Greetings readers! My name is Claire and I want to share some insights into an amazing natural ingredient that has been used for centuries in Morocco for its beautifying and protective properties – argan oil. As summer approaches and we all spend more time outdoors enjoying the sunshine, it’s crucial that we protect our skin from the harms of UV radiation. In this post, I will explore how argan oil can serve as a “sunshine shield” and aid in UV protection. I hope you find this information helpful as you incorporate argan oil into your skincare routine. Let’s get started!
Most of us are aware that overexposure to the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays can damage our skin. Too much UV exposure over time increases our risk of sunburn, photoaging, and skin cancers like melanoma. However, lathering on chemical sunscreens every time we go outside can seem like a chore and their ingredients sometimes raise health concerns. This is where a natural plant oil like argan oil comes in – with its high concentration of beneficial fatty acids and antioxidant compounds, argan oil exhibits photoprotective properties and may provide supplementary UV defense when used topically on the skin.
While no substitute for broad-spectrum sunscreen, argan oil could be a useful addition to a regular sun protection routine. In this post, I will explain the evidence behind argan oil’s UV protective abilities and share tips for incorporating it into your skincare. My hope is that this information empowers you to care for your skin in a more natural way while still shielding it from sun damage. Full disclosure – I am not a dermatologist, but rather a long-time fan of argan oil who has researched its benefits extensively. Let’s get started!
History and Origins of Argan Oil
To understand argan oil’s potency, we must start with its origin story. Indigenous to Morocco, the argan tree thrives in the dry, hot climate of the Souss-Massa region in the southwestern part of the country. Its oily kernel seeds have been cherished by Berber women in Morocco for centuries – used not just for cooking, but also for medicine, skin and hair care due to their healing properties.
The argan tree is perfectly adapted to withstand harsh conditions – its deep roots can reach underground water resources over 130 feet below the surface. Its leaves are small and greyish-green in color, reducing water loss through transpiration. Simply put, the argan tree has developed strong self-preservation mechanisms to survive prolonged droughts and high temperatures. Scientists believe these adaptations allow it to bio-synthesize highly beneficial compounds within its seeds and resulting oil.
Extraction of argan oil is laborious and time-consuming. Local Berber women spend hours roasting, cracking, grinding and kneading the argan seeds to produce the golden elixir. This traditional process remains largely unchanged for generations. Argan oil has long been an integral part of Berber culture and cuisine, providing economic opportunities for women in rural communities. While mechanization has increased production volumes recently, traditional methods are still preferred to retain oil quality and support community livelihoods.
Now let’s get into why argan oil is such an ideal choice for protecting your skin from the sun’s harmful rays.
Powerful Antioxidant Content
One of argan oil’s greatest strengths lies in its abundant antioxidant profile. Testing has shown it contains high levels of phenolic compounds like ferulic acid, caffeic acid and flavonoids. These natural plant phenols are powerful antioxidants that help stabilize free radicals formed by UV radiation exposure.
When UV rays hit our skin, they can generate reactive oxygen species (ROS) that damage collagen, elastin and DNA if left unchecked. Antioxidants help neutralize these harmful ROS and inhibit photoaging of skin at the cellular level. Studies indicate argan oil has an ORAC value of around 1300 μmol TE/100g – meaning its antioxidant content is comparable or greater than other plant oils reputed for their protective abilities like rosehip, cranberry and pomegranate seed oils.
Additionally, argan oil is rich in tocopherols (vitamin E) which have anti-inflammatory and skin repair effects. Alpha-tocopherol in particular functions as a fat-soluble antioxidant that can repair existing oxidative damage to lipids and protect skin from future harm. Incorporating argan oil’s powerful antioxidant defense shield as part of an overall sun protection regimen makes logical sense.
