An ancient beauty treatment that works

Argan oil has been used as a natural beauty treatment by generations of Berber women in the mountains of Southern Morroco.

Berber women may not be able to identify just what it is about argan oil that makes such a difference to their hair and skin.

They are unlikely to talk to you about the high levels of wrinkle reducing tocopherol (vitamin E) and unsaturated fatty acids in the rich golden oil they have smeared on their skin for hundreds of years.

What they can tell you is that argan oil does a wonderful job of protecting their skin and hair from the ravages of the desert sun and wind.

The source of the anti ageing conditioning oil so beloved of Moroccan women is seen everywhere dotted around the umber coloured mountains and dry desert landscapes of South Western Morocco – the argan tree (Argania Spinosa).

The argan tree seems at first sight to resemble an ancient olive tree – gnarled, squat and low branching against a dazzling blue Morrocan sky.But the argan tree is very different and not only the human population appreciate the benefits it offers.

Argan oil as a naturally effective anti ageing ingredient has a powerful background story which the consumer can engage with.

Argan leaves are the favourite food of the local goats who climb into the trees to feed.Argan trees adorned with black goats feeding voraciously are an enchanting memory of the Morrocan way of life for many European visitors.

Enchanting though they may be to European tourists – the goats are a pest for farmers with their ability to strip a tree of its leaves in hours. In fact such is the importance of argan oil to the local economy that goat-keepers are fined for letting their animals wander.

Not surprisingly the fame of argan oil as a great natural beauty treatment has spread over the years and the European beauty industry, too, has experimented with the oil. In 1986, the French beauty company Galénic used it in moisturiser. Dr Elisabeth Dancey has been importing it to her Pimlico clinic to treat her clients. And Liz Earle included it in her Superbalm Concentrate, launched way back in spring 2001.

In the mid-1980’s the cosmetics industry started to focus on argan oil as the basis for complete product ranges built around its anti ageing and superb moisturizing properties.As well as being anti wrinkle and anti inflammatory, argan oil also has incredible antioxidant properties.

Through the establishment of large co-operatives employing local – sometimes impoverished – women dressed in colourful Berber costumes, argan oil is still produced in the traditional way.It is the nuts of the argan tree that are cracked open to extract tiny almond like seeds which are then hand pressed to produce the rich oil.

Harvesting the nuts is a difficult process – as can be seen from its name Argania Spinosa is a sharp thorny tree.

Nothing is wasted from the argan harvest – the left over nuts are used to feed cattle and the discarded shells and debris are burnt for heating in the colder months.

It appeals to ethical consumers who want to know that the skin care they are using is produced in a way that is compatible with a long standing way of life. Its mere presence in a formulation can convey the rich history and exotic natural environment of Morocco to the user.

Not only that – as Moroccan women have known for centuries – it really works.

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