Argan Oil: Health Benefits for Your Skin, Heart, & Beyond

Nicknamed “liquid gold,” argan oil is renowned for its exemplary therapeutic and cosmetic properties. The oil comes from Morocco, but people around the world have traded it for its health benefits as early as the 6th century.

Argan oil can bring a lovely glow to your skin and hair, but it also may offer benefits inside your body — like your heart, liver, and blood, to name a few.

From balancing blood sugar and cholesterol to covering up the appearance of scars and acne, the range of benefits attributed to argan oil is as impressive as it is broad.

What Is Argan Oil?

Argan oil comes from the tender kernels inside the fruit of the slow-growing argan tree (Argania Spinosa). When argan oil began its boom in popularity, all-female collectives in southwest Morocco began making the oil.

The women gather together, harvest the fruits, smash the hard shells on stones, pick out the tender kernels inside, and press the fruit kernels to retrieve the oil. Finally, the argan oil is sold as is or turned into creams and other products.

Planting and tending argan trees also have environmental benefits: it helps reduce both climate change and desertification — a process where land becomes an unusable desert. The main argan forest in southwest Morocco is now an official biosphere reserve.

Unfortunately, the boom in argan oil’s popularity has led to aggressive harvesting techniques that injure the sensitive trees. Many larger companies have also eliminated the cooperatives, which play an important role in empowering women in a patriarchal society.

If you want to support a sustainably harvested, female-empowering product, look for Fair Trade Argan oil, especially one that is stamped with the UCFA (Union des Coopératives des Femmes de l’Arganeraie) seal to ensure women are receiving a fair price for their knowledge and work.

Top 6 Benefits of Using Argan Oil

Argan oil is not just for beauty. Modern scientific research has uncovered many of argan oil’s other promising benefits. Argan’s natural oils may soothe inflammation, nourish skin and body, speed up wound healing, and provide a barrier against harmful organisms.

In Northern Africa, it’s popular to drizzle roasted argan oil over bread and use it in cooking. Rich in vitamins A and E, fatty acids, and antioxidants, this amazing oil has benefits when taken internally or used topically. Dietary argan oil may be at least partially responsible for the fact that people who follow a traditional Mediterranean diet tend to have less heart disease; Morocco lies along the Mediterranean Sea.

Below are the top health benefits that argan oil offers.

1. Improves the Appearance of Acne & Scars

Did you know that it’s argan oil’s omega-6 and omega-9 content that reduces redness, swelling, and helps acne-prone skin?

People with acne may feel like putting oil on their skin could make it worse. The truth is, oils vary substantially from one another — and some, including argan oil, help reduce the appearance of acne.

You know that olive oil differs from motor oil, of course, but even plant-derived oils have many differences. For example, olive and coconut oil are moisturizing, while grapeseed and castor oils can decrease oiliness on the face. Argan oil falls right in between, providing moisture and protecting the skin with a barrier that deters the harmful organisms that contribute to acne breakouts.

Argan oil’s high omega-6 and omega-9 content also help reduce redness and swelling. Those with acne-prone skin are usually deficient in linoleic acid, an omega-6 essential fatty acid, which argan oil contains.

Fatty acids may speed up the healing of acne-related scarring and minimize signs of premature aging, such as crow’s feet and age spots. Argan oil’s comedogenic index of zero means it will never clog the skin’s pores or cause breakouts.

2. Promotes Elasticity & Skin Hydration

Argan oil’s high levels of vitamins A and E and its fatty acids deeply nourish skin. Applying argan oil improves your skin’s ability to retain water — also known as hydration — which helps with elasticity. Both hydration and elasticity make your skin look more youthful and healthy.

Argan oil can provide a barrier between your skin and dirt, germs, and toxins.

Argan oil may also boost your skin cells’ ability to regenerate. Applied topically, it can even reduce the greasy appearance of oily skin.

Researchers also discovered that skin exposed to argan oil experienced changes at a cellular level, allowing it to act as a barrier to dirt, germs, and free radicals.

