Focus on Argan oil- Is there something to the hype?

I have had a couple of requests about Argan oil, as well as summer haircare tips from ROKers and lovely ladies; Fatima and Sahar. Since Argan oil is an essential haircare ingredient I thought I’d kick it off with a post focusing on the benefits of including Argan oil containing hair and body serums this summer. Product reviews including my favorite hair product- Morrocan Oil, will follow.

Argan oil is an oil produced from the kernels of the Argan Tree, endemic to Morocco, that is valued for its nutritive, cosmetic and numerous medicinal properties. The tree, a relict species from the Tertiary age, is extremely well adapted to drought and other environmentally harsh conditions of southwestern Morocco.

Lets have a quick look at the components of Argan oil:

  1. Linoleic acid: Linoleic acid belongs to one of the two families of essential fatty acids that humans and animals must ingest for good health, because the body requires them for various biological processes, but cannot synthesize them from other food components. Applied to our skin, linoleic acid aids the effect of antioxidants, and works as a moisturizing, and an anti- inflammatory agent.
  2. Oleic acid: Oleic acid has been shown to upregulate antibacterial properties of the sebocytes (the oil producing cells of the skin), resulting in increased defense and regulation of the bacterium Propionibacterium acnes, which is a causative agent in the development of inflammatory acne vulgaris, which is the most common skin disease, afflicting up to 80% of individuals throughout their lives (Nordstrom et al., 1986; Chronnell et al., 2001; Bojar and Holland, 2004).
  3. Tocopherols (Vitamin E): As I have mentioned in my almond oil post, as well as in my antioxidant post, this is a powerful skin saver, and antioxidant. It is involved in UV protection in skin, wound healing, and has been associated to increased skin elasticity by up regulation of the cells responsible for those age defying elastic fibers, the fibrocytes. Vitamin E improve skin ulcerations, and it also improves the skin manifestations evident with scleroderma, morphea, hypertrophic scars, and lichen amyloidosis. On hair, according to, vitamine E has been associated to increased growth, and prevention of hair loss, through mechanisms not yet know. Vitamin E can be used as a leave-on conditioner for dry and damaged hair as well. A small amount daily will treat dry hair and heal the hair shafts.
  4. Caffeic Acid: Caffeic acid is another antioxidant. Caffeic acid also shows immunomodulatory and anti-inflammtory activity. Stainforth et al. found caffeic acid to be protective against the harmful effects of UVB radiation in skin, including the decrease of  inflammatory markers involved in aging and development of cancer. It is also involved in aiding wound healing by both decreasing inflammation and increasing collagen deposition at the site of the wound.
  5. Squalene: Squalene oil is the most common fat and antioxidant produced in and on human skin. It is a natural moisturizer. Squalane is in personal care products, such as moisturizers. It appears to function in the skin as a quencher of singlet oxygen, protecting human skin surface from lipid peroxidation due to exposure to ultraviolet light and other sources of oxidative damage.
  6. Oleuropein: Is one of the main natural phenols found in Argan oil, olive leaves, and leaves of privet. Oleuropein and its metabolite hydroxytyrosol have powerful antioxidant activity. Hydroxytyrosol is believed to be one of the most powerful antioxidants. Its oxygen radical absorbance capacity is 40,000 umolTE/g, which is ten times higher than that of green tea, and two times higher than that of CoQ10. Kimura et al found that Oleuropein acted protectively against UVB radiation, by moderating skin thickness, elasticity, and exerting cancer protection during UVB exposure.
  7. Vanillic acid: It is one of the main natural phenols in Argan oil. Vanillic acid has been suggested to have protective effects on fibroblasts (elastic fibers producing cells) and keratinocytes (skin cells) after skin injury.
  8. Tyrosol: As an antioxidant, tyrosol can protect cells against injury due to oxidation. It is not as potent as the other antioxidants, but has good bioavailability (meaning it remains active for longer in our bodies), and thus becomes important for the overall effect of Argan oil antioxidant properties.
  9. Resorcinol: Another main phenol of Argan oil. Resorcinol has been used topically in dermatology for a while including as an antiseptic and disinfectant, and it is used in ointments in the treatment of chronic skin diseases such as psoriasis, hidradenitis suppurativa, and eczema, and in over-the-counter topical acne treatments at 2% or less concentration, and in prescription treatments at higher concentrations.
  10. Catechin: A natural phenol and antioxidant. Catechin is one of the main antioxidants found in green tea, and exerts effects on our skin in terms of photoprotection against UV radiation, anti-cancer activity in development of skin cancers, and antiaging action through modulating skin structure and function.

Antioxidants bring valuable effects when applied to hair as well as to skin. It protects the hair against UV induced damage, making it less brittle, protecting hair color, and might even induce growth when taken orally as well as topically.

There is no surprise then that Argan oil has become such a popular addition to haircare lately. It has one of the longest natural antioxidant lists I have seen so far, and can be used internally as well as externally on both skin and hair for antioxidant and moisturizing effects.

My 3 Argan containing oils are pictured below:

From left to Right we have:

1. BioArgan oil. Bought at the airport in Marrakesh during my Moroccan vacation this spring. I used this during my recent weekend trip to Pecs, and it worked brilliantly as both a hair treatment and body moisturizer! Get your own organic version from John Masters Organics at Lookfantastic £32.50 for 59ml, and if you buy 2 John Masters Organics products you receive a John Masters body duo for free. Here: John Masters Organics 100% Argan Oil 

2. Moroccanoil Treatment Oil. I shall follow up on this post with a review of this one, since it's my favorite among them. If your already eager to try it, you can get it for £30.45 off Lookfantastic here: Moroccanoil Oil Treatment

3. Hair Oil from Actyva. This one I bought from my local hairdresser. It's been working quite nicely as a hair-treament only. I will however not be buying this again, since I am so happy with my Moroccanoil. So far no other oil has been able to deliver the same amount of bounce, shine and softness as it creates.


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Institute for Experimental Dermatology, University of Witten-Herdecke, D-58455 Witten, Germany. J Nutr. 2011 Jun;141(6):1202-8. Epub 2011 Apr 27.

Olive leaf extract and its main component oleuropein prevent chronic ultraviolet B radiation-induced skin damage and carcinogenesis in hairless mice.

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