Retains Skin Hydration
We all know that dry, dehydrated skin is much more susceptible to UV damage compared to well-hydrated skin with healthy lipid barriers. Argan oil keeps skin conditioned with its exceptional moisturizing properties. Composed of roughly 80% essential fatty acids, it penetrates pores easily to deliver deep moisture without feeling heavy or greasy.
The oil contains oleic acid (48-60%) and linoleic acid (14-20%) which are similar in structure and concentration to skin’s natural sebum secretions. This allows it to seamlessly integrate into skin and boost hydration levels. By retaining optimal skin moisture, argan oil maintains structural integrity of the epidermis making it less reactive and prone to impairment from UV assault. Simply protecting skin from within through hydration may aid the healing process if sunburn or irritation occur.
UV Protection Qualities
There is research indicating argan oil has innate UV blocking ability when applied topically. In one study, argan oil was found to protect fibroblasts (skin cells) from UV-induced DNA damage and cytotoxicity with an SPF around 6 due to absorption in the UVA/UVB ranges. Other findings propose an SPF between 4-6 depending on thickness of application.
While this level of protection is still much lower than prescription SPF 30-50 sunscreens, it suggests argan oil filters out some percentage of damaging rays before they penetrate. Its fatty acid composition permits absorption of shorter UVA wavelengths around 340-380 nm range. The oil also contains antioxidants that mop up free radicals formed during UV exposure, providing an extra line of defense beyond physical shielding alone.
When used regularly, argan oil may enhance skin’s intrinsic protection by stimulating melanin production which darkens the epidermis. This natural tanning/browning response upon brief, controlled UV exposure helps shield more sensitive layers below from light damage. Of course, this does not mean sunbathing without proper precautions! But argan oil may give skin a natural “head start” in radiation defense.
Nourishes from Within
All the healthy fats and antioxidant compounds in argan oil provide numerous internal benefits when ingested, including support for optimal skin health from the inside out. Regular consumption may aid absorption of beta-carotene and other micronutrients from foods to then deploy as antioxidants on skin surfaces. Argan oil has a high concentration of vitamin E as well which requires dietary fat for assimilation and topical delivery.
Population studies show communities in argan forest regions tend to have lower rates of UV-related skin cancers compared to other Moroccan groups with less argan consumption. While genetics clearly play a role, dietary factors could offer some protection too – especially when combined with topical application strategies discussed earlier. Overall skin rejuvenation and radiance from within creates an environment less prone to premature photoaging when outdoors.
Tips for Using Argan Oil as a Natural Sun Shield
Okay, with an understanding of how argan oil defends skin at multiple levels, here are some practical suggestions on incorporating it as part of your sun protection routine:
- Apply liberally to all exposed skin 20-30 minutes before sun exposure as a daily moisturizer.
- Reapply at least every 2 hours, more frequently if swimming or sweating heavily. Don’t skip reapplication!
- Focus on commonly forgotten areas like ears, back of hands, forehead, neck and décolletage.
- Store away from heat/light to maintain freshness. Gently warm oil between palms before spreading over skin if needed.
- After sun exposure, pat excess oil still on skin instead of rinsing to let antioxidants tackle free radicals formed.
- Prioritize argan over other cosmetic layers in formula when outside to maximize sun filtering.
- Consider blending argan oil 50:50 with an SPF30 mineral sunscreen formulation to boost both hydration and protection.
- Massage argan oil onto body morning and night for continual internal and external skin defense.
- Swap out other oil serums/moisturizers for argan to benefit from photoprotective compounds.
- Drink a tablespoon of argan oil daily or add to smoothies/oatmeal for dietary UV support.
- Protect lips with argan oil by dabbing a small amount and reapplying frequently.
So in summary – religiously apply argan oil to all exposed skin areas well before sun exposure, be diligent about reapplying every few hours, and continue using atopically to maximize absorption of its nourishing fats and antioxidant compounds. Of course this should still be paired with broad-spectrum mineral sunscreen rated SPF30 or higher for optimal protection when UV activity is strong.