A staple in Moroccan cuisine and skincare for centuries, Argan oil has recently taken the beauty world by storm. Word on the street is that it does it all: makes your skin softer than a baby’s, fights off premature wrinkles and regulates excess oil production – without giving you pimples.
And yet… if your skin is slicker than a frying pan and you’ve experienced the breakouts and excess shine that happen when your skin pumps out too much oil, you may be hesitant to give Argan oil a go… I don’t blame you for being hesitant…
Who’s right? Is Argan oil the skincare miracle we were all waiting for and that every skin type can use? Not really… Argan oil is good for skin, but not that good. Let’s separate truth from myth, shall we?
- What’s Argan Oil?
- What’s The Best Type Of Argan Oil?
- Benefits Of Argan Oil For Skin: What Does It Do?
- How To Use Argan Oil
- Argan Oil Side Effects
- How Does Argan Oil Compare To Other Natural Oils?
- What Are The Best Skincare Products With Argan Oil?
- The Bottom Line
What’s Argan Oil?
Argan oil is a non-fragrant plant oil derived from the kernels of the Argan trees. This type of tree is so rare, it grows only in Morocco (although, some people are now trying to export it to other regions). You’ve guessed it, that makes the price skyrocket. *sighs*
Dubbed “the gold of Morocco”, Argan oil is a rich source of moisturising fatty acids, like Linoleic, Oleic, and Palmitic. Plus, it has its fair share of antioxidants, including Vitamin E, Ferulic Acid, and carotenes.
FYI, you can tell if Argan Oil Is refined or not. Unrefined argan oil (no bleaching, preservatives, or anything like that) is golden-yellowish in colour and has a slightly nutty scent. Refined Argan oil is both colourless and odourless.
“Traditionally, the oil extraction is a cold-pressed process—it’s done by exerting mechanical pressure with little to no applied heat,” shares New York-based board-certified dermatologist Kenneth Howe, MD. But, he continues, “The growing popularity and demand for argan oil has led to industrialized extraction methods which utilize solvents.”
Related: Is Ferulic Acid The Best Antioxidant Of All?
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What’s The Best Type Of Argan Oil?
There are three types of Argan oil:
- Unrefined: This means the oil hasn’t been bleached or deodorised to remove its yellow color or strong scent. No preservatives or anything extra added, either. This is good because, during these refining processes, oils lose a lot of the goodies that make them so good for skin. Refined only are cheaper, but you’re losing out on benefits big time.
- Extra-Virgin: This means Argan oil is extracted from the earliest pressings of the Argan kernels, so they have a stronger scent, a deeper colour, and more goodies (like fatty acids and antioxidants). It’s more expensive than unrefined, but it works better.
- Cold-Pressed: The oil is extracted from the plant mechanically, without extra heat. Heat is what kills a lot of the antioxidants in Argan oil before it reaches the bottle. In other words, cold-pressed Argan oil has the most goodies and is the most beneficial for it. But it’s the most expensive, too.
P.S. Argan oil is so expensive, few brands use it alone. You’ll often find it mixed with other oils (like olive oil) and other stuff.
Related: How To Read A Skincare Ingredient List (Even If You Hate Science)
Benefits Of Argan Oil For Skin: What Does It Do?
There’s a reason (or more) Argan oil is so popular in skincare. Here all the benefits of Argan oil for skin:
- Antioxidants: Argan Oil is a rich source of antioxidants, like Vitamin E. Rumour has it, it has twice as much Vitamin E as olive oil! Antioxidants fight free radicals, the little molecules that give you wrinkles and dark spots. The more antioxidants you use in your skincare routine, the more damage you can prevent.
- Cleansing: Like all oils, Argan oil works thanks to the “like attracts like” principle. The oil attaches to the oils on your skin and in your makeup, melting them away.
- Moisturising: Its high fatty acids content strengthens the skin’s protective barrier. This helps moisture stay into the skin, keeping it soft and hydrated for longer. Plus, it protects skin from germs, pollutants, and anything else that attacks it during the day.
- Sebum-regulator: There’s some research that suggests that Argan oil can regulate the production of sebum and reduce grease in oily skin. Excess sebum trapped in the pores leads to blackheads and pimples, so by regulating its production, Argan oil can help keep acne away. In theory. In the study, researched used antioxidants from Argan oil, so it’s hard to know if using pure Argan oil gives the same results.
- Soothing: Argan Oil is high in Linoleic Acid, a fatty acid with anti-inflammatory properties. Inflammation is the main cause of both acne and premature aging. Anything that can reduce inflammation is good news for skin. “Not only does this make it an option to soothe irritated skin, but, due to these anti-inflammatory properties, it has also been considered for acne as it is considered non-comedogenic and won’t leave the skin feeling greasy,” says New York-based board-certified dermatologist Marisa Garshick, MD.
- UV Protection: The antioxidants in Argan Oil also have UV-protective properties that enhance the sun protection of your sunscreen.
Related: How Do Antioxidant In Skincare Work?
Can Argan Oil Brighten Skin?
Brands swear that Argan oil can fade away dark spots. Their evidence? Moroccan women used this oil for centuries to brighten their skin. That may be so, but I need more than anecdotal evidence here. Let’s look at what the science says.
A 2013 study published in the Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine found Argan oil an effective melanin biosynthesis inhibitor, the effect of which may be contributed by the individual components [tocopherol, fatty acids, etc] or their synergistic effect.
