Moroccan oil from the desert shrub Argania spinosa was commercially developed as an ecologic/economic strategy. Goals were to halt Sahara expansion by encouraging shrub planting and preventing woodcutting for fuel, to sell valuable oil outside Morocco for the benefit of local impoverished households and to increase seed cake supply for livestock feed. Argania nut oil is the fifth ingredient in the hair product Moroccan Oil.
The ingredient list for the commercial product Moroccan Oil are listed in declining volume order on the label: cyclopentasiloxane, dimethicone, cyclomethicone, butylphenyl methylpropional, argania spinoza kernel oil, linseed extract, fragrance supplement, D&C Yellow-11, D&C Red-17, coumarin, benzyl benzoate and alpha-isomethyl ionone. For a similar product, One 'N Only Argan Oil, the ingredients are dimethicone, cyclopentasiloxane, dimethiconol, C12-15, alkyl benzoate, fragrance, argania spinosa kernel oil, Yellow 11 and Red 17.
The first three ingredients of Moroccan Oil are large, synthetic, silicon polymer molecules built from repeating chemical units. In cosmetics, polymers are carrier emollients. Their large molecules cannot penetrate living skin, but they carry powder ingredients to skin as a thick slippery fluid. Dow Corning’s 200 Fluid series includes the linear polymer dimethicone, which was the first silicon lubricant used to “swell” cosmetics powders. Cyclomethicone non-linear silicon solvent was developed in the late 1970s and first used as a carrier for deodorants. Cyclopentasiloxane, or Dow Corning 245 Fluid, is a solvent for dimethicone that allows conditioning without buildup on the hair follicle.
The fourth ingredient in Moroccan Oil is butylphenyl methylpropional, also known as 2-(4-tert-Butylbenzyl) propionaldehyde. The 2003 European Union Cosmetics Directive notes it as a dermatitis risk. Fragrance and flavor manufacturer Givaudan of Vernier, Switzerland developed this substance as Lilial, a chemical mimic of the scent of lily-of-the-valley flowers. In their 2003 annual report, Givaudan noted that they discontinued Lilial at the end of 2002 despite high sales volume, but other sources manufacture it. In laboratory cultures, it stimulates estrogenic responses from standardized breast cancer cells.
Argania seed kernel oil is present in the product Moroccan Oil in amounts less than the first chemical fragrance. Argania oil is similar to olive oil in composition and provides desert dwellers in southwestern Morocco with 25 percent of daily fatty acids. Argania is 48 percent oleic fatty acid and 34 percent linoleic. Argania has 620 mg/kg of vitamin E compared to 320 for olive oil. The raw oil is brown and tastes like hazelnut.
Linseed is the seed of flax plants, and linseed extract is a mucilage emollient that is soothing to skin. D&C Yellow 11 and D&C Red 17 are food colorings. Coumarin is a vanilla fragrance. Benzyl benzoate is a pesticide for scabies and lice also used as a fragrance. Alpha-isomethyl ionone is a fragrance that the International Fragrance Association has banned for use in perfumes.