review: argan oil

Or, another tree of the day.

Experimental stages.

Have been testing out samples of two expensive ones and two cheap ones. No immediate or short-term (i.e. between 1 day and 1 week) irritation or clogging. No discernible difference observed between brands, in terms of performance, except the pricier ones have prettier packaging.

QUICK UPDATE (2011-08-27):

  • a firm and resounding YES for hair
  • “yes but no but” for skin:
    ✻ a yes in that it works;
    ✻ a yes for strategic small-scale use;
    ✻ a no for me, as a general-purpose oil, as other (cheaper) oils work as well and I don’t see the point of paying more money for something that does exactly the same thing;
    ✻ but a yes overall: if other oils haven’t worked for you, my advice would be that yes, it is worth adding to your list of things to try.

More on that update here.

MOST RECENT AND LESS MEANDERING UPDATED REVIEW: November 2011 (there is also another update further down, from April 2013).

I’d initially thought “meh. bollocks to that: another faddish luxury exotic rare oil? Orientalism rules OK? yeah, right.” And so I wrote this (2011-05-06)–

[Con:] I don’t need it. I would rather not use what I don’t need: refuse, reduce, reuse, recycle. Similar balance of fatty acids and high doses of antioxidants can be obtained elsewhere. […]  given the time, effort and so on for production, and that for environmental reasons the trees can’t be grown intensively, it seems to me more sensible to use this stuff sparsely, when needed, for medical reasons; rather than as a luxury.
[Pro:] Exemplary sustainable sourcing (see Wikipedia again). Though here, if you’re getting it, ensure you’re not paying through the nose to line the pockets of middle men (ex. Josie Maran), and their marketing play with / manipulation of first-world customers’ vanity and desire for new, fashionable, rare, exclusive, exotic things. On the other hand, buying the stuff supports (if you buy right) really good development projects: good for the environment, women, and peace and social justice.

–famous last words. I’m now into the third week of experiments; will update again after a proper testing period, ideally six weeks. But I thought some preliminary results wouldn’t go amiss. I’ll write up a new review if anything else changes along the way, and stick an UPDATE note at the top of this one.

meh, or rather, meeeeeeh: yes, those are goats

PRE-PROTO-REVIEW

DESCRIPTION

It’s a lightweight oil, a light yellow-gold colour (think lager / light beer, or piss) with a slight earthy smell. A similar viscosity, texture, fluidity,  feel to oils like sunflower or mineral; not as light or dry as rosehip or grapeseed, nor as heavy as almond, let alone avocado or olive. Features good (in human skin terms) balance of fatty acids and high doses of antioxidants, though these can also be obtained elsewhere. Sustainable, fair trade, cooperative, feminist, UNESCO-protected: see further down in MORE INFORMATION and THE SECOND THING TO WATCH OUT FOR.

APPARATUS

I decanted my experimental samples into small amber-brown glass bottles with (plastic) pump or spray nozzles. I’ve found that sort of top to be more practical than either the plastic drop-dispensing tops (where you have to shake the bottle loads and swear a lot before one drop slowly emerges, hovers like snot, drops out, and completely misses your hand) or the glass rubber-topped squeezy droppers (though they do produce entertaining squelchy noises). Also, while not completely sealed, they’re airtight–rather than removing the top every time you use an oil. Some oils are sold in pump-bottles: Argan Oil Direct and Watts, for example; see end of review for list of oil sources and prices, those two and a bunch of others.

I’m keeping the bottles in a cool shady place–bathroom-cupboard drawer otherwise occupied by first-aid supplies, antihistamines, and assorted other hard drugs medicaments. If and as and when the temperature indoors rises above about 21C or so, I’ll move the argan into the fridge.

USE ON SKIN:

  • in the evening, applied after washing & rosehip oil, a few drops only, as a moisturiser.
  • face, neck, bosom– as needed. Skin was already basically OK, but in the morning would be a little dry of the forehead and in my eczema-prone sides of neck. That all seems to be settled down.
  • I’ve also been using it on some of my other usual eczematic areas–insides of wrists, elbows, and knees–as there had been threats of outburst. There have been no outbursts. I haven’t had to resort to oaty goodness etc.

USE ON HAIR:

I tried several things.

Good and worthwhile:

  • a few drops mixed in conditioner–mixed in palm of hand. Best option so far. Also the laziest: least change to usual bathroom procedure.
  • a tiny drop just applied to the very ends of towel-dried hair, before usual styling product. From trial and error, I’ve figured out that on this hair anyway that has to be the minutest of teeny droplets; any more and hair greases up. I’d tried this before with other oils, and even the lightest of those that do actually do much to hair–jojoba, avocado–were too heavy and greasebally.

