In praise of Argan
Do you really need to spend the earth on fancy moisturisers and serums? In a word, no. Argan oil will be a friend to your face and your purse – this cheap as chips facial superstar is probably the best-kept beauty secret going.
Argan rescue serum by Wild Wood Groves costs just £14 (for 15ml) while the Argan, neroli and sandalwood blend will set you back a mere £12.50. I dabbed one on in the morning and one at night and after just a few days I noticed my skin was feeling noticeably softer and smoother. After a week, I was hooked.
But don’t just take my word for it. Sophie Dahl is a fan, and a very enthusiastic one. ‘I love love love Wild Wood Groves’ Argan oil blends,’ she says. ‘The Lavender is magical in the bath, and the Baby blend is perfect for even the most temperamental of skins. Gentle and ethical, they are total bliss for the skin.’
Argan oil’s anti-ageing properties are due to high levels of Vitamin E and sapponins, which soften the skin. It can help to reduce wrinkles by restoring the skin’s water lipid layer and it also cools and soothes inflammation. Its antioxidant properties help to neutralise free radicals. Yet it does all this quite naturally. The oils are pure – there are no synthetic chemicals that could cause irritation in sensitive skin.
The argan tree (argania spinosa) is incredibly ancient, dating back millions of years to the Tertiary period. It once covered North Africa and parts of Southern Europe but now only 860,000 hectares remain (in Morocco) and these are declining rapidly. So in 1999 the argan was protected as a UNESCO Biosphere Heritage.
‘It was known as the Tree of Life,’ says Ruth Hajioff of Wild Wood Groves. ‘For centuries it’s been a well-kept secret known only to the Berber women who use it to nourish their skin, hair and nails. They also use it to soothe dry eczema, acne and psoriasis. Plus it’s great for stretch marks.’ Ruth discovered argan on a trip to Morocco and was intrigued. ‘The oil is harvested and pressed by the tribeswomen,’ she explains. ‘It can take up to ten hours to crack enough nuts to produce one litre of finest quality oil.’
An acupuncturist and herbalist, she swiftly recognised the unique properties of the oil and resolved to import it, helping preserve both the tree and the traditional lifestyle of the local women. Dr Mark Nesbitt of the Centre of Economic Botany at Kew encouraged her plans and so WildWood Groves was born.
However, to get the maximum benefit from argan you should take it internally as well as externally. ‘It contains twice as much vitamin E as olive oil and is rich in antioxidants,’ says Ruth. ‘It contains eight essential fatty acids and also rare plant sterols with anti-inflammatory properties, so it’s beneficial for arthritic or rheumatic conditions.’ The oil is delicious – with a warm nutty taste. Use as a salad dressing or drizzle over pasta – the health-giving properties are lost if it’s heated. Okay, so it is more expensive than your average salad oil (£7.50 for 60ml) but, seeing as you’ve saved a fair few bob on your normal moisturiser, I figure you could treat yourself.
Wild Wood Groves (www.argan.co.uk; 0208 458 2738)
Five other natural anti-ageing oils
- Rose & Frankincense Revitalising face oil by Aromatherapy Associates (£38.75 for 15ml) – heavenly scented rose, frankincense and borage www.aromatherapyassociates.com
- Orange Flower facial oil by Neal’s Yard (£23 for 30ml) – also includes pomegranate, hemp and sea buckthorn www.nealsyardremedies.com
- Night Nourisher by Vaishaly (£65 for 30ml) – mix of bergamot, lemon, orange, coriander and petigrain. www.vaishaly.com
- Superskin Concentrate by Liz Earle (£37 for 28ml) – includes argan along with rosehip, neroli, lavender and chamomile. www.lizearle.com
- Rose Aromatherapy Face Oil by Micheline Arcier (£26 for 15ml) – rose maroc and otto rose are blended with jojoba. www.michelinearcier.com