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Argan Oil vs Olive Oil

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Which Natural Oil Is Best for Your Health?

Argan oil has reached the West, and seems to be taking it by storm. However, for much of Western history, olive oil was used for the cosmetic purposes argan is now being praised for. Is argan oil really better than the tried and true olive, or is it a fad that will soon fade away? To separate fact from hyperbole, we've gathered the evidence for both olive and argan oil as they apply to health and beauty.

olive oil

For this comparison, we'll be looking at Aynara pure organic argan oil from Morocco and extra virgin olive oil.

About argan and olive oils

Organic argan oil and extra virgin olive oil are both two time-honored remedies for a number skin and hair conditions. Olives have found their way into Western culture through their significance to the ancient Greeks. Despite the recent interest in other natural oils, olive oil is probably still the most well known and the one that is seen as a standard part of the Mediterranean diet.

Argan oil arrived in the West much more recently, and has only found a following in the last few years. In its native Morocco, however, it has been used for centuries as a skin care oil and part of the standard Moroccan food culture. As an endemic species, the argan tree is tied geographically and culturally to the region in which it grows.

Olive harvesting is still done primarily by hand. Spain is the world's largest producer of olives, supplying 45%, with Italy and Greece coming in at 25% and 20% respectively. Argan nuts are also harvested in a traditional manner, and the area of Morocco where argan trees grow is a protected UNESCO Biosphere, meaning the workers, lands, and practices are protected from the most damaging effects of industrialization.

olive oil versus argan oil

While olive oil is best known for its use in cooking, many home treatments for skin and hair traditionally call for it as well. Argan on the other hand is primarily known as a cosmetic oil, though it's sold and used as both a food and beauty product.

Both oils are gold in color, with olive being paler and taking on a slightly green tint, and argan possessing a more amber hue. Predictably, olive oil has a rich olive scent, while argan is much nuttier.

What are the quantifiable differences?

Now that we've gone over the historic, geographic, cultural, and sensuous differences between argan and olive oils, we should consider the details of their chemical and nutritional composition.

Oleic Acid:

Olive – 55-83%

Argan – 42.8% 


Linoleic Acid:

Olive – 3.5-21%
Argan – 36.8%


Vitamin E

Olive – Yes

Argan – Yes

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Vitamin K

Olive – Yes

Argan – No

Vitamin D

Olive – No

Argan – Yes

Olive oil has a higher percentage of oleic acid, but a noticeably lower level of linoleic. Both contain vitamin E, but olive has vitamin K and argan instead has D. None of these differences make either better or worse than the other overall, but the lack of vitamin D (which argan has in a high percentage) makes olive oil slightly less helpful as a hair supplement. Vitamin K is vital to bone growth and blood clotting, making it ideal as a dietary supplement, but again, less helpful as a skin care oil.

olive oil trees

Practical Comparison

How do these differences affect the day-to-day cosmetic function of these oils?

  • Hair – Olive oil is rarely used as a shampoo alternative, but is a common treatment for damaged hair. By warming the oil and massaging it throughout the hair, then leaving the hair covered for 30 minutes before rinsing, hair harmed by curling irons, hair dryers, and styling products is improved. Thanks to the vitamin E and oleic acid, this cure works.

However, it's worth noting that in areas where the warm olive oil treatment is used, argan oil had not available until recently. In addition to vitamin E and oleic acid, argan oil has vitamin D (an essential nutrient for hair strength), and is gentle enough to be used as a regular shampoo.

  • Skin – Olive oil is another common treatment for softening the skin and clearing up acne, and works in much the same way that argan oil does. Again, although olive oil has higher percentage of oleic acid, argan has a closer balance between oleic and linoleic (omega 6 and 9), and has a much higher level of vitamin E.
  • Nails – Everything that applies to hair and skin in terms of what each oil brings to the table is the same for nails. Argan has more to offer than olive, though in slightly different quantities.

Both olive and argan oil offer very similar things as cosmetic agents, but if both oils had been available to the same groups of people at the same time, argan would be the winner.

Overall Analysis

On the surface, argan and olive oil seem very similar, probably more so than any other two plant-based oils. Olives are more readily available in various regions throughout the world, making even extra virgin olive oil less expensive than pure, organic argan oil from Morocco. But while the fruit of the olive tree may be more familiar to Westerners, Africa's argan nut has evolved to be more beneficial to human hair and skin.

The excitement in the health and beauty industries over argan oil is justified, and now that it's readily available to people throughout the world via online stores, it seems like in the future, argan will be the all natural skin and hair treatment of choice. However, since the majority of olive oil sold worldwide is used in cooking, rather than cosmetics, it's unlikely either industry will suffer from this development.

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