Argan oil is loved by cosmetic and personal care producers worldwide due to its fatty acid composition with properties that soften, soothe and hydrate the skin and hair. Pure argan oil is extracted from the nuts of the argan tree (Argania spinosa) in what is primarily a labour intensive and manual process, traditionally used by Berber women for hundreds of years. The Argan tree grows in a restricted area of southwestern Morocco, which is characterised by low water availability and high evapotranspirative demand.
Currently, the problem being faced is that Northern Africa is experiencing severe drought conditions due to climate change., Although the Argan tree is hardy and drought-resistant (as evidenced by the fact it has existed for thousands of years), it is now under stress. Morocco is in its third year of drought, with most dams only 34.6% full as at December 2021. There are, however, studies currently underway to improve the drought-resistance of the Argania spinosa even further1.
For the time being, though, Argan oil is in short supply and suppliers are having great difficulty meeting the demand for Argan oil from personal care manufacturers. Due to the drought conditions, there is an incredible shortage of the fruits, and the selling prices keep increasing. Additionally, the supply chain is destabilised with delays in production and delivery.
So, what do you do if you need Argan oil for your personal care, hair care or cosmetic products?
The first step is to establish which Argan oil property is important to you and what the intended application is. There are other tree oils available that, while not offering the exact fatty acid profile that Argan oil does, do provide specific fatty acids with excellent benefits.
Below are a range of benefits offered by the fatty acids in Argan oil as well as the alternative botanical oils that can provide similar or better benefits.
The typical fatty acid profile of Argan oil is as follows:
Palmitic acid is a fatty acid that acts as an emollient, cleansing agent, and texture enhancer in skincare and cosmetics products.
The benefits of palmitic acid for the hair and skin include:
- Soften dry skin
- Retain moisture
- Wash away dirt
- Supports a healthy skin barrier.
Marula oil has similar palmitic acid content of 11.3% and would be a suitable alternative for the above mentioned benefits.
Stearic acid is a fatty acid that acts as an emollient, surfactant and emulsifier.
The benefits of stearic acid include:
- Softens the skin
- Strengthen skin barrier – locking in natural moisture and locking out irritants
- Helps decrease signs of ageing
- Balances skin pH
- Hydrates the skin.
Moringa oil can be used as an alternative as it has a similar composition of stearic acid (5%). Kalahari melon seed oil and Marula oil both have slightly higher stearic acid at 7% and 6% respectively.
Oleic acid offers remarkable moisturising properties and is commonly used to nourish hair strands and seal moisture in the skin.
The benefits of Oleic acid for the hair and skin include:
- Anti-inflammatory properties
- Anti-bacterial properties
- Anti-fungal properties
- Soothe irritated skin
Argan oil consists of 47% Oleic acid, whereas Moringa oil contains a higher percentage at 73%, boosting the benefits mentioned above.
Linoleic acid is a fatty acid that is essential for skin regeneration and hair growth.
The benefits of linoleic acid include:
- Repairs skin barrier
- Assists with acne
- Anti-ageing properties
- Moisturises hair
- Prevents hair loss.
Baobab oil has similar linoleic content of 31% and offers as a suitable alternative for the above benefits. Kalahari melon seed oil has 70% linoleic acid, which is significantly higher compared to other vegetable oils.
- An Assessment of Genetic Diversity and Drought Tolerance in Argan Tree (Argania spinosa) Populations: Potential for the Development of Improved Drought Tolerance https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28303146/