Only In Morocco: The Truth About Argan Oil, And How To Buy The Good Stuff (2024)

Argan oil is synonymous with Morocco, and no trip to this gorgeous country is complete without learning about — and buying — some of this liquid gold for yourself. The health benefits of argan oil are famous the world over, driving up the demand — and consequently the prices — of this unique product. Here’s what you need to know before investing.

What Is Argan Oil?

Argan oil, cold-pressed from the seeds of the deciduous argan tree fruit (Argania spinosa), is endemic to southwest Morocco.

Argan oil has two primary uses. The most common is in cosmetics (especially products for hair, skin, and nails), and the other is for cooking. Don’t mix the two up. You shouldn’t eat cosmetic argan oil, although you could use the culinary oil for massaging into your skin.

The main way to tell the two apart is by the color. The seeds for cosmetic use, which are not roasted, give the oil a transparent, bright-yellowish straw color, whereas culinary argan oil — made from the roasted seeds — has a deeper golden-yellow color that borders on brown and looks cloudy.

Cosmetic argan oil is normally packaged in small bottles appropriately labeled in Morocco with the French word Cosmetique, or a similar locally used name.

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How Is Argan Oil Made?

In Fes, we treated ourselves to the best shopping in the Medinas of Morocco, an experience that involved our guide taking us to a pharmacy where we were shown how local women make cosmetic argan oil.

Firstly, the nuts are harvested. They look like small, dark pebbles. The process to open the nut is rather basic by today’s technological standards. The women take sharp stones and bang into the nuts with enough force to crack them open. The process is repeated for each nut, making this process labor-intensive and time-consuming — which accounts in part for the high price tag seen on argan oil products. Next, the tiny kernel inside the nut — which looks somewhat like an almond, just smaller — is removed. At this stage, I wouldn’t suggest you eat them — and I’m speaking from experience. They taste sweet at first but then turn bitter in your mouth.

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The next part of this manual process is to hand grind the kernels. This separates the oil out, leaving behind a tacky brown residue. The residue is commonly made into soap, although I wouldn’t go out of my way to purchase it again — it doesn’t lather up like you’d expect and is a little difficult to manage in the shower due to its lack of form.

Today, local women’s cooperatives have been set up throughout southwest Morocco, enabling the profits to be shared between the women and keep alive the knowledge of how to process argan for oil.

In former times, goats used to be an important part of the oil-making process. Given their tough-to-open outer shells, the nuts were sought after in the goat poop. Through the magic of goat digestion, the shells of the nuts become easier to open, and processing started from there.

These days, the demand for argan is too great to wait for the goats to do their business, but in some places, the traditional goat-poop process is still in place. Want to know more about it? Read up on the incredible story of tree-climbing goats in Morocco.

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How Expensive Is Argan Oil?

We purchased our culinary argan oil (more on that below) through a Moroccan friend who knows people in a village where it is hand made. He placed the order and we waited for three days (another indication that it was the genuine thing). Our one-liter stash, which arrived at our motorhome door in Taroudant in a reused plastic bottle, set us back 220 dirham — just over $20 USD.

As a comparison, similar culinary-grade argan oil sells for $119.96 USD per liter on Amazon, so we got a deal!

If you’re in Morocco and you want the real stuff, then ask a local for a recommendation and expect to wait a day or two — or even three — for it to be especially made for you.

While in Fes, we purchased a 75-milliliter bottle of cosmetic “liquid gold” at a cost of 120 Dirham ($12 USD), making this a whopping $160 USD per liter! I have seen reports where the price is as high as $263 per liter! Compare this to your regular moisturizers, and you get a feeling for the price.

Why Is Argan Oil So Expensive?

Argan oil is known to be one of the most expensive oils in the world. The oil came to the attention of the outside world in the 1990s and is now highly sought after for culinary and cosmetic purposes.

There are three main factors that make argan oil so expensive.

First, the trees have, until recently, only been grown in one region of one country in the world: Morocco.

Second, the extraction is a time-consuming, hand-production process. Modern-day machines have yet to replace the labor-intensive, delicate techniques required to extract this liquid gold.

Third, the properties of argan oil’s unique elixir have created an unprecedented demand from the rich and famous as they search the world for anti-aging serums. More and more cosmetic companies are including argan oil as an ingredient in their products, putting huge pressure on the limited available oil supply.

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How To Use Argan Oil

As mentioned above, there are two primary uses for argan oil. Many people know about the cosmetic use, however, the culinary use of argan oil is more limited, due in part to its short shelf life.

