Male or female, you were once a teenager and so will likely remember how, for the longest time, personal care products were all about removing oil from our faces, hair and skin.
“Oils were a product that historically consumers have been told to take off,” says Karen Grant, a beauty industry analyst for the NPD group.
But now, oil is having a moment. You might say it’s getting a chance to shine. Especially when it comes to the haircare industry, where brands are advertising their ability to make your healthy, nourished and moisturized — with oils.
“You’ll see oils on the shelf at Target. You’re seeing them in Walmart, you’re seeing it in Walgreens, you’re seeing it in CVS,” says Grant.
And at Ricky’s, a chain of beauty supply stores in New York, where you can see the slick display from the sidewalk. Behind the cash register, there is a giant wall of hair products, all with the same color turquoise packaging. And in the center aisle, you’ll be confronted with even more.
Says Richard Parrott, president of Ricky’s, about the nose-high shelves packed with products, “It’s a hero display. This is basically our hero products. These are the products that people, they come in with their iPhones and they have pictures. They just say do you have this?”
The brand Parrot is talking about is Moroccanoil. That’s the brand. But it’s core ingredient is a product called Argan oil. Pure Argan oil retails for about $12 an ounce. Mohamed Omer, an industry analyst with Mintel, says the oil is difficult to produce.
“Argan oil can only be extracted from the argan fruit, which can only be found in Morocco. It can only be collected by hand. And the kernels have to be taken out by hand. It’s not an easy oil to get,” he says.
And a lot of it is grown on cooperative farms run by women.
Argan oil’s rarity and exotic story make it a best-seller. And when it comes to best-sellers, says Richard Parrott, the beauty industry moves in cycles.
“Curly hair is in. Straight hair is in. Curly hair is in. Straight hair is in. This is not new. Right? They were using this stuff in ancient Egypt,” he says.
In ancient Egypt, Argan oil might have been as common as regular shampoo — we don’t know. But today it’s like the truffle of the beauty industry. Because it’s so expensive and scarce, very few consumers can afford the pure ingredient. But they’re still willing to pay for a bottle of shampoo that contains just a few drops.