Note:

  • application as a pre-shampoo oil treatment: no difference in results, compared to using other oils; as it’s quite a thin dry oil, economically unviable.
    Preferred oils for this: avocado, jojoba. Olive and coconut work well too–being, along with avocado, the oils that actually condition hair in the “nourishing and fortifying the inside” way that so many products advertise, heh–but too heavy on my hair, and can be problematic on my skin–scalp, neck.
    UPDATE: argan mixed with olive works very nicely.
  • after rinsing out conditioner with warm water, a few drops of the oil applied to ends and drier parts of hair–left to sit for a couple of minutes–rinsed out–then a final cold rinse.
    But I don’t notice any difference in end results compared to the previous method, it’s more of a faff, and takes longer.
  • application to hair as a leave-in is less successful, unless I skip my final cold rinse and thus don’t seal down the cuticles as much; but then hair is more tangled and fragile.
  • a couple of drops run through towel-dried hair, mainly the length, ends, underside. Used instead of other stylin’ stuff. Good defrizzing properties, but leaves hair weighed down and greasy, not a pretty sight. Still, a pleasant leave-in treatment for one day at the weekend or other lounging-around-doing-housework day, when I’m wearing scruffy old clothes and have hair in plait. And it’s not as grotesquely lardy as olive, coconut, and even avocado (which I can and do use, from time to time, as a pre-shampoo treatment). My hair’s too fine to use them unadulterated, though laps them up when they’re part of a conditioner. Suggest them for coarser hair.

testing, testing, …

MORE INFORMATION

I’ve grouped the links in order of comprehensiveness and usefulness…

MY TOP FIVE

Oh how love it dearly. Spending more time wandering around it than reading news. Now, some might disapprove–the news, newspapers, and their online equivalents being More Proper, Grown-Up, And Serious. But the W is invariably bigger, better, and contains news already anyway. Plus “news” is just “current history” so there’s good reason to read “the rest of pre-current history” on any given topic, so as to see more of the bigger picture, full story/ies, so as to make better sense of it. Always a joy and a pleasure–where will one meander off to next, what new curiosity will one find–and always leaving uplifted, filled with more knowledge, yet sharpened and lightened.
When I was a kid, I never thought I’d stray from my first loves, the Encyclopaedia Britannica, the Grand Larousse encyclopédique, and the Universalis. All now online, and many of their articles woven into The Big W.

But I digress.

THE BEST-ISH OF THE REST

Googling will find lots and lots more blog posts and so on, which tend to repeat the same information–as in actual factual content–above. Once you’ve read my top two items, you’ll recognize the same materials (and some copy-pasting from Official Argan Propaganda). There’s also a lot of blog posts around reviewing one kind of argan oil. Some good, some bad, some indifferent: in that reviewers might just try one brand of oil, only try it for a short period, not know much about oils in the first place, fall into the “expensive, exotic, and selling out fast = good” trap, not be exactly competent in reading labels and thus confuse “oil” with “oil-based-mainly-silicone-product.” Aside from annoyances about qualities of observation, thinking, and writing.
But once again, I digress. This isn’t a “rant” post, it’s a review…

TWO THINGS TO WATCH OUR FOR

1. THE FIRST THING

Always. Read. The. Label. Especially the ingredient list. There is a crucial difference between “contains 100% pure argan oil” and “100% pure argan oil.”

For example: Moroccanoil, Agadir, and Organix have treatments that have ARGAN OIL in big letters on the front, but are mainly cyclopentasiloxane, other silicones (usually a mix of ones that evaporate—but having first helped the oil to make happy with your hair—and ones that sit on the hair, smoothing it down), fragrance, etc.

It’s like this statement from Papa John’s Pizza:

Now, I have eaten Papa John’s pizza. I have also eaten various other pizzas, including in Italy, including in Naples. And I’ve eaten mozzarella. Which is as completely different a beast from “crafted from 100% mozzarella and high-quality milk by one of America’s finest cheese producers” as, well, Papa John’s pizza is from an Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana-certified pizza. To be fair, PJ’s training is probably a bit different from this, too.

BUT BUT BUT…

[Update: 2013-04] For a hair-care product not to be just argan oil but also to contain silicones isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Actually, having used a couple of these concoctions myself, I can vouch for some of them being jolly good. May be a better idea on some kinds of hair. Definitely a better idea if the hair is going to be suffering any kind of treatment deploying heat.

