Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Product Review: Argan Oil

I LOVE Argan Oil! I discovered this magical oil last year, 6 months before arriving in Morocco, and it has become my favorite and most essential beauty product. Its popularity in the US is growing – have you noticed it on the shelves of your beauty and health care product aisle?

I was excited to learn that I would be serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in the dry hot desert of Morocco – land of the Argan tree and home to many small cooperatives run by women that harvest and process this magical oil. Argan oil in the southern/Anti-Atlas region of Morocco is abundant and inexpensive. I will be stocking up and sending some home as gifts!

My Argan oil collection...LOVE...

Below are my favorite uses of Argan oil and some of my favorite Argan products
(small sizes and approximate prices listed):
The first time I came across Argan oil was at Sephora. I was in dire need of something that could help the dry skin of my t-zone. Heavy moisturize and mild soap were not working. The sales associate suggested Argan oil, and to my surprise I learned that it was made exclusively in Morocco – the country I would soon be living in. I began to directly apply a few drops of oil, and it immediately began working on my dry, scaly skin. Within a few days my dry patches were gone and my skin was soft and supple.

The wonderful thing about Argan oil is that it mimics your skin's own natural oil, and more importantly it does not feel heavy or greasy on your face. It is also helps to heal blemishes; just apply a drop or two of Argan oil until the area is healed. When there are no areas of my face that need special attention I simply mix a drop or two with my daily (SPF15) and nightly moisturizer for an added healthy boost of Argan oil love.

The Sephora products I purchased were Josie Maran brand – check out her website here. The Argan oil comes in a small glass bottle with a eye dropper for a lid - an eyedropper is the best tool for application. I also love the Josie Maran Argan Daily Moisturizer SPF40. I carry this small bottle in my purse for days when my face needs a little extra sunscreen. I also use it specially on my tattoo when it is exposed to the sun.

15 ml/.5 fl oz Josie Maran Argan Oil – found at Sephora - in stores and online (14.00$)
15 mn/.5 fl oz Josie Maran Argan Daily Moisturizer SPF40 – found at Sephora - in stores and online (14.00$)

Argan oil is great for hair; it is the only product I use after a wash. Just massage a dime or nicke sized amount of Argan oil into damp hair with a special focus on the ends. It absorbs like your body's natural oil and makes hair soft and shiny.

I purchased Moroccan Oil brand in the US – check out their website here. It smells wonderful, but is not 100% Argan oil. Nonetheless, it is very nice in the hair!

25 ml/.85 fl oz Moroccan Oil – found in fine salons (15.00$)

After shaving (any area including armpits!) or exfoliating add some Argan oil to your body lotion and generously slather it on. I use a more affordable brand of Argan oil for my body that I found at my local natural food co-op. Brand names are more expensive, and I highly recommend using Aura Cacia for hair, face, and body.

30 ml/1 fl oz Aura Cacia Argan Oil – found at your natural food co-op (15.00$)

Argan oil is a delicious alternative to olive oil. I satuee veggies in it and add it to salads. You can also do as the Moroccans do: dip fresh baked bread in Argan oil or drizzle it over pasta or cous cous. Yum. I am not sure if you can find Argan oil for cooking in the US, and it is bound to be expensive. In Morocco is is relatively expensive, but when you do the math it comes out to be affordable in dollars: 100 ml/3.4 fl oz Argan oil for cooking – 50dHs (6.25$)

Affordable Argan products purchased in Morocco.
Argan oil purchased in Morocco is much more affordable than in the US. I purchased a spray bottle of oil and some soap from a local cooperative in the Tata region of Morocco (where I work and live). Compare the costs:
40 ml/1.36 fl oz Argan Oil spray – 30dHs (3.75$)
Argan Oil soap – 20dHs (2.50$)

Small local Argan oil cooperatives, which usually employ and are managed by women,
produce wonderful and affordable Argan products that are sold regionally and internationally.
Some Argan Oil resources:

Friday, June 22, 2012

Home Sweet Home Morocco المغرب

  Hello from Akka, Morocco!

