Argan oil is currently the beauty industry’s flavour of the month. There are more argan-y products than you can shake a stick out, being launched daily it seems. Everything from hair, skin to lipstick and mascara containing argan. So I thought I’d find out a little bit more about the product dubbed ‘liquid gold’.
Argan comes from the argan tree, which is native to Morocco. The argan forest once covered North Africa but is now only found in South West Morocco and protected by UNESCO. Traditionally it has been cultivated in this region by the Berber, who have used it for cosmetic, culinary and medicinal purposes for an eternity. The rest of the world has recently cottoned on to its benefits and the beauty industry certainly seems to have struck gold. Four years ago, Walgreens didn’t sell a single argan oil product, it now carries 150…….do the maths.
Pure, unadulterated argan oil kicks the butt of every other oil in terms of skin repairing properties. It boasts exceptionally high levels of essential fatty acids, Vitamins C and E and antioxidants which means amazing moisture retention, anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties. Healthwise, research has shown that argan oil can reduce cholesterol, fight certain types of cancer, help treat diabetes and prevent cardiovascular disease.
I’ve used products containing argan oil but never 100% until recently after discovering Wildwood Groves. The British based company is run by Ruth Hajioff, one of Europe’s leading authorities on argan, who has been been instrumental in bringing it to the UK. She first discovered argan oil in 2000 on a trip to Morocco to study traditional medicine, then sold it at Borough Market for many years before setting up her own production facility. This lady knows her argan stuff.
Authentic argan oil production is still a cottage industry, mainly run by Berber women’s co-operatives. Extracting the oil sounds like such hard work. The nuts have to be cracked by hand to get the nuggets of ‘gold’ and it takes 12-15 hours to have enough for one litre of oil. If like me you wondered why they don’t use machines, it turns out that argan nuts are an awkward shape and size for machines to crack without damage. And yet there doesn’t seem to have been a boom in Berber female millionaires in this liquid gold rush…..
Wildwood Groves is committed to full traceability and quality control throughout the whole process of argan oil production. It also ensures the Berber women are receiving a fair wage, working under decent conditions, as well as helping to sustainably conserve their way of life.
There are a lot of argan oil “infused” products on the market. Many bottles labelled as ‘argan’ oil only contain a small fraction mixed with other cheaper oils. Do note that ‘Moroccan’ oil is not necessarily the same as argan oil. Just be sure to check the label – it should state 100% argan or argania spinosa the botanical name. Efforts are currently underway to have argan oil protected and certified, in a similar way to Champagne, so only argan oil produced in Morocco can be labelled as such.
Top Tip For Spotting Fake Argan
One of the ways you can tell if the argan oil you’ve just bought is absolutely pure or not, says Ruth, is by putting your bottle in the fridge. If it’s mixed with other stuff, the argan will separate and sort of “sit on the top”.
I do think it’s important to buy argan products from companies like Wildwood Groves where you know your money is trickling back to the people that do the work rather than just lining the multinationals’ pockets. Spread the wealth!
Look out for a forthcoming post on edible argan including a few recipes using argan oil and amlou, the most finger licking, delicious, scrumptiously nutty spread you ever did taste.
For further information on Wildwood Groves visit http://www.wildwoodgroves.com