Argan Oil – is it Snake Oil?

Last year, I was only just starting down the rabbit hole that is the beauty world and started hearing about beauty oils. It wasn’t gradual, it was sudden, it was frequent, and more often than not it was Josie Maran’s 100% Pure Argan Oil ($49). Although some struggle with the idea that facial skin + oil = unparalled catastrophe, that was not my obstacle. My personal obstacle was wrapping my head around

  • the fact that so many people seem convinced that this is a miracle product and that
  • the purveyors of this bottled hocus-pocus were actually selling it for as much as it costs. “It fixes your hair!” they said, “It fixes your face! It soothes ragged cuticles! It feeds the hungry!”

Okay, maybe I got a little carried away there at the end. It doesn’t feed hungry people, not directly anyway.

Argan Does Feed, Though

That said, it does feed hungry goats. The Argan tree, in addition to producing fruit with nuts inside that we get our so-called magical oil from, does in fact feed hungry Moroccan goats. Evidently, these goats determined that the fruits from Argan trees are outstanding because they climb the trees to eat them. Pics, it happened:


There are sillier photos online, but I wanted to start with an easy-to-swallow one. Now that we’ve gotten the silliness out of the way, let’s talk about this stuff.

Harvesting Argan Oil

Argan oil is extracted either:

  • mechanically involving opening the pits of the fruits and removing the oil-rich kernels within or
  • lovingly by hand by the women local to the region in which Argans grow (southwest Morocco), depending on the supplier

Then, the kernels are roasted, cooled, crushed, and cold-pressed, expelling snake argan oil. Prior to the industrialization of the process, it was a bit more crude – akin to how Civet coffee is produced. I won’t touch on it here, but there is a wealth of information online. Thankfully, that isn’t the case now, and it is used for cosmetic purposes as well as a food condiment (bread dipping).

Benefits of Argan Oil

Here’s a quick list of the benefits that are frequently attributed to Argan Oil, which is commonly being called Liquid Gold:

  • Anti-Aging
  • Calms frizzy hair/can be used as a leave-in treatment
  • Moisturizes rough, unsightly, uncomfortable cuticles
  • Dandruff treatment
  • Scar minimization
  • Facial Moisturization
  • Acne reduction
  • Skin texture improvement
  • Gives skin a, “glow,” (no, not just shiny oiliness)

Reaction to the Hype

In contrast with the lofty expectations the beauty world lobbed, my reaction was not glowing. Nature does some amazing things, but isn’t calling an oil, “liquid gold,” a bit much?

It is an oil – yes, it is going to calm your hair down and give it a sheen. It is going to hydrate your skin either by adding moisture or by trapping what is already there. That does not make it liquid gold, it makes it an oil. I cannot help but think that the hype associated with this product encourages a bit of a placebo effect amongst its loyal users. Like an, “Oh I’ve joined the Josie Maran club I’m cool now!”

There’s a lot of discussion that suggests Argan oil from less-expensive sources is fake, diluted, or otherwise bad – why? I mean, there’s the obvious, “you get what you pay for,” and you should indeed be wary of questionable products in the beauty world for your health and safety, but that isn’t a hard-and-fast rule. Merchant reputability is a better metric than cost alone.

Soon, I started seeing positive remarks from sources I felt were really reliable – Capitol Hill Style mentioned Josie Maran’s 100% Argan Oil in a timely October Post, as well as in a few other places on the blog. A few Reddit subs I frequent were catching the fever too. And friends! The more I read, the more curious I became.

Giving it a Shot

It was then that I decided to bite the bullet and try it (in the name of Science, of course). I have pretty intense dark circles, weird texture on the skin around my eyes, chickenpox scars, and would soon have a brand new scar from a mole removal. Still skeptical, I picked up the little 0.5oz bottle of Josie Maran 100% Pure Argan Oil ($14) from a newly-opened nearby Sephora and gave it a go.

The Bottom Line

Turns out, I liked it. I won’t say it is a miracle worker, but this was my gateway drug into facial oils. Seven years after this post was originally written, I’m still using argan oil, though I’ve switched to purchasing from Mountain Rose Herbs.

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