“When you think of Moroccan beauty, what comes to mind?”
A group of beauty editors and I were sitting in the back of a natural beauty cooperative in the middle of the Marrakesh Medina when our tour guide, Stephanie Flor of Around The World Beauty, posed the question.
“Argan oil,” we all responded without missing a beat. In Morocco, women have used the natural, nut-based oil for centuries, slathering it on their skin and hair for an added layer of softness and shine. Personally, I’ve been slicking the liquid gold through my strands since middle school, loving how silky it left them. One thing that I didn’t realize, despite the dozens of bottles that I’ve poured through in my lifetime, it can help prevent hair breakage and keep strands strong, too.
The benefits of argan oil
In addition to leaving strands with a mirror-shine finish (and smelling like heaven), Argan oil is rich with longstanding benefits for your hair. “Argan oil is extremely nourishing, so when the hair strands themselves are treated from root to tip, the oil’s combination of hair-healthy vitamins and minerals are able to penetrate the outermost layer of the hair, hydrating it from within while also preventing breakage from occurring,” ays Hien Nguyen, co-founder and chief science officer at Function of Beauty. This hydration is what helps hair cuticles stay soft, smooth and healthy.
The nut oil can help the overall look and feel of the hair. “With its high content of antioxidants, essential fatty acids and vitamin E, argan oil is able to naturally help increase the hair’s moisture content and elasticity, combat frizz, and also protect the strands from damage that causes split ends and breakage, making it an especially potent ingredient in hair care,” says Nguyen. Kevin Hughes, the artistic director of Moroccanoil, which uses argan oil as the prominent ingredient in its haircare line, adds that the oil also contains high levels of fatty acids to hydrate hair and give it an “incredible shine.”
While any hair type can benefit from the stuff, Nguyen notes that it’s especially powerful for people with dry or frizzy hair types. “Its restorative properties can help smooth, soften, and hydrate the strands so that the hair appears healthier and more manageable,” she explains. It also acts as an anti-inflammatory, which “reduces the inflammation that causes things like dandruff, dryness, and irritation,” says Nguyen.
Can Argan oil also help with hair growth?
As I learned during my trip to Morocco, women who wear headscarves—which many in Morocco do—tend to deal with hair loss from the fabric rubbing up against their strands. To help with re-growth, they use a mask made from a mixture of argan oil and olive oil, plus nigella and fig.
“While there are no studies directly linking argan oil to hair growth, its natural vitamin E content does help prevent breakage and split ends, which may result in fuller, thicker hair over time,” says Nguyen. Though the verdict may still be out on argan oil specifically, research has shown that vitamin E can help promote hair growth and impede hair loss when ingested.
As for what a dermatologist has to say on the matter? “There is no specific data that shows the association between argan oil and hair growth but it can be used as a powerful moisture-enhancing product and moist scalp is important for optimal conditions for healthy hair,” explains board-certified dermatologist Nava Greenfield, MD, of Schweiger Dermatology Group in Brooklyn, NY.
How to use argan oil
Depending on what you’re trying to achieve, there are a few different ways you can work argan oil into your haircare routine:
For nourishing your scalp: To take advantage of its scalp benefits, Nguyen suggests applying a few drops to your hands and massaging it into your roots. “I also recommend applying it at night and sleeping with the oil in your hair/on the scalp and then rinsing it out with cool water in the morning,” she says.
To help with styling: As a styling tool, argan oil works as a heat protectant when you apply it before using a blow dryer or hot tool (which, for what it’s worth, is how I’ve been using it for over a decade), or as a way to tame flyaways or frizz once hair is already dry. Rub two to three drops into your hands and comb through strands with your fingers.
For hair growth: When it comes to using argan oil for hair growth, in short the answer is pretty much that it won’t hurt, but don’t be super surprised if it doesn’t help the situation tons, either. Anecdotally, it works, but there’s no science to back it up. Likely, however, you’ll likely notice that your strands are all-around happier doing their thing.
Our favorite argan oil products
Argan oil can work its way into any part of your haircare routine, and that includes shampoo and conditioner. This duo (which is available at the drugstore) is great for nourishing dry strands, and will leave them looking healthy enough to stave off a trim for another few weeks, at least.
As far as argan oil products go, Moroccanoil is arguably the most iconic. It can be used in wet or dry hair to promote shine, or rubbed on the ends of a day old blowout to make it look brand new. And, fair warning: the scent is downright intoxicating.
Meant to be used on every hair type, this ultra-nourishing product combines argan with jojoba, lavender, and marula oils to create what the brand calls “the goddess of all oils.” I’ve been rubbing it through my curls (and split ends) for months, and can confirm that it really is that good.
Fun fact: argan “oil” doesn’t necessarily have to be an oil. This cream iteration of the ingredient can be slicked through strands before blow drying and heat styling, and the mix of argan oil, rosehip oil and coconut oil will leave them protected and shining.
In addition to your hair, argan oil has a number of benefits for your skin, too, and this product can be used on both. It combines the moroccan liquid cold with castor oil, which promotes hair growth and conditions skin, and sunflower seed oil which adds even more hydration and shine to your strands.
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