Argan Oil

The benefits argan oil brings to the skin seem to be assumptions based on its composition rather than a true scientific basis, given the scarcity of clinical and experimental data on its cutaneous effects.


Grade Level of Evidence
A Multiple double-blind, controlled clinical trials.
B 1 double-blind, controlled clinical trial.
C At least 1 controlled or comparative clinical trial.
D Uncontrolled, observational, animal or in-vitro studies only.
Grade Effect Size of Effect Comments


Skin lightening


May help maintain a fair complexion by inhibiting melanin production.


Less oiliness


Inhibits sebum production, thus decreasing the sebum level of the face and reducing the area of the skin covered by oily spots.


Increased skin hydration


Leads to a statistically significant increase in skin water content and a decrease in water loss.




Has some degree of electron-donating capacity, but this was weaker than that of ascorbic acid in an in vitro assay.

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Table of contents

1. Sources

Argan oil is harvested from the kernels of the fruits of Argania spinosa L. Skeels, a tree species that is indigenous to the Sahara desert and to Morocco.[1] Typically the fruits will have been sun-dried for a few days or up to several weeks, though 10 to 14 days of sun-drying is optimal to obtain high quality argan oil.[2][3] While edible argan oil is prepared by cold-pressing roasted argan kernels, cosmetic argan oil is obtained by extracting ground argan kernels with a lipophilic solvent.[4]

Argan oil contains many bioactive compounds including fatty acids (especially oleic and linoleic acids), tocopherols, squalene, sterols, polyphenols, triterpene alcohols, coenzyme 10 and melatonin.[5][6] These components are likely to be responsible for its potential beneficial effects on human health such as disease prevention and cardioprotection.[7][8]

The use of argan oil to moisturize the skin and to maintain a fair complexion is an established tradition among Moroccan women.[9] Traditionally, it is also used to cure pimples, reduce scars from chicken pox, treat skin disorders such as eczema, psoriasis, scabies and skin inflammation, heal wounds, cure brittle fingernails and to prevent dry hair and hair loss.[10]

2. Bioavailability

There have not been any published studies on the permeation of argan oil into the skin, although argan oil-loaded nanostructured lipid carrier formulations and argan oil nanoemulsions have been developed that have good physical stability.[11][12] Whether sufficient amounts of argan oil in these formulations can penetrate the skin barrier remains to be seen.

3. Effects on the skin

Few studies have assessed the clinical effects of argan oil on the skin. In one, 30 postmenopausal women applied 10 drops of cosmetic argan oil on one forearm every night for 2 months, resulting in a statistically significant increase in epidermal water content and a statistically significant decrease in transepidermal water loss, indicating an improvement in skin hydration.[13] This is thought to be due to the high content of linoleic acid in argan oil, as one of the ceramides that comprise the skin barrier (ceramide 1) is linoleic acid linked to a long-chain omega-hydroxy acid,[14] and pseudo-acylceramides containing ester-linked linoleic acid have been shown to restore the barrier function of the skin.[15] Higher intake of linoleic acid in the diet is also associated with a lower likelihood of age-related skin dryness and thinning.[16]

An open-label, uncontrolled study evaluated the efficacy of a sebum control cream containing 2% of a polyphenol-rich extract from saw palmetto, sesame seeds and argan oil on 20 men and women with oily facial skin who applied the cream twice daily to the face for 4 weeks. Instrumental measurements revealed a 20% decline in casual sebum level and a 42% reduction in the area covered by oily spots, while clinical scores of the severity of the oiliness dropped by 33% on average.[17] This cannot be attributed solely to argan oil however, as saw palmetto extract and sesame seed oil also contain fatty acids that are known to inhibit 5α-reductase, an enzyme is implicated in sebum production.[18]

A third study found that cosmetic argan oil decreased melanin content in mouse pigment cells almost as much as arbutin, a known inhibitor of melanogenesis, by modulating the levels of the enzymes tyrosinase and dopachrome tautomerase that catalyze melanin biosynthesis. Argan oil also had antioxidant activity in vitro (lower than ascorbic acid), suggesting that it may provide protection from lipoperoxidation and thus alleviate oxidative stress in skin cells.[9]

4. Side Effects

We were unable to find any published studies on the short- or long-term safety or toxicity of cosmetic argan oil, though culinary argan oil has been shown to be non-genotoxic at 20% dosage.[19]

Scientific References

  1. Khallouki F, et. al. Secondary metabolites of the argan tree (Morocco) may have disease prevention properties. African Journal of Biotechnology. (2005)
  2. El Abbassi A, et. al. Physicochemical characteristics, nutritional properties, and health benefits of argan oil: a review. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. (2014)
  3. Harhar H, et. al. Long argan fruit drying time is detrimental for argan oil quality. Nat Prod Commun. (2010)
  4. Guillaume D, Charrouf Z. Argan oil and other argan products: Use in dermocosmetology. Eur J Lipid Sci Technol. (2011)
  5. Khallouki F, et. al. Consumption of argan oil (Morocco) with its unique profile of fatty acids, tocopherols, squalene, sterols and phenolic compounds should confer valuable cancer chemopreventive effects. Eur J Cancer Prev. (2003)
  6. Venegas C, et. al. Determination of coenzyme Q10, coenzyme Q9, and melatonin contents in virgin argan oils: comparison with other edible vegetable oils. J Agric Food Chem. (2011)
  7. Monfalouti HE, et. al. Therapeutic potential of argan oil: a review. J Pharm Pharmacol. (2010)
  8. Cabrera-Vique C, et. al. Bioactive compounds and nutritional significance of virgin argan oil--an edible oil with potential as a functional food. Nutr Rev. (2012)
  9. Villareal MO, et. al. Activation of MITF by Argan Oil Leads to the Inhibition of the Tyrosinase and Dopachrome Tautomerase Expressions in B16 Murine Melanoma Cells. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. (2013)
  10. Charrouf Z, Guillaume D. Ethnoeconomical, ethnomedical, and phytochemical study of Argania spinosa (L.) Skeels. J Ethnopharmacol. (1999)
  11. Hommoss A. Preservative system development for argan oil-loaded nanostructured lipid carriers. Pharmazie. (2011)
  12. Lococo D, et. al. Argan oil nanoemulsions as new hydrophobic drug-loaded delivery system for transdermal application. J Biomed Nanotechnol. (2012)
  13. Boucetta KQ, et. al. Does Argan oil have a moisturizing effect on the skin of postmenopausal women? Skin Res Technol. (2013)
  14. Bouwstra JA, et. al. Role of ceramide 1 in the molecular organization of the stratum corneum lipids. J Lipid Res. (1998)
  15. Imokawa G, et. al. Pseudo-acylceramide with linoleic acid produces selective recovery of diminished cutaneous barrier function in essential fatty acid-deficient rats and has an inhibitory effect on epidermal hyperplasia. J Clin Invest. (1994)
  16. Cosgrove MC, et. al. Dietary nutrient intakes and skin-aging appearance among middle-aged American women. Am J Clin Nutr. (2007)
  17. Dobrev H. Clinical and instrumental study of the efficacy of a new sebum control cream. J Cosmet Dermatol. (2007)
  18. Liang T, Liao S. Inhibition of steroid 5 alpha-reductase by specific aliphatic unsaturated fatty acids. Biochem J. (1992)
  19. Dalouh A, et. al. Genotoxicity and antigenotoxicity studies of commercial Argania spinosa seed oil (argan oil) using the wing somatic mutation and recombination test in Drosophila melanogaster. African Journal of Food Science. (2010)