What is Argan Oil?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Argan oil is an oil extracted from the seeds of the argan tree, which is native to Southwestern Morocco. There are a number of uses for argan oil as well as for other products from the argan tree, and demand is often high for genuine argan products. Since the oil is difficult to extract, it tends to be very expensive, and this cost is passed on in products which contain argan oil, even in trace amounts. Depending on what you want to use the oil for, you may be able to find it in a health food store or a cosmetic shop; consumers can also order the oil from cooperatives in Morocco.

Argan oil is used in many cosmetics and has moisturizing properties.
Argan oil is used in many cosmetics and has moisturizing properties.

The argan tree or Argania spinosa has grown in Africa for thousands of years, and archaeological evidence suggests that people have been extracting its oil for centuries. The trees tend to develop gnarled, twisted trunks and branches, with deep root systems which have helped them adapt to harsh desert conditions. When a tree is well-situated, it can live for hundreds of years, producing small flowers in April and following with small fruits which look almost like limes.

Argan oil may be used to soothe cracked skin.
Argan oil may be used to soothe cracked skin.

To extract argan oil, people must remove an outer layer of pulpy flesh from a hard seed which must be cracked open to get at the seeds inside. The flesh does not smell very appealing, and it is also not very tasty; it is typically used as mulch or animal feed. The cracked shells are burned as a source of fuel, as is wood from downed argan trees, which can also be used to make furnishings; Moroccans make very efficient use of this ancient tree.

Traditionally, women have produced argan oil, first toasting the seeds to release a rich, nutty flavor and then grinding them by hand to extract the oil. The resulting paste can be pressed to get as much oil as possible, and then fed to animals as a nutritious dietary supplement. The dark oil has a rich flavor which appears in some Moroccan foods, classically amlou, a dip for bread, and less toasted oil is used for cosmetics. It is also possible to recover seeds from the feces of goats, as the digestive process softens the hard shells, but these seeds tend to have a pungent odor which makes them less desirable.

This oil is naturally high in vitamin E and essential fatty acids, making it an excellent dietary supplement. It is also very good for the skin; vitamin E can help smooth cracked hands, knees, and elbows while nourishing the skin, and essential fatty acids can promote healthy skin as well. These benefits have made argan oil popular in cosmetics for centuries in Morocco and beyond, and small vials of the costly oil are often on offer at high-end cosmetic stores.

Argan oil may help soothe cracked skin on the knees.
Argan oil may help soothe cracked skin on the knees.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


Smells cheesy to me, but the smell went away very quickly.


There is no doubt that it smells like diarrhea. The smell never evaporates and no essential oil would remove it. I tried many certified, hand-picked, pure, etc., to no avail. But I loved the fact that it's totally non-comedogenic and leaves the skin well hydrated. Perfect for acne prone skin. I'll try deodorized oil as I just can't cope with that smell, even if it's faint.


I would like to applaud the brave soul #173298 who named the scent accurately. I just purchased my first bottle of Acure argan oil and went through the exact same experience and thoughts. I loved how it felt on my aging skin but the scent was just awful. I am not giving up. I will try another brand.


This may sound crazy, but I just purchased Argan oil for the first time and it doesn't smell "nutty" to me. It actually has the scent of diarrhea (although a bit milder). Has anyone else noticed this? Could it be rancid, or is it just my sensitive nose?


I have been using argan oil my whole life (I'm from Morocco) and it's the absolute best. It doesn't have much of a smell, but I never liked the smell. I found a place that adds a tiny bit of natural essential oil (I love lavender). I asked the owner about how much is argan oil and they said it's 99 percent argan oil and 1 percent lavender essential oil.


I simply love 100 percent pure Moroccan (directly imported) Argan Oil! I use my special oil daily on hair, face skin and nails and it has simply replaced 80 percent of my skin and hair treatments!

I've even had a Moroccan girlfriend confirm that the oil I get is the real stuff she used since she was a child. Love it and cannot recommend it enough!--Tasha


I love argan oil as well. I have been using organic argan oil for about six months and it has made an improvement on my face and hair. I use the Maijan organic oil which is priced nicely.


I love argan oil. It really is the best natural ingredient out there. I love Amal Oils. You can order on their website.I have tried several brands, Josie Maran, Eden Allure, Terre d'oc, etc. The quality of Amal Oils oil has made the biggest difference for me on my skin and hair, and theirs is virtually odorless in comparison.

They sell 60ml for $13 less than the other brands and it goes a long way. I love their dispenser as well. It is easy, and the oil never gets stuck, like in the Josie Maran product, and isn't messy like many of the dropper applicators. If you have questions about the product like I did when I first order, they have great customer service and are very well informed about the product, and I think the owner is from Morocco so it's the real deal.


I'm from the only region of Argan oil. All I can say women there have a beautiful wrinkle free skin. I don't see any reason except the miraculous Argan oil.


A drizzle of Argan oil on certain dishes adds a peppery and nutty flavor to the food.


Even though I am an avid Argan oil lover I would recommend using deodorized Argan oil. The natural "nutty" odor of Argan oil is too overbearing for many people.


I agree with you on all your information regarding the wonderful properties of Argan oil. I am a strong believer as you are in just using 100% Argan oil for all its different uses. There's no point in purchasing skin care products diluted with other ingredients since Argan oil is most effective by itself in the treatment of the skin, hair, nails, baby care, eczema, and psoriasis. Great article by the way.

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