Moroccan argan oil is one of the most highly sought-after ingredients for skin and hair care. It is often referred to as "liquid gold" because of its valuable nutrient content and the labour-intensive method of extraction.
Argan is a very versatile oil being used to combat acne, condition hair and smooth wrinkles. Argan oil is even consumed on bread by people in Morocco for its inner health benefits.
The reason argan oil is so great for skin care lies in its chemical composition. It is superior to many other oils in its fatty acid profile and its concentration of tocopherols (vitamin E), and other antioxidants. For this reason it is often added to other skin care oils to improve their shelf life and boost their properties, taking your average run-of-the-mill moisturiser to another level of luxury.
Traditionally argan oil is pressed from the nut by hand by Berber women, an ethnic group native to North Africa. This is a long and laborious process, requiring large quantities of the nut to produce the oil, hence the high price tag. The industry supports over 2 million workers in rural locations, many of them women's cooperatives that were established to ensure the Berbers got a fair price for their product.
Consumers should beware of inferior "Moroccan Oil" that is produced cheaply by companies elsewhere in the world (including India) using solvent extraction. These versions of argan oil are less pure and are altered through this type of process. These operations also cut the hardworking Berber tribe out of the deal and reduce their share of the income.
It is argued that argan oil production is beneficial to the environment, as the trees are maintained for their valuable nuts and thus protect the land from erosion and allow the wildlife dependent on these trees to survive.