Argan Oil and Acne

Posted By: Roccoco Botanicals Published: 07/07/2017 Comments: 0

Today's post has come about due to much dissent in the green beauty industry surrounding Argan oil and its use.  First I want to state that yes it does have benefits for the skin, however we don't recommend it for acne prone skins and we will explain why in a minute.  The second thing you need to be aware of is that comedogenicity testing is not done anymore.  There are a lot of new ingredients emerging that are natural that were previously not used in cosmetics and therefore there is no testing done on them to verify their potential to clog or not clog a pore, therefore in order to make sense of it you need a solid scientific background or you simply WILL NOT join the dots to work out why things are happening.

There are many websites and blogs on the internet that just disseminate information without factually checking anything.  This is how URBAN MYTHS develop.  Once urban myths develop it is incredibly difficult to break that belief even though it is not true.  Just because argan oil is written 100 times on different websites that it is non comedogenic does not MEAN it is NON COMEDOGENIC.  It means 100 people can copy and paste because at no point has there ever been ANY evidence to say it is non comedogenic.

Even if they were to test Argan oil on rabbit ears, animal skin does not support the growth of P. acnes, which is the bacteria responsible for acne.  The reason why it doesn't support p.acnes bacteria is because animal sebum doesn't contain triglycerides.  This is a major reason why there is no satisfactory animal model available for inflammatory acne [1].  Inflammatory acne is the predominant type of acne seen in adult women.

One of our missions at Roccoco is to educate.  If we see someone saying something is non comedogenic when it is in our knowledge and experience, then we are not just going to sit back and be politically correct so we don't offend anyone's feelings.  To me this is the equivalent of overhearing someone spreading rumours about your best friend and you just let it continue… no true friend would even consider doing that.  We are the same with our defence of acne skins particularly, because there is so much out there that just makes their skin worse and I for one am not about to just sit by idly and watch it happen.   The green beauty industry is not used to being "challenged" by anyone.  Everyone just accepts what is said at face value without actually scrutinizing anything.

In order to keep to the topic of acne I am not going to go into other benefits of argan oil such as reducing pigmentation.  This will end up being a novel otherwise and diverts away from the point.  So understand I am not saying the ingredient doesn't have benefit at all, we just don't recommend for acne.

So let's get on to the good, the bad and the ugly about Argan Oil.

Chemical Components

Argan oil contains tocopherols (vitamin E), sterols (phytosterols), polyphenols, ferulic acid, carotenoids, squalene and fatty acids. Chemical analysis reveals a composition of the following fatty acids:

44% Oleic acid;
30% Alpha-linolenic acid;
12% Palmitic acid;
6% Stearidonic acid;
5% Linoleic acid; and
3% Myristic acid.

The first part I want to address is the antioxidants contained in Argan Oil.  Many consumers look at the antioxidant component and believe therefore it must be good as it is high in antioxidants.  The same could be said about Olive Oil too, yet Olive Oil despite it's high antioxidant status actually stops the skin from repairing itself.  So whilst antioxidant status is important, it is not the only thing you should be looking at.

Argan oil has been shown to reduce sebum and that is great, but sebum is not the only thing needed for acne formation.  It has been shown that acne lesions exist in pre-pubescent skin even when there is no oil production.  So reducing oil does not just fix acne by itself.

I also need to point out there is acne and there is a slight breakout.  There is various grades of acne.  Many clients think they have acne when in reality they are having a hormonal breakout.  There is a difference.  True acne doesn't go away with age.  I am 46 and still get breakouts from eating wrong foods

Argan oil contains squalene which is also found in human sebum.  Squalene actually promotes acne formation.  I will explain how in a minute.

First-press argan oil contains 3,100 mg/kg squalene.  What is first press?  It is the first time the nut is squeezed.  They squeeze the nuts more than once to get the oil out.  Squalene has been known to oxidise and once it oxidizes it forms peroxides which are highly comedogenic.  Oxidized squalene is known to be one of the major triggers of comedones and acne breakouts.

Do not make the mistake of mixing up SqualAne and SqualEne.  I have highlighted the difference in the spelling.  Squalane is saturated and does not undergo oxidation.  Squalene does undergo oxidation and when it oxidizes it generates the formation of blackheads or comedones.  Our own sebum also contains Squalene and when it oxidizes the result is an increase in blackheads, comedones and inflammatory lesions.  This is why initially your skin improves when you go in the sun.  The UV light is antibacterial, but it also oxidizes the squalene in your sebum which is why about 4 weeks later after that holiday you enjoyed you end up with breakouts.



