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What is Argan oil - The Basics


What is Argan oil?

Argan oil is extracted from the kernels of Argan tree, Argania Spinosa, which is only found in the south west of Morocco.

Argan oil is rich in antioxidants and anti-microbial agents that scientists believe are behind its numerous nutritional, cosmetic, medicinal and therapeutic virtues.

Argan oil is versatile. It can be used to protect and nourish skin, hair, and nails by all family members including babies.

While Argan oil has only recently become recognized in the western world as one of the leading anti-aging products, it has been coveted by Berber women for centuries for its healing and beautifying properties.

Argan oil remains one of the rarest, most sought after and expansive oils in the world due to very limited growing area, declining supply, and soaring world demand.

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What other names does Argan oil have?

Argan oil’s botanical name is Argania Spinosa oil.

Due to its amazing benefits for skin and hair Argan oil earned several praising nicknames such as; liquid gold, miracle oil, magic potion, natural elixir of beauty, fountain of youth, and Berber beauty secret.

Other popular names are related to its origin or to the Argan tree such as; Moroccan Argan oil, Argan Moroccan oil, Moroccan oil, oil of Argan, Argan tree oil, Argana oil, Argania oil, Morocco oil, or oil of Morocco.

Names such as Argon oil and Aragon oil originate from pronouncing and spelling mistakes made in the beginning while people were getting familiar with the exotic name of the oil. Amazingly enough these have become widely accepted and used. They are even found in dictionaries and recognized by search engines.

What are the different grades of Argan oil?

There are three grades of Argan oil:

Culinary Argan oil

Aka edible Argan oil, toasted Argan oil, alimentary Argan oil, roasted Argan oil, or food grade Argan oil, is pounded out of lightly roasted kernels to bring out their distinctive flavor and nutty aroma.

Before extraction, Argan kernels are roasted on low fire (about 150° C) for 10 minutes while stirring from time to time. Argan kernels should not be in direct contact with flames during the roasting process. They are very thin and can burn easily. Culinary Argan oil pressed out of over-roasted or burned kernels has a rather unpleasant flavor.  

Culinary Argan oil is destined solely for flavoring, salad seasoning, or cooking. Besides being an exquisite delish, culinary Argan oil has numerous healthful benefits such as lowering cholesterol levels, improving blood circulation, and preventing cancer.

Due to its high price, it is only used in luxury restaurants around the world.

Culinary Argan oil is sometimes mistakenly used for cosmetic purposes. This is not recommended for the following reasons:

  • Anti-aging and healing properties are lost when the kernels are exposed to heat during roasting
  • Heat releases a natural nutty aroma that some people find overbearing for personal use

Raw Argan oil

Aka cosmetic Argan oil, cosmetic grade Argan oil, cold-pressed Argan oil, or extra-virgin Argan oil, is pounded out of raw kernels. These are not roasted before pressing. It is the only grade of Argan oil suitable for cosmetic use, because the chemical composition of the oil is not altered by heat and the healing and nutritive agents remain intact. Raw Argan oil has the best benefits for skin and hair.

Raw Argan oil is destined for cosmetic use only. It has no flavor and hardly any aroma.

Deodorized Argan oil:

Cosmetic Argan oil is sometimes deodorized to remove its natural scent. There are two methods of deodorization: steam and chemical. Both methods strip the oil of purported healthful qualities making it less efficient.

  • Steam deodorization does not involve the use of chemicals, however because the oil is exposed to heat, it can no longer be classified as cold-pressed, which is actually the only grade of Argan oil suitable for cosmetic use
  • Chemical deodorization involves the use of chemicals. As a result the oil is no longer natural

Deodorized Argan oil has no aroma and a much lighter color.

Argana Vita Argan oil is not deodorized. 

How to differentiate culinary from cosmetic Argan oil?

There are three ways to differentiate cosmetic from culinary Argan oil:

  • Color: The biggest difference noticeable to the eye is the color. Culinary Argan oil has a much darker color than the light gold color of cosmetic Argan oil
  • Aroma: Culinary Argan oil has a strong aroma, while cosmetic Argan oil has barely any, given it is pure and good quality
  • Taste: culinary Argan oil is a delectable delicacy, a true delight even for the most advanced palates. Cosmetic Argan oil has no taste. If nutshell and pulp are not removed properly prior to pressing cosmetic Argan oil would even have a bitter, unpleasant taste. 

Argan oil smell

Good quality and pure raw Argan oil should not have a strong odor. It has a light barely noticeable aroma. Besides the fact that its healing and nutritive agents are not lost in the process of extraction, raw Argan oil has been destined for cosmetic use because it does not have an objectionable smell for personal use.  

The presence of a strong odor in cosmetic Argan oil might be due to the following reasons:

  • Not cold pressed (culinary Argan oil)
  • Pulp and shell were not removed properly prior to extraction 
  • Pounded out of poor quality, over-ripe, rotten, molded or old Argan nuts
  • Poor production method; manual extraction with water addition
  • Not decanted enough; significant presence of sediments and depot
  • Diluted. Impure
  • Rancid. Infected with bacteria
  • Old, with expired shelf life

What is the shelf life of Argan oil?

The shelf life of cosmetic Argan oil depends on several factors:

  • The quality of the oil: The higher the quality the longer the shelf life
  • The extraction method: manual extraction requires water addition. Water presence favors bacterial growth thus shortening the shelf life of the oil.
  • The quality of Argan nuts: Argan oil pounded out of moldy, rotten, or old Argan nuts is predisposed to rapid rancidity
  • Inappropriate packaging: Aragn oil interacts with harmful elements from plastic and reactive metals which speed its oxidation
  • Inappropriate storing: Argan oil exposed to the light will inevitably have a shorter life

Generally raw and pure Argan oil produced and stored properly has a shelf life of 18-24 months.

What is the best way to store Argan oil?

To preserve Argan oil against degradation it should be stored:

  • In a cool dark place to protect it from the light
  • In a glass container to prevent it from interacting with harmful elements from plastic or metal


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