Why argan oil is so expensive

woman making argan oil
© Ilana E. Strauss

If you've ever seen Moroccan argan oil on cosmetic store shelves, you may have wondered how anyone could charge $50 for a tiny bottle of organic oil. Or perhaps you never thought of it. Honestly, I never did, until I went to Morocco.

Locals have been making argan oil there for a long time. After asking around for weeks, I finally got Fatimah (the woman photographed above) to let me watch her do it. Only then did I understand why that stuff is so expensive.

Here's the deal: To start, you have to pick fruit from argan trees, a spiky desert tree that grows almost exclusively in Morocco. This fruit resembles an olive. It's hard, so people often need a little help getting the nut out: they have goats eat the fruit and poop the nuts out.

They toast the nuts. Then they crack open the nuts between two pieces of rock. Once the nuts is cracked in half, they pull out the seeds.

That's when the process really gets difficult. They grind up the seeds, mix the ground seeds with water, and mash it all with their hands until they end up with a Play-Doh-like paste. They squeeze oil out of the paste with their bare hands. It's really tough on the hands (my hands were screaming in pain after I tried it for a couple minutes). Women generally do this, and their hands get crazy strong.

So that's how argan oil is made. I will never complain about argan oil prices.

Why argan oil is so expensive
It's an incredibly hard process.

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