Much depends on the scent: some simply mask the natural earthiness of the argan, some are more citrussy, some are more perfumey. Over to you and your individual nose. Another thing will be whether the stuff will be hitting your skin (if you’ve only applied a teeny dab, as one is supposed to, this shouldn’t be an issue), and how your skin feels about certain silicones on it. A final thing: what shampoo you’re using; whether it’s capable of washing out silicones; and if not, what’s more important/higher priority to you and your hair: that shampoo or the siliconey serum.

And these serums containing argan oil and silicones are not all created equal, in terms of how much argan oil they contain, and the formula as whole. For example, I have very much liked this U Luxury one here from Unite Hair and, even more so, this one from Josie Maran.

The Unite one costs less depending on source, is cruelty-free and fair labour as well as using the usual fair trade oil—on which, see next point below—and it’s a 100 ml bottle that will last 4eva. They still called it OIL then, just below on the label, “argan oil” which is misleading. Though it is clear, not only on the packaging but in all their promotional stuff and information, that it’s not just oil. My nice hairdresser used this on my hair, and eventually I sucked it up and bought a bottle from him. At, I should add, a prix bien démocratique… which was considerably less than that of Moroccanoil’s Oil Treatment. I did, alas, end up swapping the bottle with someone for something else, but that’s a whole other story: main thing was I couldn’t handle the scent of it on a regular basis.

The Josie Maran one is pricier, but is honestly labelled “argan oil hair serum,” the lightest-weight of those tested out (and has cyclopentasiloxane—often irritating on my skin in high concentration, unlike cyclomethicone and the heavier dimethicone—further down the list rather than as ingredient #1), and has by far and away the best scent of any of the argan/silicone serums I’d sniffed. I also surreptitiously sniffed the ones from Dove, Garnier, Live Clean, L’Oréal, and Organix. Which, to my nose, suck and are heinous. So: while JM’s argan oil is a rip-off, the serum gets a vote from me. It also contains some olive and avocado oil, both of which are good things on hair.

Ingredient-lists for comparison:

MOROCCANOIL OIL TREATMENT: cyclopentasiloxane, dimethicone, cyclomethicone, butylphenyl methylpropional, argania spinoza (argan) kernel oil, linseed (linum usitatissimum) extract, fragrance supplement, D&C Yellow-11, D&C Red-17, coumarin, benzyl benzoate and alpha-isomethyl ionone.

UNITE U LUXURY ARGAN OIL: cyclopentasiloxane, dimethiconol, phenyl trimethicone, argania spinosa kernel oil, fragrance, red 17 / CI 26100, Yellow 11 / CI 47000, limonene, linalool, eugenol, geraniol, amyl cinnamal, hexyl cinnamal, citral.
[yes, my skin is OK with low concentrations of these jasmine-scenting cinnamal aldehydes: though not with cinnamal proper / cinnamaldehyde, or cinnamates… And though I can’t use this stuff very often: once in a couple of months or so when at the hairdresser’s is about enough. ]

JOSIE MARAN ARGAN OIL HAIR SERUM: Cyclomethicone and Dimethicone, Phenyl Trimethicone, Cyclopentasiloxane, Argania Spinosa (Argan) Kernel Oil, Camellia Sinensis Leaf Oil, Persea Gratissima (Avocado) Oil, Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil, Olea Europaea (Olive) Fruit Oil, Vitis Vinifera (Grape) Seed Oil, Tocopheryl Acetate, Citrus Aurantium Bergamia (Bergamot) Fruit Oil, Geranium Maculatum (Geranium) Oil, Ethylhexylglycerin, Phenoxyethanol, Caprylyl Glycol.

The next stage, as you might imagine, was concocting my own version, without the added scent.

BASIC FORMULA: silicone serum + argan oil

VERSION 1:

personal lubricant (= cyclomethicone, dimethiconol, dimethicone) + argan oil

VERSION 2:

the same, but with essential oils: couldn’t quite get them right

VERSION 3:

Giovanni Frizz Be Gone (= Cyclopentasiloxane, soybean protein (glycine soja), dimethicone, tocopherols (vitamin E), panthenol (vitamin B5), rosemary (rosmarinus officinalis), nettle (urtica dioica) oil, thyme (thymus vilgaris) oil, fragrance) + argan oil.
Unhappy about the scent.

