Known as 'liquid gold' or 'the gold of Morocco', you've probably all heard of the 'miracle' ingredient that is argan oil.

Used for centuries as a treatment for skin diseases and to improve the health of hair, it is a solution produced from the kernels of argan trees, which are found growing on the semi-arid soils of south west Morocco.

Argan oil is produced from the kernels of argan trees

A superfood that's super good!

The oil contains twice as much vitamin E as olive oil, as well as a number of vital antioxidants. What's more, you can eat it, earning it a place on the list of sought-after 'superfoods'. The presence of oleic acid in argan oil makes it a good solution for people with high cholesterol levels as even a very small amount can considerably lower cholesterol for over a month. Other acids present in the oil include three different kinds of prostaglandins, which are beneficial for people with cardiovascular disorders and inflammatory conditions.

The vitamin E content is good for regulating the heart function, and the sterols in the oil are even thought to be anti-cancerous. Chuck in the fact that it can help aid digestion, is helpful for those with arthritis and rheumatic diseases, can protect against degenerative processes in the long bones of the body, can be used against acne and chicken pox, and is claimed to be an aphrodisiac and it's no wonder we've suddenly all gone argan oil crazy.

So why is it so popular with those in the pursuit of beauty?

A must-have ingredient

Cosmetic uses of Argan oil are numerous. It has a strengthening effect on hair, nails and skin, it prevents the skin from premature aging symptoms such as wrinkles and crow's feet, and it is helpful for quickly curing burns or softening other marks on the skin, particularly after pregnancy. Where we see it most among our animal-friendly brands is in hair products. It is commonly used in styling and heat protection treatments, leave-in conditioners, and as a hot  oil and hair growth serum. You can use it to eliminate frizz, contact friction and to prevent hair breakage, and it's great for enhancing curls and boosting volume. It really is one of those jack-of-all-trade products that every girl should have in their beauty bag.

Argan Oil is a great all-rounder

Food for the skin

There is an association for everything nowadays and, yes you guessed it, there's one for argan oil. The Argan Oil Society was formed to spread the word about it benefits and claims: "Cosmetic argan oil works as a food for skin and no other product available in the world has cosmetic benefits like it does.

"It has the tremendous ability to restore the natural freshness and tightness of skin, it prevents the wrinkles caused by premature aging, and it is very helpful in removing stretchmarks and wrinkles after pregnancy.

Argan oil can be very effective on stretchmarks

"It also strengthens hair, restoring shine and adding lustre. Due to its highly diffusible nature it easily penetrates into the hair follicles and strengthens these from the roots. It also cures the split ends by ensuring the hair is properly nourished and increasing circulation to the follicles. Similarly, Argan oil soothes the cuticles and gives strength to nails. It has no comparison with any other natural product available in the market."

Well that's some big talk, but if you want to see what all the fuss is about for yourself then here's some advice on how to use it.

  • Skin: If using on the skin you only need a few drops and then massage very gently as it is easily absorbed. It can be used at night to prevent drying and a small volume on wrinkles and stretchmarks twice a day will work wonders.

  • Nails: Mix equal parts of argan oil and lemon juice. Dip your fingers into the mixture up to the cuticles for just a few minutes. This will be enough to restore even the flakiest, weakest nails to prime condition. You can also use it on your toes.

  • Hair: If it's your hair you want to improve then there are two choices. You can either apply a few drops, combing from root to tip, half an hour before shampooing (wrapping your hair in a towel with aid the process); or you can apply it sparingly to dry hair to boost freshness before going out.

Buying cruelty-free

Well now you know what it does, you need to know where you can get some and, of course, the cruelty-free brands on our Where to Shop list have it covered. Dr Organic has a whole argan range featuring day cream, night cream, hair treatment oil, facial oil, body wash, shampoo, conditioner, hand and nail balm, breast firming cream, and an anti-ageing stem cell system, among others. Biorganics also uses the ingredient in a number of its products, including its Salon Secret Elixir Hair Perfecting Oil (click here to see our review); and the Total Treat range from Phil Smith Be Gorgeous (available exclusively at Sainsbury's) which includes Transforming Argan Oil and a styling cream (both £4.49).

Other brands to check out are Melvita, Molton Brown, Neal's Yard Remedies, Weleda, and Paul Mitchell. So what are you waiting for?

Cruelty-free brands have got Argan oil covered!

To download a copy of this feature and others from our library, click here.

The information given in this feature (ie the cruelty-free status of the brands, product information and prices) is correct at the time of publication (July 2013). For an up-to-date list of cruelty-free brands and their contact details, please see our Where To Shop Guide