. Most of the claims and excitement comes from the companies that produce argan oil or products containing it.
Argan oil may be a case where the marketers have the midas touch, not the product.
Argan oil, on the basis of its pharmacologic properties may have a lot of potential in skincare, but for now, buyer beware.