CONTINUING EXPERIMENTATION:

1. For the oil/silicone blend: experimenting with ideal proportions, The Search for the Perfect Ratio.

2. Not yet decided whether argan alone or argan combined with silicone is better on my hair for smoothing frizziness and encouraging its general decency and propriety. Without over-greasing and flattening hair. Testing continues.

2. THE SECOND THING

Note, and note ye well, and avoid being ripped off: argan oil is argan oil. ALL argan oil is sustainably-produced, organic, hand-crafted, and fair-trade.

The trees only grow in a certain area of Morocco, protected by UNESCO biosphere mandate. The nuts are gathered and processed, and the oil produced and sold on, by Moroccan women’s cooperatives (with UNESCO, EU, and SDA support). They have a global monopoly.

All the bigger western companies (Moroccanoil, Josie Maran and the like) selling argan oil and argan oil-based products buy their oil from these cooperatives. Or rather, from them c/o the intermediary of a small number of brokers and shippers. Except for a few small Moroccan (and some French) companies buying straight from the producers, who thus skip the intermediate stage, and are potentially buying cheaper as more directly. In all cases: there’s a massive markup along the way.

SOME SOURCES FOR BUYING THIS GOLDEN NECTAR

In order of price per ounce. All prices are in USD: CAD tend to be higher (ex. JMO, where USD38.00 somehow works out as CAD50.00), and do take shipping costs and customs duties into account in calculations…

gnarly knobbly wise old tree! and more goats!!

6 comments

  1. mej5s

    OK this post made my day due to the presence of goats in trees and a wise butterfly carefully testing a nice Dutch beer.

    As for argan oil, given my various skin issues which seem to prefer gels/synthetic concoctions over plant oils (esp those of the high or moderate oleic variety), I will pass but most excellent compilation of the who’s who and what’s what in the argan world.

    • gingerama

      ITA: Goats = cool. Trees = cool. Put them together = very cool indeed. Plus the oil.
      Your point is well-taken and I should amend various things re. high-oleic oils. And seb derm. I’d been wary of the argan, because I, too, can’t use some high-oleic oils (ex. olive), but that’s mainly because, in those I’d met previously, that property coincided with higher molecular weight. Larger particle size does not sit well with thin fine-grain skin and small pore-size: otherwise cloggarrama. Bum side of skin that looks superficially nice: all too easy for it to become an epic disaster-area. Hand, elbows, knees, feet–dig heavier stuff (well, they do that too). Not to say I can use anything–I’ve had irritation and zits on hands. Which looks really weird. Feet seem to be able to take pretty much anything.
      But it would be a bit of a waste of money to buy more expensive oil for feet when they can use anything down to lard… and, while some argans are cheaper, they’re still several times the price of mineral, food-grade sunflower, or cosmetic-grade sesame, almond, apricot, etc., etc…
      Glad you enjoyed the beer. There will be more alcohol. There’s more chocolate lined up, too.

  2. jbrobeck (@jbrobs)

    Gingerrama thank you for this write up! I have bookmarked it and plan to come back when I have time to go thru all those sites in-depth. I bought Argan Oil (100%, not contains 100%) for my hair, but now I use it for my skin and cuticles. My cuticles love it. My hair does not. Like you, even the teeniest tinest drop too much and I have and oil field on my scalp!

    • gingerama

      Best of luck with it: teeny drops it is–have you tried it out mixed in with conditioner? just a drop? would be interested to compare results.
      Will try on cuticles. Mine are grotty, can’t be much worse that they are now (without being gory open wounds). Thanks for that tip.

    • gingerama

      Any argan oil (that is, actual argan oil, as described in the post above and via links therein) will be equally good. Or equally bad. It all depends on your own individual sweet skin. This goes for face, or specific parts of face, or any other skin anywhere else around your person.

      I would recommend either testing it out on your skin when you’re in a shop selling it–ex. most health-food shops plus Sephora and suchlike selling the Josie Maran argan oil (NB just the argan oil; the “light” thing isn’t just argan oil, it’s mostly other stuff). See how your skin deals with it. Test it out over a larger area of skin and more sensitive areas (prone to breakouts etc.). Keep testing it. This may take several weeks: usually irritation reactions happen within 24 hours (or minutes, or seconds…) but some reactions may happen after several days’ use. It’s always worth testing for at least a month, more like 6 weeks, to see how your skin handles something new over that longer period and through the whole course of all your hormone cycles.

      See also: https://gingerrrama.wordpress.com/2011/11/08/review-argan-oil/

      Hope that helps!

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