3. Boosts Heart Health

Some people use argan oil for its additional health benefits — notably for the heart. Studies show that consuming food-grade argan oil works just as well as extra virgin olive oil at promoting good cholesterol (HDL) levels, normalizing bad cholesterol (LDL), and balancing triglyceride levels in the blood.

Argan oil consumption also boosted antioxidant levels circulating in people’s bloodstream — which makes sense since the oil contains high levels. Antioxidants fight against free radical damage in your cells, minimizing oxidative stress. This liquid gold also promotes normal blood pressure.

Cholesterol is a major predictor of heart disease, as are high blood pressure and triglycerides. Promoting normal levels of these indicators helps keep your heart healthy.

4. Supports Liver Health

Consuming argan oil supports liver health and may even protect against invasion by harmful organisms and toxins.

Research shows that argan oil helps liver genes stay active, which allows damaged livers to recover.

One study looked into how argan oil helped laboratory mice with damaged livers recover more quickly. The oil worked at the cellular and genetic level, influencing which genes “express” or turn on. Specifically, it helped liver genes stay active, thus promoting better liver health.

Argan oil also helps normalize insulin resistance, which plays a role in non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.

5. Promotes Normal Insulin & Blood Sugar Levels

Insulin resistance is a condition where your cells do not absorb the hormone insulin well. Insulin helps regulate your blood sugar levels, so if your cells become insulin-resistance, blood sugar rises, causing all sorts of metabolism problems.

Studies suggest that taking argan oil internally not only helped both healthy and diabetic laboratory animals maintain normal blood sugar levels, but it also helped balance insulin resistance.

These properties are likely why the local people in Morocco prize the oil, according to the researchers.

6. Protects Against Cell Proliferation

Thanks to its high antioxidant levels, argan oil helps protect skin from free radicals and UV radiation.

Argan oil contains high levels of tocopherols, a form of vitamin E, as well as oleic acid, an omega-9 fatty acid. Taken internally, it helps the body at a cellular level, even decreasing the risk of excess cell proliferation that can lead to serious diseases.

In various studies, argan oil has helped with skin, colon, bladder, and prostate conditions.

Popular Argan Oil Uses

When applied topically, argan oil has important cosmetic benefits for the skin and hair. It is a sought-after natural remedy with healing, anti-aging, and antibacterial properties.

Natural Skin Care

Below are some of the benefits your skin will reap from this powerhouse oil, as well as some simple ways to use it.

Improve the Appearance of Stretch Marks

Thanks to its high vitamin A and E content, argan oil keeps your skin well-hydrated and improves its strength and elasticity, which in turn helps reduce the appearance of stretch marks.

How to Use: After showering and exfoliating your skin, gently rub a few drops onto areas like the hips, thighs, and stomach — the areas most prone to developing stretch marks. Massage the oil into your skin twice a day, including once before bedtime.

Moisturize & Improve Skin Elasticity

Whether you have oily, combination, or dry skin, you can use pure argan oil as an all-over face and body moisturizer. You can even apply 100 percent pure argan oil directly on your face, lips, and around your eyes. For best results, massage it onto your body right after showering or bathing, paying special attention to any dry patches.

How to Use: Add a few drops of argan oil to a carrier oil, like organic olive, coconut, or other seed oil — this helps a little goes a long way. You can also soothe razor bumps and ingrown hairs after shaving by applying the oil directly over the affected area.

Reduce the Appearance of Acne

Argan oil is non-greasy and won’t clog pores, so it’s a great natural way to add moisture and provide balance to inflamed, acne-affected skin.

How to Use: Cleanse your skin and pat it dry. Put a few drops of pure oil into your palm and, using your fingers, lightly dab it directly onto problem areas. Repeat twice daily.

Protect & Soften Hair

This nourishing, non-greasy oil increases the shine and overall healthy appearance of hair while repairing split ends and smoothing flyaways.

