CLOCKWISE FROM LEFT: Hairdresser’s Invisible Oil, Bumble and Bumble ($38). Luna Salon, 1216 Walnut St., 215-546-5862. Elixir Kultime, Kérastase ($54). Oggi, 1700 Locust St., 215-735-0707. Cleansing Bar, Moroccanoil ($10). Bluemercury, 1707 Walnut St., 215-569-3100. Superbly Restorative Argan Dry Oil, Kiehl’s ($32). 1737 Walnut St., 215-636-9936. Bath Oil ($63) and Body Souffle ($52), Moroccanoil. Bluemercury, 1707 Walnut St., 215-569-3100.
The original tale may have begun thousands of years ago in the Atlas Mountains of Morocco, but for more modern purposes, the contemporary story of argan oil and beauty started six years ago in an Israeli hair salon. It was 2006, and Carmen Tal found herself due at a wedding with a hair emergency. “My highlights had come out orange, and in order to fix them, the hairdresser used a permanent black dye. My hair was ruined, but I refused to have it cut. So my sister- in-law took me to a salon where I was given argan oil, and my hair went back to being in great condition,” Tal explains. “It was love at first sight.”
Converted, Tal and her husband bought the small company distributing argan oil and launched the brand Moroccanoil. The reaction was stupendous—not since John Frieda’s Frizz-Ease had there been such a revolution within the haircare world. Industry bible behindthechair.com has awarded Moroccanoil Treatment its Product You Can’t Live Without Award for the past four years, and it’s reportedly the redcarpet standby of everyone from Natalie Portman to Scarlett Johansson.
“I think we have finally caught on to what the Moroccans have known for hundreds of years,” says local esthetician Stacy Abramson, from Adolf Biecker’s Main Line location (508 W. Lancaster Ave., Strafford, 610-687-4750). “Argan oil is rich in vitamin E, beta carotene, essential fatty acids, squalene, and ferulic acid. These powerful ingredients make it a potent antioxidant, with anti-inflammatory and moisturizing benefits.”
“Cosmetically, it has been used for centuries to simultaneously hydrate and to treat acne and oily skin,” adds Dr. Christina Chung, assistant professor at the Drexel University College of Medicine Department of Dermatology, adding that although no controlled studies have been performed, “it has been thought to possess anti-proliferative [cancer chemoprotective], anti-diabetic, anti-inflammatory, and cardiovascular- protective properties.” John Philipp, president and CEO of Tru Beauty Concepts, notes, “People have been using products similar to argan oil that had a synthetic base and tended to be heavier. Argan oil, on the other hand, has a healing property.”
So it is little surprise that the list of adopters grows longer by the day. Of course, it’s the superstar ingredient in Moroccanoil’s argan-rich body collection, which comprises orange-zest-laden scrubs and silky hydrating hand creams. But take a look around and you’ll see it’s also the lynchpin ingredient of Kiehl’s (1737 Walnut St., 215-636-9936) Superbly Restorative Argan range. “It helps to enrich and maintain skin’s moisture barrier levels,” explains Cammie Cannella, Kiehl’s vice president of education and consumer relations.
And it seems that local experts are longtime converts. At Art + Science (4259 Main St., 215-482-2242), esthetician Emily Koller says she has been a big believer in the super-ingredient for years, explaining that it was during a research trip to Morocco that the Aveda team struck gold. “They noticed how beautiful, soft, and youthful the hands of the indigenous tribes were,” says Koller, “and wondered, What are they using?”
The nut also has impressive eco-credentials. Julie Ebner, owner of local organic salon Juju Salon & Organics (713 S. Fourth St., 215-238- 6080), explains: “It’s sustainably grown in a Unesco-protected area of Morocco, through cooperatives run by the women in neighboring Berber tribes. So it provides profits that ensure healthcare and education.” Juju uses pure argan oil—both straight from the bottle and mixed with skincare products like a rose foaming face wash and handmade hibiscus exfoliant—for treatments like its specialized organic facial.
Marla Beck, the brains behind beauty boutique Bluemercury (1707 Walnut St., 215-569-3100), sees it as part of a wider trend of Americans embracing oils. “Years ago oils were predominantly found in French or Japanese products. The French had beautiful aromatherapy-based oils, which you could use under a moisturizer, and the Japanese are famous for their oil-based cleansers. Now that many American brands offer oil-based cleansers and face oils, there is broader acceptance and interest in using them.” She singles out Bobbi Brown’s Extra Face Oil, La Mer The Cleansing Fluid, and Moroccanoil’s new body scrub as three of the best sellers in her trio of local stores.
It’s the same story over at Rescue Rittenhouse Spa (255 S. 17th St., 215-772-2766), where customers have been raving about oils from cult French brand Darphin. “They have care oils that can be used on the face,” says senior medical esthetician Michelle Martin-Thomas, whose go-to for aging skin is Organic Jasmine Aromatic Care. “Attitudes are definitely changing—Americans are becoming more savvy and educated about the benefits of oils for skincare, and in Philadelphia we’re ahead of the curve.”