Akka is a small, hot, dry desert town at the base of the Anit-Atlas Mountains.  Surrounding Akka are small Berber villages and the largest palmerie/oasis in Morocco.  There are lizards, scorpions, camels, tree-climbing goats, wild dogs, wild cats, roosters, donkeys, sheep, and wild rabbits.  Two days a week we buy our fresh produce from the local farmer's market in town.  The eggs are always fresh, and we can watch a chicken get its head cut off before we take it home to eat. We like it here.
 We visited the palmerie/oasis one day with our host family for a picnic. It was like going to the beach, but there was no ocean.  Sad.
No sandwiches for lunch on our trip to the oasis - it's hot tagine cooked on site!

We have been in Morocco for 3 months - wow! 23 months to go...only. Some things we have observed about Morocco, the people, and the culture (bear in mind these general observations, NOT absolute truths - which is why we say "some" or "most"):

Some Moroccans do not wear seat-belts - in all cars we have ridden in they are not accessible for various reasons.

Some Moroccans rarely if at all brush their teeth.  Toothaches, lack of teeth, and swollen gums are common in adults.

Most Moroccans LOVE sugar and carbs.  White bread and sweet (and I mean syrupy sweet) Moroccan mint tea are daily staples for many Moroccans.  Most Moroccans drink tea like many Americans drink coffee.  Bread is the main food for breakfast and snack, and it is the primary eating utensil for lunch and dinner.  Cous cous, white rice, and white pasta are also eaten on a regular basis. Good luck trying to find brown rice or whole wheat bread.  Sugar in tea, sugar in coffee, sugar in juice, sugar on vegetables, sugar on fruit...

Since most meals are eaten from a communal dish, it is custom not to talk much during the meal (see photo above).  If you talk during your meal, you may not get your share of food.  Most Moroccans eat only with their right hand.  This is because the left hand is considered dirty (as it is used for bathroom things).  Kate being a lefty sometimes makes the mistake of reaching for food with her left hand but is adjusting nonetheless.  Eating with a spoon in the left hand is OK though.

The word "inshallah" (God willing) is used for all future events - even for most definitely certain future events.  "See you tomorrow! Inshallah." See you tomorrow if God wills it.  Even though we are pretty certain that we will see you tomorrow, you just never know...It is a great word to use in place of "maybe" or "no" too.  Our host family: "Would you like to come to dinner?" (which means dinner at 12:30am...so late!).  We say: "Inshallah"  - which is polite for "no thanks".  It is also a great way to put off making a decision until the last minute too.

In regards to events and gatherings - usually there is very little planning ahead and there is a mad rush at the end.  There is usually no strict schedule and things rarely begin on time.

In business people come and go as needed and there are rarely posted "hours".  Even the post office, the only place we have seen with posted hours, oftentimes closes before the posted time. 

Cell phone interruptions are perfectly acceptable in most all situations.

There is no such thing as a line or a queue and the idea of "first come first serve" does not really exist.  At the post office, a bank, a store, or a market you just walk up to the counter and if you stand back a little waiting for the customer ahead of you someone else may walk up in front of you. 

Some Moroccans like to blame natural causes rather than take responsibility for illness/sickness.  A day trip with our host family ended in food poisoning for Kate and heat exhaustion for our host mom's sister. The bad water in the city we visited was to blame. Bed bug bites at our host family's house? It was the humid air in Agadir - bad for circulation.  Some Moroccans like to blame blowing air and cold for illness/sickness too.  Even when it is 100 degrees many Moroccans will not want the windows rolled down in a taxi for fear of getting sick.

These aspects of the culture have been the most interesting, surprising, and the more challenging for us to adjust to.  But now at least we have our own home where we can prepare our own meals with a little less sugar. Below are some photos of our apartment in Akka.
Home sweet home!
Laundry on the roof - it dries in no time!
Kitchen - stove and blender.
Our fancy fridge and laundry buckets.
Our living room - the floor mats also serve as our beds.