Beauty: Compassionate Ingredient Sourcing, by Kristen Ma

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 my Moroccan voyage, my number one mission was to visit an argan oil field. I even informed my husband that beach time would only happen once I had seen these lovely olive-like treasures turned into precious skin-beautifying liquid. 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. Thank heavens argan oil cooperatives were pretty easy to locate as they are abundant in this area. 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; while we were there, we were introduced to the widow employees at the cooperative who were now better able to financially support themselves. Did I mention this cooperative was EcoCert certified? Each detail made me giddy.

At 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 used to create this amazing argan oil.

The process starts by cracking open the freshly-picked argan. Its outermost shell is used to feed animals for no wastage. After this, a second layer must be removed in order to get at the prized nut. This layer is also not discarded; instead, it is used for fire or fed to animals. The lovely inner argan is then 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. The paste is then hand mixed with water and rolled into little cake-like patties. As they dry, 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 and browsed through all the wonderful items they sold. I ran up quite a tab and could see that the staff were surprised that I bought so much. 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. They seemed pretty intrigued, proving that everywhere in the world women share the same interest in self-care and beauty! It was such a pleasure to see exactly where and how the argan oil is made for our Holistic Vanity Restorative Raw Argan Oil and to meet the wonderful women that have been empowered because of this industry.

Kristen Ma PhotoKristen Ma is the co-owner of Pure + Simple Inc., a group of Holistic Spas with its own line of Natural Skincare and Mineral Make-up.  She is an Ayurvedic Practitioner who has studied in Canada, the United States and India.  She is also a Certified Esthetician with eight years of practical experience, having worked in Canada as well as Australia.  Most recently, Kristen has authored “Beauty: Pure + Simple” which was published by Mc Arthur and Company.  Kristen has written on the subject of Holistic Beauty for Vitality Magazine, Blink and Jasmine.  She is also a regular contributor to B Magazine, Tonic and Sweat Equity Magazine.

For more information on Kristen, please visit