Argan Oil: A miracle beauty product or an environmental danger?
By Chloe Crockford
Argan oil is becoming an increasingly popular beauty product on the market. Argan oil has plenty of benefits including soothing dry skin, making hair softer, can be used as a nutritious cooking oil and also an aid in joint pain. With all these added benefits argan oil gives, demand for it has increased rapidly, impacting a threat of deforestation to the argan trees in Morocco.
The Argan tree play a vital role in Morocco and their environment, with argan oil production inflicting a concerned issue of deforestation. In 1998 Morocco’s argan forest was declared a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in 1998, proving how beneficial they are to their environment.
In order to get the oil from the fruit, it involves a long yet resourceful process. All parts of the fruit have further use for the villages, not just for the beauty market. The process involves drying the fruit and the extracting the nut. The nut is then cracked to expose the kernels and then pressed to release the oil. The outer pulp of the fruit helps to provide food for the village animals and the shell is a useful source to burn for fuel.
However, with the popularity of the product, forests are deemed to fall victim to deforestation to meet the demands, and the prospect of poor quality produced oil. It is said that the villagers use the fruit that has already fallen from the tree. Although, to keep up with the high demand, villagers help force the fruit to fall by hitting the tree with sticks to enable the fruit to fall, damaging the precious trees.
The argan oil industry has also helped women in the village to gain independence and a chance to earn their own income.
Popular beauty brand L’Oreal teamed together with their supplied BASAF to help set up a programme which works with six women’s co-operatives producing argan oil. Not only are the women able to earn their own money, they are also provided with access to education and healthcare.
However, the Berber women in the co-operatives are not harnessed on how to run a business, risking exploitation. A lot of training is required in order for the process to work and women to maintain the business. Although, if this is to fail, they are resroted to working under the husband or father of the co-operative’s president, leaving them to have very little advantages and benefits from the job.
Other popular beauty brands such as Lush also produce a variety of product requiring the ingredient of argan oil. Lush receive the products from their supplier who work with a 22 women’s co-operatives across the region. Lush help to work alongside the co-operatives ensuring working standards are monitored and always improving, but there can be a lack of professionalism from the co-operatives to their international customers.
Sidi Yasinne, an argan oil producing organisation was set up by a previous Swiss national persuing an advertising executive career. The organisation was a dream of Ulysses Müller, aiming to pay fair wages to women working in the industry. Sidi Yassine aim to produce argan oil they have resources for at high quality and have had to cut ties with beauty brands for the demand of the oil at the risk of poorer quality oil.
So in order to obtain reassurance that our argan oil products are made from a sustainable cooperative model, we need to ensure products are using a fair-trade label. However, not all products will use these labels on their products and might be worth researching into the product to whether they are purchasing directly from co-operatives.