This is promising, but we don’t know yet how well Argan oil compares to other proven-to-work skin-lighteners, like arbutus and azelaic acid. If you’re dealing with dark spots, I’ll try one of them before Argan oil (although you can apply Argan oil on top as moisturiser, for that extra kick).
How To Use Argan Oil
Like all oils, Argan oil is very versatile: Here are all the ways you can use it.
Argan oil is great at removing makeup. Simply massage a few drops on your skin and rinse it away with a washcloth. You can also blend it with other oils, like Castor, to improve texture and cleansing power. But it’s so expensive, this isn’t probably the best use for it.
Argan oil makes hair softer and shinier. You can apply a few drops all over your hair or use it as a pre-shampoo treatment. Apply a generous dose all over your hair, wait a few hours, and the shampoo and condition your hair as normal. The extra oil will give it that extra ooomph!
You can use Argan Oil on its own or with a few drops with your moisturiser to deeply hydrate skin and make it soft and supple. It works on the face, body, nails… You name it.
Related: What’s The Oil Cleansing Method And Should You Use It?
Who Should Use It?
Argan oil is more suitable for dry skin. All other skin types may benefit from Argan oil – in moderation. Let’s just say that, if you have oily skin, I wouldn’t opt for a moisturiser where Argan oil is top of the list.
How Often Can You Use It?
You can use Argan oil up to twice a day. I personally recommend using it only at night due to the greasy factor (it’s an oil, after all). But if it’s in your moisturiser, you can use it day and night.
What Can You Use Argan Oil With?
If you have very dry skin, you can layer Argan oil on top of your night moisturiser for that extra boost of moisture. It works well with most night creams. If you’re experiencing pilling, simply wait a few minutes in between the two products.
Argan Oil Side Effects
“It is generally well-tolerated, though some can experience some mild sensitivity,” says Garshick. As always, do a patch test before using any skincare product, including natural oils – especially if you have sensitive skin.
Is Argan Oil Comedogenic?
A quick Google search turns up many sources saying Argan Oil isn’t comedogenic. But is that true? Mmm… Here’s where things get complicated. Oleic acid makes up roughly 40-50% of the fatty acid content in Argan Oil, while Lineoleic Acid makes up for 30-40%.
What does this mean? Linoleic Acid has anti-acne properties that help you fight pimples. Oleic Acid is the opposite and tends to cause pimples. The balance between these two fatty acids is so close, it’s impossible to tell if Argan oil will clog pores for you, unless you try it.
I recommend you try it on a small patch of skin first. And if it makes you breakouts, ditch it. You’re not crazy. Argan oil can clog pores.
Related: What Are The Best Facial Oils For Oily Skin?
How Does Argan Oil Compare To Other Natural Oils?
Argan oil is an amazing facial oil, but also one of the most expensive. Ever wondered how it compares to other natural oils? Here’s a quick comparison:
- Argan oil vs jojoba oil: Jojoba oil is lighter than jojoba oil. It’s the natural oil that most resembles human sebum, so your skin quickly absorbs it. Very moisturising, it’s a better option for oily skin types that need the extra moisture without the grease factor.
- Argan oil vs coconut oil: Coconut oil is a mixed bag. It’s very moisturising, but also one of the most comedogenic oils used in skincare. If you have dry skin, you may be better off with argan oil after all.
- Argan oil vs castor oil: Castor oil is moisturising, but it’s mostly used as a carrier oil to deliver other oils into your skin. You can’t compare it to Argan oil, which has more powerful moisturising and antioxidant properties.
- Argan oil vs marula oil: Argan oil has a high concentration of lightweight linoleic acid, so it’s better for oily and acne-prone skin. Marula oil has a high concentration of heavier-weight oleic acid, which is more moisturising and better for dry skin.
- Argan oil vs olive oil: Olive oil is a mixed bag in the skincare world. Depending on the type of oil and how it’s made, it may have impurities that irritate skin and clog pores. Unless you know you’re getting the best quality money can buy, stick to argan oil.
What Are The Best Skincare Products With Argan Oil?
- Josie Maran 100% Pure Argan Oil ($49.00): There’s only one ingredient in this bottle: pure, cold pressed, ethically sourced organic Argan Oil to deeply moisturise skin. Available at Sephora and Ulta.
- Josie Maran Whipped Argan Oil Face Butter ($45.00): If you have very dry skin, but don’t like using pure oils on your skin, this is the next best thing. It’s loaded with natural oils and butters (like shea) to strengthen your skin’s barrier and moisturise skin. Plus, a sprinkle of soothing ingredients to calm down irritations. Available at Free People, Sephora, and Ulta.
- Mad Hippie Antioxidant Facial Oil ($25.99): It contains a blend of natural oil, including Argan and sunflower, to deeply moisturise skin and plenty of antioxidants to fight free radicals and slow down premature aging. Available at iHerb and Ulta.
- Paula’s Choice Resist Moisture Renewal Oil Booster ($38.00): A godsend for dry skin, his booster is loaded with non-fragrant plant oils and ceramides to strengthen the skin’s protective barrier and make your complexion softer and smoother. Available at Dermstore and Paula’s Choice.
- The Ordinary 100% Cold-Pressed Moroccan Argan Oil ($6.80): If you’re on a budget, this is the most affordable way to get pure Argan oil. You can use it on its own or mix it with your moisturiser. Available at Beauty Bay, Boots, Cult Beauty, Sephora, The Ordinary, and Ulta.
The Bottom Line
Argan oil is a wonderful multitasker that moisturises skin, soothes inflammation, fights off premature aging, and even helps protect against UV rays. But it’s not the miracle potion it’s made out to be and it can clog pores in some people.