Is Argan Oil a Beauty Miracle Maker? Our Testers Tell It Like It Is

Is Argan Oil a Beauty Miracle Maker? Our Testers Tell It Like It Is

Colleen Murphy
Mar 14, 2017

Welcome to another installment of Beauty Bucket List, a series in which we roll up our sleeves to do some hard and fast testing of cult classic beauty products, because just hearing about how great something is just isn't good enough. Through the eyes (and bodies) of contributing writers Alex and Colleen (one a beauty lover, the latter mostly beauty clueless), we've assessed the hype-worthiness of Maybelline's best-selling Great Lash Mascara as well as the exfoliating foot peel, Baby Foot. And now, it's time to investigate the so-called magical powers of Josie Maran's 100% argan oil.

Meet the Testers (& the Product)

Colleen Murphy, owner of one tube of lipgloss she's had since high school.

Alex Nursall, who has a spreadsheet to catalog all her cosmetics (yes, really).

(Image credit: Josie Maran Cosmetics)

Product tested: Josie Maran 100% Pure Argan Oil. This cult beauty product is made of 100% pure Moroccan argan oil and is heralded for its serious skin and hair multi-tasking. You can use it as a moisturizer, on blemishes, on bug bites, on split ends, on rough skin patches. You name it, you can probably zap your specific skin issue with argan oil…allegedly. Heck, you can even eat it. From the Josie Maran site: "Argan Oil is a 100% organic, chemical-free gift from nature. Its cosmetic and nutritional benefits have been the best-kept secret of Moroccan women for centuries and a secret that was whispered to me on a modeling shoot 10 years ago. Moroccan argan oil is extracted from the nut of the argan tree, which grows only in the Moroccan desert. Argan oil is loaded with Vitamin E and essential fatty acids, so it has amazing healing, conditioning and repairing properties. Argan oil benefits your skin, hair, feet, nails, and even your baby's bottom. A moisturizer so pure you can use it on your baby, or use it to dress your salad? That's my idea of pure beauty."

(Image credit: Alex Nursall)

A Little Argan Oil History Lesson

Alex: Fun fact to start things off: Prior to 2007, there were only two mass-market products made in the U.S. that contained argan oil. Now there are over 100, so clearly it's, uh, picked up in popularity in the last 10 years. One of the leaders in this area is Josie Maran's Argan Oil, which we'll be reviewing here.

Colleen: I had never heard of argan oil prior to or post 2007. The name Josie Maran did ring a bell though and a quick trip to Wikipedia let me know that she is a multihyphenate model-actress-entrepreneur who once guest judged a Cycle 13 episode of "America's Next Top Model" (the Tyra years!). Bingo! Alex isn't the only one who can do research!

Alex: Let's quickly talk about something — argan oil, while rapidly growing in popularity in North America and Europe lately, is not a new product. The oil (produced from the argan nut) has been in use in Morocco and Northern Africa since around 600 B.C. and has been a key part of the North African Berber people's lives, both as a foodstuff (delicious with bread!) and for its cosmetic properties (delicious on your face!). Berber women would harvest the nuts and crack them open to collect the kernels inside, which was no easy work, seeing as the outer shell of the argan nut is really hard while the kernels are very delicate (which then need to be ground, pressed, and toasted if destined for culinary usage).

There was a brief attempt to introduce the oil to Europe in the 1500s, but it didn't really catch on in the wider Western cosmetic zeitgeist until relatively recently (which is not to say that smaller groups within there weren't already using it for cosmetic purposes). Also, the harvesting and processing of argan oil has traditionally been seen as "women's work," so many of the co-operatives that produce the oil are still predominantly run and staffed by women.

I bring all this up because it's important to understand where products like this come from and to remember that, while it may be new here, many of the products that are getting more and more popular over the last 10 years (argan oil, coconut oil, shea butter, etc.) have been used by a number of communities for ages. I mean, I don't expect people to be like, "Why yes, I know all these obscure bits of cosmetic history," but a lot of this stuff gets erased once the product or ingredient starts being produced on a wider scale (or treated as something exotic), so it's important to at least understand the broader cultural significance and respect that.

Colleen: Hungry for more facts? Josie Maran was also the first celebrity eliminated from season five of "Dancing With The Stars"! Okay, now let's get back to talking about putting oil on our respective faces.

(Image credit: Alex Nursall)

The Test

Alex: Several years ago, I wanted to try using argan oil on my face but wasn't willing to go above my budget and pay the premium for the Josie Maran stuff (which was the most widely available one at the time). Instead, I went to the grocery store and bought a $10 bottle of food-grade argan oil and was like, "I beat the system, you suckers." Turns out that one of the big differences between cosmetic-grade and food-grade is that the food one is toasted, making it smell like roasted nuts. You know what's not great to put on your face? That. It made me smell like burnt popcorn, so I gave up after one application and used it in my food instead.

Anyway, I was excited to finally try this out for real, so I decided to do it in stages. First, I used it alone for several days (in the morning after my shower and at night before bed), then I added in my regular morning routine (Kate Somerville's ExfoliKate Daily Cleanser and The Ordinary's Vitamin C Suspension 23% + HA Spheres 2% followed by argan oil), then finally incorporated my normal night routine (Bioderma Micellar Water and LANEIGE Water Sleeping Mask) to see how it worked. I also tried using it on my body to see if it helped with my horrible winter skin (more on this below). Remember how I was a lizard person from the ankles down in the Baby Foot review? Well now I'm a full-body a lizard person.

