Argan oil isn’t easy to make. It takes hours of manual labour, so even in the souks a bargain price can be a tell-tell sign that your oil is impure. As a rule, it should never cost less than around 150 dirham – that’s approximately £11 – for 30 ml, but you might get a slight discount when buying in bulk. That said, it’s still a lot cheaper to buy it in Morocco, than back at home. In the UK, you can fork out up to £50 per 50 ml for a product with added argan oil – and often it’s still just the fourth or fifth product on the long list of ingredients, which appear in descending order. So put down the fridge magnet and invest in an authentic souvenir. Just don’t forget, if you’ve only got hand luggage, then you need to stick to a bottle of 100ml or less.
Argan oil’s not called liquid gold for nothing, and Morocco’s rare natural treasure is even helping finance a bunch of female-dominated cooperatives. These mini-businesses are scattered around the country and employ women from the surrounding Berber villages. With the demand for argan oil so high, they’ve become hugely successful and it’s become a game-changer for remote societies. In fact, some local women are now the primary breadwinners for their families, which would’ve been unheard of a decade ago. As well as providing a base to educate and empower women, the cooperatives help teach them a trade – and it’s not an easy one at that. First, the nuts are gathered from the trees and dried. Then, they’re cracked open and the seeds inside are crushed to produce a paste. The paste is then squeezed into the rich oil. To put it into perspective, it takes one woman three days to make just one litre of oil. You can easily visit one of the cooperatives – a couple of the big names include the Tighanimine Cooperative near Agadir and there are others in the Ourika Valley, just over an hour’s drive from Marrakech. Visit our excursions site to find out more about the trips we offer.
These days, you’ll see the word ‘argan oil’ plastered over plenty of products. But we’ll let you into a little secret – most of them only have a tiny amount of the actual oil in them. To get 100% pure argan oil for an affordable price, you really need to make a beeline for the souks or cooperatives in Morocco. And you can get a virtual look at the Red City’s medina in our video. There’s a big reason why it’s important to buy 100% pure, and that’s because when it’s mixed with other ingredients, it actually reduces the effects of the argan oil.
But how can you tell if argan oil is 100% pure or not? Follow our five handy tips on what to look for…
1. One ingredient
The list should be short and sweet – 100% argan oil – sometimes written as Argania Spinosa Kernel Oil. That’s it. No preservatives, no fragrances, no water. Simple.
2. Dark glass packaging
Generally, the best argan oil will come in a dark glass pot or bottle. The reason is simple – light breaks down the oil’s properties, so clear, plastic bottles are less reliable.
3. Mild smell
Smelling the oil is another giveaway sign. Genuine argan oil has a mild, nutty scent, but the more it smells the worse the quality. Plus, it shouldn’t have any whiff of other oils, like olive oil.
4. Golden-yellow colour
Cosmetic argan oil comes in a light, golden shade of yellow. If the colour’s too light, it could be a sign that it’s been meddled with, and mixed with other oils. If you’re after culinary argan oil, however, it’s usually a golden-brown colour.
5. The consistency
Argan oil should feel silk-soft and non-greasy, so if you’ve ended up with a slightly slimy oil, then it’s probably a fake. Any genuine seller will be happy for you to sample some before you buy.
If you do get the real deal, then you’re in for a treat. It’s got more uses than you can shake a stick at – think stretch marks, razor burn, acne, dry skin and blemishes, to mention just a few. On the whole, we’d say that’s definitely worth the trip.
TUI SENSIMAR Medina Gardens are a great base for shoppers, with Marrakech’s bustling markets only five minutes’ walk away.
Riad Catalina is a restored 18th-century residence complete with a pretty courtyard garden and rooftop pool overlooking the Atlas Mountains. Perfect for pretending you're a Wise Master.
Argan oil massages take a starring role on the spa menu at the beachfront Riu Tikida Dunas.
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