We were recently asked by a reader if there is any scientific evidence on the benefits of using argan oil to treat dry hair and scalp.
Argan oil is native to Morocco and has been used for centuries in foods and topical preparations. It is a plant oil produced from the argan tree (Argania Spinosa L). Studies have found that the oil has cardioprotective and anti-thrombotic effects when ingested.
Over the past several years, it has become popular in hair care products. While the benefits of consumption of argan oil have been well-studied, its use for hair has not been documented in peer-reviewed literature.
Argan oil may be used on any hair type. It is available in shampoos, conditioners, and leave-in products. I have found that argan oil is beneficial for patients with curly hair, particularly those of African or African-American descent, because it helps to reduce frizz and adds shine. A small amount may be applied to the scalp if dry.
In patients with fine hair, too much oil can be greasy and may weigh curls down. In those cases, small amounts of the oil may be more beneficial. If too much product is used, clarifying shampoos may help remove excess oil.
The number of personal care products on the U.S. market with argan oil as an ingredient increased from just 2 in 2007 to over 100 in 2011. There are many hair care brands that contain argan oil including Moroccanoil, DermOrganic, Josie Maran, One 'N Only, and Organix, among others.
There has been one report of anaphylaxis to argan oil in the literature (Allergy 2010;65:662–3). Studies must be done to assess its actual efficacy for dermatologic scalp conditions and use for ethnic hair.
- Naissan Wesley, M.D.
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