Chances are you’ve seen argan oil before while browsing the beauty aisle of the drugstore. And it’s also for a good reason. The honey-colored oil, which derives from a plant native to Morocco, seems to do everything from keeping your skin hydrated and your hair silky smooth.
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You may know what social media influencers have said about it, but what is the actual science behind and health benefits of using this so-called “liquid gold”?
Dermatologist Shilpi Khetarpal, MD, breaks down what we know about argan oil and how you can incorporate it into your beauty routine.
What is Argan Oil?
Derived from the nuts of the argan tree, argan oil has been used for centuries in many ways. Its popularity partially started in the cooking world, often used in Moroccan-style recipes as a vinaigrette. It contains a number of unsaturated and saturated fatty acids, as well as other compounds like polyphenols, squalene and triterpene alcohol. You can recognize argan oil by its golden color and rich consistency.
Benefits of argan oil
Although it comes from a small kernel, argan oil packs a punch with what it can do for you.
“The fatty acids it contains, like linoleic and oleic acids, are very hydrating,” says Dr. Khetarpal. It also contains vitamin E and antioxidants that can prevent breakage and damage caused by free radicals.
Here’s how argan oil can benefit your hair and skin:
Everyone wants silky smooth hair, minus the greasy residue. That’s why argan oil has become such a trendy choice for many: it adds a hydrating boost to calm frizz, while still being lightweight on your strands.
“It adds lighter hydration that won’t weigh hair down, while supporting your hair’s overall health,” says Dr. Khetarpal.
While it won’t make those pesky split ends go away, a quick swipe of argan oil on the ends of your hair can hide their appearance.
Protects against heat and styling damage
You can rely on your trusty straightener and hair dryer, but it’s important to have a shield against any intense styling you do. It turns out that argan oil can be a natural remedy for this.
“Oils add a protective layer to hair and help strengthen hair that has been damaged by too much heat or chemicals,” says Dr. Khetarpal.
A 2013 study even found that argan oil improved the quality of intensely colored or dyed hair.
Hydrates your skin
Especially if you tend to have dry skin, this silky oil can provide it with much-needed hydration, thanks to its vitamin E and fatty acids. Research shows that argan oil protects the skin barrier and improves overall texture.
Plus, if you suffer from eczema, psoriasis, or chronic dry skin, argan oil can be your saving grace.
“It can be used to help dry and sensitive skin for those looking for more natural remedies,” says Dr. Khetarpal. “But it’s important that there are no added fragrances or preservatives in the oil, as these can make things like eczema worse.”
While it can add extra moisture to your skin, Dr. Khetarpal points out that this oil won’t have much of an effect on things like acne scars or stretch marks.
May help treat wounds
Applying argan oil can also be beneficial for light scuffs and scratches. A 2017 review suggests that since argan oil has anti-inflammatory properties, it can help relieve burns and irritated wounds.
May help fight aging
Could argan oil also be the “fountain of youth”? More research needs to be done to be sure. But some studies suggest that this oil may have anti-aging properties by increasing skin elasticity.
Should I use argan oil on my scalp?
You may have heard that argan oil can be beneficial for keeping your scalp hydrated. Although this oil is good for your hair, Dr. Khetarpal warns that it may not be the best choice for your scalp, especially if you have oilier hair. The reason? These types of oils can promote seborrheic dermatitis (aka, dandruff) if overused.
“It happens when there is an overgrowth of normal scalp yeast,” says Dr. Khetarpal.
What to look for when buying argan oil
Next time you go to your local beauty store, here’s how to know which type of argan oil is best. Try to get pure argan oil (usually in a dark glass bottle) to get the most out of it. This is because some brands of argan oil contain excessive amounts of fragrances and chemicals that can irritate skin and hair.
Hearing all the benefits, you might be wondering: Should I bathe in this stuff or what? As with any beauty product – natural or not – try it on first to see how your body reacts.
“It’s best to try it on a small area before applying it to a larger area of skin or hair,” advises Dr. Khetarpal.
While buying argan oil out of the box isn’t necessary, there are certainly plenty of reasons to keep it handy in your skincare cabinet. Whether you want to calm your frizzy hair or hydrate your skin, this natural oil can help you in more ways than one.