By coating the hair shaft, argan oil reduces drying and damage and makes hair less prone to breakage. Argan oil can also help to seal in hair dyes, increasing the length of time needed between colorings. It may even promote faster hair growth.

How to Use: Add five drops into your normal shampoo or conditioner, massage it into your hair, and rinse it out with warm water. For a deep conditioning boost, coat your hair with 10 drops from root to tip and leave it on overnight with a shower cap over it. This will allow deep penetration into your hair and alleviate frizziness or dryness. In the morning, rinse it out with warm water and style as usual.

Moisturize Nail Cuticles

Ward off painful hangnails and other issues associated with poor nail health by applying a few drops of argan oil on your fingernails and toenails. Its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory qualities make it an excellent moisturizer and conditioner for both the nail bed and cuticles.

How to Use: To do a cuticle treatment, first, remove all nail polish and rinse your hands and feet thoroughly. Rub a drop of the oil onto each one of your nails and massage it into the cuticles in a circular motion. Leave it on to absorb.

Relieves Tired Feet

Argan oil can soothe dry, cracked skin on your feet and heels. This hydrating moisturizer is full of antioxidants that can prevent further dryness, soften calluses, and make rough feet soft and smooth again.

How to Use: Slather your feet with as many drops as needed to fully cover the area, and put on a pair of socks for at least 30 minutes (but preferably overnight). After removing the socks, use a warm washcloth to remove any excess oil from your soles.

Precautions & Side Effects

Ensure the argan oil you use is not only fresh but also certified organic. This will ensure you avoid chemicals in your beauty products, such as pesticides. Its odor should smell light, fresh, and nutty. Store it in a dark bottle because exposure to light will cause it to oxidize, or decay.

Fairtrade-certified argan oil ensures that the product you purchase goes to help support women artisans in Morocco in an environmentally sustainable and female-empowering manner. Be aware that poor quality argan oil may contain harmful solvents from chemical extraction techniques. Most beauty products that are not 100 percent pure argan oil use this solvent-extraction method, so buyer beware.

For topical application, look for cold-pressed, responsibly-sourced, additive-free argan oil. If you take argan oil internally, only use food-grade oils. People have used argan as food and applied it to the skin for centuries in Morocco, and according to experts, there are few side effects.

Rarely, people experience sensitivity from skin application; if you break out in a rash, discontinue use. Some people also experience an upset stomach, nausea, or diarrhea. When taking an argan oil oral supplement, some people experience confusion, excitement, agitation, or difficulty sleeping. If you experience any of these reactions, see your healthcare provider right away.

Points to Remember

Dubbed “liquid gold,” argan oil is one of the most prized beauty and health potions in the world. Moroccans have used it for centuries as a topical therapy to beautify and improve the appearance of skin, acne, hair loss, psoriasis, and eczema.

Argan oil is the secret to healthy, moisturized hair, and you’ll find it in many popular skin and hair products. Make sure to be aware that most beauty products use solvent extraction. If you want the benefits of this product without chemicals, buy 100 percent pure argan oil and add it to your shampoo or directly to your skin.

When taken internally, argan oil may help balance cholesterol, triglycerides, and blood sugar. It has valuable antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. For best results, make sure to purchase only argan oil that is cold-pressed, additive-free, and organic.

To make sure you purchase responsibly harvested argan that supports female collectives, rather than aggressive harvesting techniques, look for fair-trade-certified products.

Argan Oil

Used traditionally in Northwest Africa for its cosmetic, bactericidal, and fungicidal activity.

• Rich in vitamin E, oleic acid, and linoleic acid, which is believed to contribute to the perceived cutaneous benefits of this vegetable oil.

• Reputed to impart antiacne, antisebum, anti-aging, moisturizing, and wound-healing activity, but clinical evidence is sparse.

• In a small study, the nightly topical application of argan oil resulted in a moisturizing effect, and in statistically significant decreases in transepidermal water loss and increases in the water content of the epidermis.

