Very few things make me excited enough to squeal, but visiting an organic argan oil manufacturing cooperative makes it onto the list. While in Essouira during our Moroccan voyage, my number one mission was to visit an argan oil field. I informed Ben that play time on the beach would only happen once I had seen these lovely olive-like treasures turned into precious skin-beautifying liquid. Thank heavens it was pretty easy to find as argan oil cooperatives are abundant in this area; they are sprinkled all around Essouira. It is a rare fruit to find, and the area between Agadir and Essouira is the only place in the world argan oil is made. Read on to learn all about argan oil’s efficient production, as well as how I ended up doing skin analysis on some of the lovely ladies in the cooperative…not at all intentionally!
Beyond loving argan oil out of esthetic fanaticism (for dehydration and eczema), I also appreciate it for what it has done to empower women in Morocco as most of it is made at all-female cooperatives. Part of the impressive women’s movement here, argan oil cooperatives have provided work opportunities and independence for Moroccan women – and our guide introduced us to the widow employees at the cooperative who were now better able to financially support themselves. Beauty women for women by women for women? A mouthful to say, but a tongue twister I’m happy to attempt. Did I mention this cooperative was EcoCert certified? Each detail made me giddy.
As the cooperative, Ben and I were led through the argan-making process in both English and French, and at the end we got to taste the toasted argan oil (for cooking) as well as try the different argan oil products they make on-site for skincare. The process is really interesting, especially because it is done with zero waste, making it very sustainable. Below are the steps to creating this amazing argan oil.
We begin with the argan plucked right from the tree.
Then we need to crack open the argan shells. These outer shells are then used to feed animals for no wastage!
After this, there is still another inner layer that must be removed to get at the prized nut. This layer is also not discarded. Instead, it is used for fire or fed to animals.
Then, the lovely inner argan is ground up into a paste. The argan oil used in cooking and food is roasted before this stage, but the argan oil used for cosmetics is ground up raw. This paste can also be used as argan butter…a delicious almond butter-esque treat. I bought some that was mixed with organic honey (yum!). It reminds me of how my grandma would grind up black sesame seeds to make gee-ma-woo (black sesame paste used in chinese desserts).
Then the paste is hand mixed with water and rolled into little cake-like patties. As this dries, the oil separates from them and is collected. What is left are dry, black argan cakes that are fed to animals (the guide called them “chocolates for animals”) – or ground up and made into black soap. Again, super efficient!
After seeing the argan oil being made, I headed into the cooperative store to taste what had just been produced as well as to browse through all the wonderful items they sold. While I ran up quite a tab, buying argan oil infused with rose, gardenia, and musk, I also purchased some argan powder mixed with orange blossom water to exfoliate, some toasted argan food oil (which is AMAZING on salad) and black soap. I could see that the staff were surprised that I bought so much so I explained in my terrible french that I was an esthetician and loved natural beauty products. The girls got really excited and asked me to analyze their skin and make some recommendations. At first I was so surprised that I thought I was misunderstanding something via my high school french capabilities, but no – the guide confirmed in English that they wanted a beauty consultation.
Somehow I ended up not only doing a skin analysis but also explaining the difference between dryness and dehydration, the importance of sun protection, and the connection between poor digestion and acne…all while hoping that I was communicating this effectively in french paired with my best mime skills. They seemed pretty intrigued, proving that everywhere in the world women share the same interest in self-care and beauty!