Though the Berber people of southwestern Morocco have used Argan oil for centuries in their cuisine and for medicinal and cosmetic purposes, it has only been within the last decade that argan oil has become known to the outside world. In that time the prices of Argan oil have sky-rocketed. So, how much is Argan oil actually worth? In fact, that is not really the correct question. The question should be, "who is making money out of this Moroccan export?".
The Argan oil used for cooking is made from toasted Argan nuts, whereas that used for cosmetics is made from fresh nuts, so doesn't have such a strong smell. The retail price of both oils is around the same. In the medina, 50ml of the cosmetic oil costs Dh50 in a herb shop and in the fancier Arganza near Boujloud. But it is a sure thing that the women who work so hard to produce this fabulous oil see very little of the average 346.50 Moroccan dirhams that a woman in the West will pay in order to rub a little in her hair.
And the fashion magazines have picked up on Argan oil in a big way - here is an extract from Vogue:
Moroccan Oil is the latest buzz hair product sweeping the beauty biz by storm. “It’s all the rage in the US,” Leonard Newton from Desmond & Molly Jones salon
The key ingredient in this magic blue bottle is Argan oil, a naturally derived oil from Morocco that’s rich in vitamin E and essential fatty acids and used heavily in skincare for its age-defying effects. Used in hair products however, it helps to restore shine and bounce to dull, lifeless strands.
“It gives lustre and control to the hair promoting softness, while still allowing the hair to be styled in various ways be it wavy, curly or natural.” Newton says. Keeping in mind a little goes a long way, Newton recommends rubbing a few drops of Moroccan Oil in between palms before applying to mid-lengths and ends. Allow one minute for the product to be absorbed by then style as required.
Argan cosmetic oil in Fez (photo Helen Ranger)
And the price? Moroccan Hair Oil, $50 for 100ml. In the USA we came across 50 ml for 369.90 MAD which works out at 7398 MAD a litre... someone is making a lot of money.So, what does it take to make Argan oil? It has been calculated that the people of the region spend a collective 20 million working days per year extracting the oil. It takes 15-20 hours to produce the 2 1/2 kilos of kernels needed to produce one litre of oil.