For more than 800 years, native Moroccans and explorers in the region have cited the health benefits of the topical use or consumption of argan oil.1 The oil, derived from the fruit ofArgania spinosa, is a slow-growing tree native to the arid climate of Southwestern Morocco2-4 as well as the Algerian province of Tindouf in the Western Mediterranean area.5 For many years, it was primarily the populations of the Essaouira and Souss-Massa-Draa regions of Morocco that benefited from the production and use of argan oil.6 Largely through the efforts of the Moroccan government, as well as cooperating nongovernmental organizations and private entities, argan oil is now also a well-established ingredient on the edible oil as well as cosmetic oil markets throughout the world.6

Traditionally, the vegetable oil has been prescribed for reputed cosmetic, bactericidal, and fungicidal properties and as a treatment for infertility and heart disease.3,4 In fact, investigations related to the cardiovascular benefits of virgin argan oil consumption have suggested antiatherogenic, cholesterol-lowering, antiproliferative, and antioxidant benefits.7-11

The vitamin E–rich oil has a reputation for imparting antiaging, hydrating, and antioxidant activity to the skin and ameliorating conditions such as acne, eczema, psoriasis, wrinkles, and xerosis,12 and, in fact, has been used to treat these conditions as well as dry hair,3,13 hair loss, skin inflammation, and joint pain.3 This column will focus on the topical uses of this botanical that has been dubbed “liquid gold.”12


Oleic acid, an omega-9 monounsaturated fatty acid, is abundant in argan oil (43%-49%) and has been found to act as a penetration enhancer by disturbing the skin barrier.14,15Linoleic acid, an omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acid, found in concentrations of 29%-36% in the oil, is integral in the biosynthesis of inflammatory prostaglandins through the arachidonic acid pathway.4,16 The presence of a linoleic acid may help prevent or mitigate inflammation. Linoleic acid is also a component of ceramide 1 linoleate, which is diminished in dry skin. Topical application of linoleic acid can raise ceramide 1 linoleate levels in the skin, thus reducing xerosis.17Argan oil also contains the saturated fatty acids palmitic acid (11%-15%) and stearic acid (4%-7%).2

Though argan oil is mainly composed of unsaturated fatty acids (80%),1,18,19 the unsaponifiable fraction (1%) is replete with antioxidants, including sterols, saponins, and polyphenols.4,19 The polyphenolic constituents, primarily gamma-tocopherol, which is considered the most efficient among the tocopherols at scavenging free radicals, are thought to account for the antioxidant effects of argan oil.1,2,18,20,21

Topical uses

Unroasted kernels are used to produce cosmetic grade argan oil, which is used in moisturizing creams, body lotions, and shampoos.2 Although argan oil contains components that have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory features and there are many patents on the use of argan oil in skin care, there is a dearth of published research studies looking at the effect of argan oil–containing skin care products on aging, inflamed, or dry skin. A study by Dobrev evaluated the efficacy of a sebum control cream composed of saw palmetto extract, sesame seeds, and argan oil applied twice daily to the face over a period of 4 weeks in 20 healthy volunteers, 16 with oily skin and 4 with combination skin. All volunteers tolerated the product. A visible sebum-regulating or antisebum efficacy was observed in 95% of the subjects. Clinical evaluation scores and casual sebum levels decreased significantly after 1 month of treatment. Dobrev concluded that this argan oil-containing formulation was efficacious in lessening the greasiness and improving the appearance of oily facial skin.22

aragon-fruitShown is Argania Spinosa fruit, the source of argan oil.