Colleen: My moisturizing routine is pretty sporadic and usually made up of the assortment of lotions I've been gifted by my aunts at Christmastime. When I am struck by a bought of dry skin on my face or my elbows (is severe dry-elbow a common affliction or just me?), my go-to strategy is buying a very plain, clinical-looking lotion from the CeraVe collection at the drugstore (to varying results). My skin is otherwise clear and I don't have regular issues with blemishes. I don't wash my face regularly unless to remove make-up, which isn't a part of my everyday routine. Am I #Blessed or #Lazy? Who's to say?

The bottle does not include any application instructions or suggestions for a girl like me with the cosmetic intuition of a six year old. — Colleen

Alex: When I was young, I thought that I'd have my life figured out by the time I was 25 and that I'd no longer have the dumb zits that plagued me as a teenager. As I approach 30, I realize that both of those things were total lies, but mostly the zits part. I tend to have dull, combination skin, larger pores on my cheeks, and hormonal breakouts. What I was looking for with the argan oil wasn't so much clearer skin as brighter skin (with more uniform oil distribution, rather than just being Captain Greasy Forehead, the worst of the X-Men). When I used the oil alone (with no assists from other products), I found that I still had an issue with dryness around my mouth and flakiness on healing pimples. My skin looked nice at first, but it didn't really hold up through the day. This might partially be because it's winter in Toronto and all moisture (and sunlight, and hope, and joy…) has been sucked from the atmosphere.

Colleen: When we started this journey, I happened to be in the middle of trying to tame both dry face and elbow so I decided to apply the oil to both areas, once in the morning and again before bed. A quick note about Josie Maran's argan oil: its packaging, a 50 mL brown bottle with an eye-dropper applicator, is pretty and simple. Its blush label tells you a few things 1) this is stuff is 100% pure and organic and 2) NBD, but it's made in Hollywood, CA. Subtext: Lauren Conrad and Reese Witherspoon probably use the stuff.

What it does not include are any application instructions or suggestions for a girl like me with the cosmetic intuition of a six year old. I need help in these situations! You can't just leave me with a random serum and assume that I will not, for example, administer it directly to my part.

Alex: Colleen came to work with greasy hair and was like, "This did nothing!" Pro Tip: You have to use it only on your ends, not your roots, especially if you have straight or finer hair. But yeah, the downside is the package gives you no info other than "use wherever!"

(Image credit: Colleen Murphy)

Colleen: After applying about five drops (a guess) to my face and elbows, I had gone rogue and put some oil directly on top of my freshly washed hair. My old roommate used to use coconut oil on her hair so I figured this was fine, nay, resourceful! It was not. After consulting my makeup shaman, Alex, on the matter, she suggested that perhaps in the future, I should just gently tousle some into the ends of my hair.

Alex: When I used it with my normal routine, I found that it actually held up much better, possibly because I was exfoliating again and also because it was getting an assist from the Vitamin C + Hyaluronic Acid of another one of my products. Either way, I will say that I loved the feeling of it on my skin. I'm really into using oils for skincare in general, and I definitely appreciated how quickly argan oil absorbs into my face and body. Normally, I use baby oil on my body and that occasionally leaves me greasing up my apartment like a dropped bucket of KFC.

While it's not a magical oil that turns my skin beautiful and does my taxes and whatever, it was very lovely to use. — Alex

Colleen: Once I discounted use in my hair, I actually had really great results. Like Alex mentioned, I love the feeling of it on my skin and the quick absorption is impressive. I've never noticed the same success with any generic lotion. That said, when I suggested my partner use some on his incredibly dry hands, it didn't seem to agree with him (he claims it made it worse but I think that's a bit dramatic, I guess he just needs something more industrial strength).

The Verdict

Alex: Overall, I found that, while it's not a magical oil that turns my skin beautiful and does my taxes and whatever, it was very lovely to use. It didn't change anything when it came to how often my skin broke out, but I did find that, over two weeks, my skin felt smooth and looked quite bright, up until about 3 PM when the last bits of moisture left my body and I turned into a raisin in my office. I also liked it as a body lotion, but this stuff is pricey, so while I can get by with 4 drops on my face, using on my body is just not cost-effective (aside from the occasional spot treatment). I'll be sticking with other oils for that.

Colleen: Surprisingly(?), I'm kind of sold on this stuff. As something to apply to key dry areas, I can definitely see incorporating this into my small but succinct list of cosmetic staples. It is pricey (wow, just googled it) so it will definitely be an item for the annual Christmas list.

Alex: It's funny, because while skincare products tend to be all like, "Use this and suddenly your face will be amazing and smooth and oh look, is that Idris Elba? Yes, he loves you now," skincare stuff tends to be incredibly tough to recommend to others since skin + various ingredients can be so unpredictable, plus it's hard to tell if it's just a placebo or if there's an actual change. I asked my husband if my skin looked any different after two weeks and he went, "Uh, sure?" so whether or not there was a wild visible change thanks to the argan oil can be debated, but I certainly enjoyed using it and my skin does feel soft and pretty, so it can't hurt. Unless I drink it or something (and actually, I think that might still be okay).

Colleen: For me, a key with any product is that if I don't enjoy actually using it, I won't - no matter what the end result is. With argan oil, I really like the soothing application process in addition to my soft skin…seems like the people who have been applying essential oils for thousands of years might actually be onto something.

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