Cosmetic Use

Packed with rejuvenating vitamin E and full of rich antioxidants, fatty acids, and other compounds that help hair, skin, and nails glow, argan oil is reported to promote youthfulness and beauty. It apparently started as a hair product you couldn’t do without. I’ve tried it twice, unsuccessfully, in my hair as a conditioner, so the jury is still out for me when it comes to this particular use. It is suggested for use as a leave-in conditioner. I don’t like the greasy look or feel, so traditional conditioner has my vote, for now.

Argan oil is popular with women who prefer using natural, organic substances on their skin instead of artificial chemicals or more-processed products.

Pure argan oil glides on easily, is light on the skin, and is absorbed into the pores to give a glow like no other. It is suggested for use as a night moisturizer before bed to help reduce wrinkles, especially around the eyes.

Sufferers of sensitive skin can enjoy the healing properties of this all-natural oil. For those with olfactory sensitivity, the argan oil scent disappears within a few minutes of being applied to the skin.

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Culinary Use

Finding ways to eat this liquid gold wasn’t so easy. Our Moroccan friend suggested we eat it every morning with breakfast. I’ve drizzled it on top of peanut butter on my toast, which is delicious, but I wanted to find a healthier way to consume argan oil, so it was time for some research.

I can highly recommend making a traditional Moroccan dip called amlou. This is a blend of roasted ground almonds, honey, and salt, which turn into a dip or paste that you can spread on fresh Moroccan bread known as khobuz — and one of the tastiest foods to try in Morocco.

You can also dip bread straight into the oil itself, although I found the flavor to be a bit strong to my tastebuds.

Apparently, it is awesome when added to tagines or other savory dishes, and I’m still experimenting with this.

I have, however, made date and walnut balls using argan oil in place of coconut oil, and these are particularly scrummy. They are relatively healthy with no added sugar and just a few ingredients. Great for a sweet snack after dinner.

In order to prolong the shelf life of culinary argan oil, place it in the refrigerator with a pinch of salt. The oil will harden but turns back to its liquid form after sitting on the counter for a short period of time.

Eating a small amount of argan oil daily is said to provide anti-aging effects and to help keep your skin hydrated and smooth.

What Does Argan Oil Taste Like?

As best I can describe it, this oil has a toasty, roasted, nutty flavor, much like sesame seed oil but not as strong and without the bitter aftertaste.

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What Does Argan Oil Smell Like?

Culinary argan oil has a mild nutty aroma (some identify it as a smell of popcorn or a rubber band). I liken it to a rich roasted nutty scent with buttery notes.

The cosmetic oil has a much milder scent compared with its culinary sister, making it suitable for those with sensitivity to strong smells.

The best-quality argan oil should be non-deodorized. The deodorization process removes the argan nut’s scent along with many important nutrients that make the oil so sought after in the first place.

How To Identify Real Argan Oil

Smell the oil to ensure you can pick up its unique scent. If it smells like sunflower oil or paprika, it is not the genuine article. Likewise, if it is odorless, walk away.

When purchasing cosmetic argan oil, ensure that there is only one ingredient: 100 percent argan oil (Argania spinosa kernel oil). It should contain no preservatives, no fragrances, not even water. Anything mixed with it will degrade the effects of the oil.

As a completely natural product, this oil will absorb into your skin. Try some on your hand and wait 30 minutes or so. If it has absorbed into your skin, it is the real deal. If it is still oily and visible, it’s fake.

Storing your oil in the fridge also serves to prove its authenticity, as it will harden. If your argan oil doesn’t harden, it’s not authentic.

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Threats To Morocco’s Argan Trees

Despite its uniqueness and indispensability, the argan tree sadly faces a variety of serious threats.

Goats are one of the primary threats to the argan forests because they climb the trees to graze on the leaves. The goats, and the aggressive fruit-harvesting techniques of some locals, can damage branches and dislodge the buds that are essential to the next year’s production.

What is interesting, however, is that goats can be an important part of the oil-making process, as mentioned above.

The Future Of Argan Oil

Nearly half of the argan forest disappeared during the 20th century — and its average density dropped from 100 to less than 30 trees per hectare. This historical pressure on the forest was driven by demand for high-quality charcoal (especially important during the World Wars) and, more recently, by conversion of land to fields for export crops such as tomatoes.

Attempts to propagate and grow argan trees elsewhere in Morocco and the rest of the world have been a dismal failure in the past. However, the trial continues, and we have heard about argan trees surviving outside of Morocco.

In recognition of its ecological value and local economic importance, the entire 2.5 million-hectare argan forest region was declared a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in 1998. I hope this helps to secure a more positive outlook for the future of this rare gift from nature.

Interestingly, there is a new competitor emerging on the world stage that might reduce the demand for argan oil: the oil from the prickly pear cactus. But that’s a story for another time.