In 2014, Tichota et al. created a topical argan oil nanostructured lipid carrier formulation to enhance skin hydration and tested it in a single-blind controlled trial with healthy volunteers over a 1-month period. The investigators observed that nanostructured lipid carrier entrapment in the hydrogel formulation did not have an impact on colloidal size or occlusion, and, clinically, skin hydration was improved in the participants, suggesting the effectiveness of argan oil as a liquid lipid for this indication.23

Early in 2015, Boucetta et al. reported on their study of the effects on skin elasticity of the daily application or consumption of argan oil in 60 postmenopausal women. During a 60-day period, the treatment group of 30 subjects consumed dietary argan oil; the 30 members in the control group received olive oil. Both groups also applied topical argan oil to the left volar forearm. Skin parameters, including gross skin elasticity, net elasticity, and biologic elasticity, improved significantly with both oral and topical treatments. The researchers concluded that argan oil use confers an antiaging effect to the skin through enhanced elasticity.24Boucetta and another team previously showed that daily consumption or topical application of argan oil in postmenopausal women yielded significant reductions in transepidermal water loss and significant increases in epidermal water content, suggesting that the botanical agent ameliorates skin hydration by reviving barrier function and preserving the water-holding capacity.25 The same team also demonstrated in 30 healthy postmenopausal women that the nightly topical application of argan oil over a 2-month period yielded a moisturizing effect, with statistically significant reductions in transepidermal water loss and statistically significant increases in the water content of the epidermis observed.26

As a cosmetic agent, argan oil, which is popular in France, Japan, and North America, is touted for hydrating and revitalizing the skin, treating acne, and imparting shine to the hair. The therapeutic activities of topical argan oil are reputed to be antiacne, antisebum, anti-aging, moisturizing, and wound healing, but such claims are based on traditional uses with only a small body of supportive clinical evidence.2,27

Generally, argan oil prices are as high as $40/100 mL in the European, Japanese, and American markets.27 Topical argan oil has been characterized as having a brief shelf-life of approximately 3-4 months.2,28 A 2014 report on a 1-year study of the oxidative stability of cosmetic argan oil by Gharby et al. found that argan oil quality remains satisfactory when stored at 25° C and protected from sunlight, but storage should not exceed 6 months to meet industrial standards. A rapid loss of quality was seen when argan oil was stored at 40° C.29


Although clinical research data on argan oil are limited, its traditional uses and inclusion in novel cosmetic products suggest that further study is warranted. Randomized controlled trials are needed to elucidate cutaneous benefits, if any, from this rare botanical.

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14. J Control Release. 1995;37(3):299-306.

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18. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2010 May;50(5):473-7.

19. Eur J Cancer Prev. 2003 Feb;12(1):67-75.

20. Fitoterapia. 2008 Jul;79(5):337-44.

21. Am J Clin Nutr. 2001 Dec;74(6):714-22.

22. J Cosmet Dermatol. 2007;6(2):113-8.

23. Int J Nanomedicine. 2014 Aug 11;9:3855-64.

24. Clin Interv Aging. 2015 Jan 30;10:339-49.

25. Prz Menopauzalny. 2014 Oct;13(5):280-8.

26. Skin Res Technol. 2013;19:356-7.

27. Inflamm Allergy Drug Targets. 2014;13(3):168-76.

28. Nat Prod Commun. 2010 Nov;5(11):1799-802.

29. J Cosmet Sci. 2014 Mar-Apr;65(2):81-7.

Dr. Baumann is the CEO of Baumann Cosmetic & Research Institute in Miami. She founded the Cosmetic Dermatology Center at the University of Miami in 1997. She is the author of “Cosmetic Dermatology: Principles and Practice” (New York: McGraw-Hill, 2002), and a book for consumers, “The Skin Type Solution,” (New York: Bantam Dell, 2006). Her latest book, “Cosmeceuticals and Cosmetic Ingredients” (McGraw-Hill) was published in November 2014. Dr. Baumann has received funding for clinical grants from Allergan, Aveeno, Avon Products, Evolus, Galderma, GlaxoSmithKline, Kythera, Mary Kay, Medicis Pharmaceuticals, Neutrogena, Philosophy, Topix Pharmaceuticals, and Unilever. She also develops and owns the Baumann Skin Type Solution skin typing solutions and related products.