For the past five centuries, the indigenous people of Morocco, known as the Berbers, have recognized the myriad benefits of argan oil, which is extracted from the kernels in the nut that is inside of the fruit grown on the argan tree. Before modern times, the Berbers would collect undigested argan pits from the waste of goats that climbed the trees to eat the nuts. The pits were then ground and pressed to make the oil, which was used for cosmetics and cooking. Over time, more and more benefits have been discovered in argan oil, which naturally contains essential fatty acids and vitamin E, making it an ideal ingredient to incorporate into spa products and treatments. Today, it is harvested and processed in a more sanitary process with the help of machines, but Berber women are still responsible for extracting the oil by using two rough stones between their knees to crack the nuts. And because the oil is so versatile, the demand for the ingredient is rapidly increasing. “Recently, in the U.S., we realized that there are many uses for argan oil,” says Katharine L’Heureux, founder of Kahina Giving Beauty, a line of products containing 100 percent natural argan oil. “It can be used on the skin, in the bath, to condition dry lips and cuticles, and to remove makeup. I actually swallow a teaspoon a day for even healthier, more glowing skin.”
At International Orange (San Francisco), Kahina Argan Oil is incorporated into facial treatments, during which the oil is massaged into the skin to deeply moisturize it. “The antioxidants in this oil help to protect the skin against free radicals that cause the signs of aging while also hydrating, balancing, and restoring skin’s elasticity,” says L’Heureux. “It is an excellent natural treatment for all skin conditions, including eczema and acne.” At Exhale Mind Body Spa (various locations) products from the Kahina line are used in conjunction with other essential oils to provide an even more pleasant experience during the Anti-Aging Facial (starting at $200, 60 minutes).
Another benefit of this multi-tasking oil is its anti-inflammatory effect, which makes it especially useful to help reduce swelling after cosmetic procedures or waxing. At Sisters Skin Care & Waxing (Skokie, IL), which uses Bioelements products containing argan oil, clients can opt for the Urban Detox Post-Op Facial ($105, 60 minutes), which is designed to soothe fragile skin after an aggressive service, such as a peel. It incorporates Bioelements’s Sebum Control, which includes argan. “Because this particular ingredient calms sensitive skin and normalizes secretions of oily skin, we use it in most of our facials,” says manager Gisele Abdo.
Known for its commitment to providing natural products, Aveda has recently introduced Green Science, a line of products that contain skin-renewing ingredients, including argan. “Argan oil is the key ingredient in our Green Science line because it replenishes lipids and restores barrier integrity of the skin, preventing water loss,” says Shelley Bawiec, director of spa sales and education for Aveda. Aveda Concept Spas across the country are offering clients the Green Science Skin Renewing Treatment (starting at $75, 60 minutes), which includes a face, neck, and décolleté massage using Green Science products. “Products containing argan serve not only as part of a corrective solution to aging concerns but also in a preventative role, which makes them suitable for a wide range of demographics,” says Bawiec.
The mighty powers of argan oil also carry over into the haircare arena, as many spas and salons are incorporating products containing the ingredient into hair services, as well. Moroccanoil, a spa- and salon-exclusive line of haircare products, has developed a cult following among celebrity clients and stylists. The products contain a proprietary argan oil blend and are rich in vitamins and phenols to shield the hair from environmental damage. Clients who visit the salon at Wynn Resort & Spa (Las Vegas) are in for a treat when they choose to add on a scalp massage ($25) featuring Moroccanoil to any service. “Not only do clients get a relaxing massage but the product being penetrated into the scalp also leaves hair sleek, shiny, and beautiful,” says Jorgen Nielson, artistic director of the salon.
Using products that contain the ingredient also has a philanthropic angle. All argan oil sold today is produced by womens’ cooperatives in Morocco, which share the profits among local Berber women, providing healthcare and education. This was one of the reasons L’Heureux created Kahina Giving Beauty. “Not only did I notice an immediate improvement in my skin when I discovered argan but I was also intrigued by the story of the Berber women,” says L’Heureux. “It struck me that I could create a skincare line that women would want to use and help the Berber women at the same time.” Aveda also supports the cooperatives by not only purchasing the oil but also donating $20,000 to help fund the purchase of equipment to automate the labor-intensive processing. So, incorporating argan oil into your treatment menu is a win-win: you are not only boosting your bottom line but also contributing to an important cause, all the while helping your clients look good.