Only In Morocco: The Truth About Argan Oil, And How To Buy The Good Stuff (2024)


How much should I pay for argan oil in Marrakech? ›

The best shop to buy argan oil is Assouss Argan, located in the heart of Marrakech's Medina. In this store, you can find argan oil for both cosmetic and culinary use. As for the price, it varies widely depending on argan production that year. For 100mL of cosmetic oil, you will pay from 50 to 150dh.

Which country produce the best argan oil? ›

Country of Origin: Morocco is the only country in the world that can produce the best Argan oil. If your Argan oil is made in Australia, USA, Japan, Korea, or anywhere else in the world, it is fake! The Argan tree is endemic to southwest Morocco.

How do you know if argan oil is real? ›

The texture and absorption

Real pure Argan Oil is non-greasy, extremely smooth and nourishing. Within seconds with a few rubs it should disappear into skin and hair effortlessly. If it's greasy and requires much effort to absorb, you may be onto a fake!

What is the difference between argan oil and Moroccan argan oil? ›

Is Argan Oil the same as Moroccan Oil? No, both the oils are different. While Argan Oil is pure oil extracted from the kernels of the fruit of the argan tree, Moroccan Oil consists of many other ingredients along with Argan Oil. Both the oils are quite beneficial and enhance the appearance of your skin and hair.

How do you know if argan oil is pure in Morocco? ›

Premium authentic Argan Oil is a deep yellow colour, which is why it has been given the nickname: “Morocco's Liquid Gold”. Argan that is clear or straw coloured has likely been subject to industrial processing, or been diluted with cheaper oils.

Is the Moroccan oil treatment worth it? ›

My hair is noticeably softer, smoother, and shinier. I also love that the oil doesn't weigh my hair down or make it feel greasy. Smells amazing! Overall, I highly recommend Moroccanoil Treatment to anyone who is looking for a luxurious hair oil that will leave their hair feeling its best.

Which is the best company to buy argan oil? ›

The Best Argan Oils
  • The Ordinary 100% Organic Cold-Pressed Moroccan Argan Oil. ...
  • Organix Renewing + Argan Oil of Morocco Penetrating Oil. ...
  • Fré Skincare 100% Organic Argan Oil. ...
  • Pure Moroccan Argan Oil for Skin and Hair by Essence of Argan. ...
  • Timeless Skin Care Argan Oil. ...
  • Pura D'or Organic Argan Oil.
Feb 27, 2023

What is the purest form of argan oil? ›

Moroccanoil Pure Argan Oil is 100% pure argan oil, which is known for its nourishing and conditioning properties for the skin, nails and hair.

What color should pure argan oil be? ›

Colour and Consistency:

True organic Argan oil should be clear, although slightly light dullish yellow in colour. Anything too golden may show signs of tampering, that the Argan oil has been mixed with other oil varieties to keep costs low.

What color is authentic argan oil? ›

The color. This is the first element of differentiation, because the seeds for oil for cosmetic use are not roasted, they give the color a touch of bright yellow and somewhat transparent. Culinary argan oil, on the other hand, made from roasted seeds, has a more intense golden yellow color, close to brown.

Do you have to wash out argan oil? ›

Oily hair types will likely want to be a bit more scarce, while damaged or dry hair types can be a bit more generous. Argan oil can leave behind some residue, so it's essential to clean your hair at the end of the day.

Can you put argan oil on your face? ›

You can use it on your face, but also on your hands and cuticles, for example. It absorbs deeply into the skin without leaving a greasy film. Argan oil's omega fatty acids, vitamin E, and linoleic acids, all of which work to hydrate your skin and soften dry patches.

Why not to use argan oil on hair? ›

For example, applying the oil to damp hair before it's completely dry will leave your hair feeling smooth at first, but over time, it can actually dry it out. "The argan oil winds up creating a barrier on top of your hair, which blocks out any moisturizer trying to get in," Townsend says.

Is it good to use argan oil on your face? ›

The fatty acids and antioxidants found in argan oil can powerfully fight free radicals, dark spots, and signs of aging. It's even a great option for acne-prone skin types.

How much does argan oil cost? ›

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What is the cost of argan oil? ›

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Fabindia Fabessentials Moroccan Argan Oil - 200mlRs. 545
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How much is a liter of argan oil in Morocco? ›

If buying on Moroccan souqs, there is no fixed price and haggling will be necessary. Culinary Oil is packed in bottles of 100 ml, 250 ml, 500 ml or liter. 100 ml of culinary virgin Argan oil costs 10 EUR. Liter of culinary Argan oil can vary anywhere from (approximate prices) 30 EUR to 50 EUR.

What is the price of original argan oil? ›

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