Argan Oil also contains Oleic Acid in a moderate amount.  Other oils that are known to contain Oleic Acid in a moderate amount are listed as 2-3 for comedogenicity.  Oleic Acid is known to disrupt the skin barrier.  This presents in an acne skin as hyperproliferation of cells.

So when you look at the slide below the slide marked A is normal skin.  E is the use of Palmitoleic acid and Slide F is Oleic acid.  One of the reasons we don't use oils high in Oleic Acid is for this reason.  It is known to disrupt the skin barrier.  Now this study which is in the references is only apply 10% of this substance on the skin.  So it is oleic acid at 10%.  Argan oil contains a lot more than this.


Now I know that someone is going to say we can't isolate parts of an oil and that you have to look at everything in perspective, but even considering this there are other studies which point to the fact than any oils that contain more than 25% Oleic Acid disrupt the skin barrier and cause excessive scaling and dryness.  This is something that was never consider prior as vegetable oils were considered to be innocuous and not harmful in any way.  You only have to read the studies on Almond Oil being applied during pregnancy to understand this is not the case.  Almond oil application to the abdomen is associated with pre-term births.  Yep…shocking isn't it.  When I read that I was thinking "you are kidding".

Even when they accounted for varying factors they could only attribute it to the almond oil use.  Do NOT fall into the trap of thinking everything natural is good for you.  It just isn't.

Argan oil is also emerging as an irritant and causing contact dermatitis.  This is perhaps where acnegenicity comes in.  Acnegenicity is when the application of a substance irritates and the result is a release of interleukin-1a which results in a massive cyst or pimple usually.  Because the use of Argan oil is in its infancy there is very little research on the adverse effects that are starting to just emerge.

Oils that are higher than 25% Oleic Acid impact the skin.  A study was done to examine the various components of vegetable oils and there ability to disrupt the skin barrier.

Plant-derived oils are becoming more prevalent in skincare product formulations. The chemical compositions of these oils consist primarily of triglycerides with various fatty acid chains and small fractions of FFA (Free fatty acids).  Free fatty acids are inflammatory and make acne worse.  They are a food source for the acne bacteria.  The more free fatty acids the worse the acne generally gets.

In this study, mixtures of OA (Oleic Acid) and glyceryl trioleate (GT) were used to mimic the natural oils used in skincare formulations to better understand their effects on skin barrier function.  They examined various percentages of Oleic Acid to Glyceryl Trioleate to mimic the different compositions in different vegetable oils.  Below is a direct quote from the study showing that Oils higher than 25% Oleic Acid is a problem.

"Plant-derived oils have been traditionally used as massage oils and have recently gained popularity in skincare formulations. Several studies have investigated the effects of plant oils as skin protectants (40, 41). However, the presence of FFAs in plant oils and their associated skin penetration requires more thorough study. Herein, the effects of several OA/GT mixtures on skin barrier function were studied in vivo. The mixtures were found to disrupt both the inside-out (TEWL) and outside-in (fluorescein penetration) skin barrier functions in an OA dose-dependent fashion. A single topical application of the mixtures with >25% OA was able to elevate TEWL and fluorescein penetration in 24 h, suggesting that the occlusive effects of triglycerides, major component of plant oils, are not able to counteract the skin barrier disruption caused by FFAs. Further efforts should be devoted to elucidate the maximum FFA percentage in plant-oil-based formulations to guarantee safe repetitive topical application."


This is why we don't use oils higher than 25% and why we don't use Argan Oil.  Behind my ear is still recovering from my lapse in judgement and the lure of shiny hair beckoned yesterday, so I caved and used my Argan Oil product that I have.  Every time without fail that I use it I get acne.  I am also not the lone ranger with this phenomenon of acne occurring after use.  If you are get acne it is not an oil we recommend at all to use.


Pagnoni A, Kligman AM, el Gammal S, Stoudemayer T. Determination of density of follicles on various regions of the face by cyanoacrylate biopsy: correlation with sebum output. Br J Dermatol 1994; 131:862–865.

Katsuta Y, Iida T, Inomata S, Denda M. Unsaturated fatty acids induce calcium influx into keratinocytes and cause abnormal differentiation of epidermis.  J Invest Dermatol. 2005 May;124(5):1008-13.

Mary Catherine Mack Correa, Guangru Mao, Peter Saad, Carol R. Flach, Richard Mendelsohn and Russel M. Walters. Molecular interactions of plant oil components with stratum corneum lipids correlate with clinical measures of skin barrier function.  Experimental Dermatology, 2014, 23, 39–44

Tags: Acne, acne treatment, argan, argan oil, comedogenic lists, comedogenicity


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