JOURNEY TO THE BOTTLE
Kérastase’s natural Aura Botanica line from start to finish.
while switching to natural products seems ideal, when it comes to hair care, it always seemed challenging since some organic shampoos tend to cause scalp irritation or leave strands coarse and dry. But when a proven brand like Kérastase enters the playing field, they finally provide the market with options that can give our tresses the shine and texture we want. The premium hair-care brand has released Aura Botanica, and together with Kérastase Aura Botanica Ambassador Amanda Griffin-jacob, I visited the argan forest in Agadir, Morocco, and the L’oréal Research and Development Labs in Paris, France, to discover how naturality, sustainability, social responsibility and performance meet in this four-piece range. It was an eye-opening experience that assured me the Aura Botanica line isn’t comprised of just any garden-variety hair-care products. “I like to equate the experience to something like ‘farm to table,’ but in this case, it’s ‘from nut to bottle,’” replied Amanda when I asked for her thoughts on our immersion in Agadir. “It was amazing to see the argan seed on the tree, and then in the lab creating a shampoo and conditioner—things you don’t think of when you’re in the shower.”
During our time in Morocco, we experienced argan four ways, starting with its most organic form, as a nut. We met Berber women from the Tamainoute and Toudarte cooperatives, both of which work with L’oréal for the supply of argan oil used in the Aura Botanica line. The women taught us the traditional method of cracking the nuts open with rocks (more difficult than it sounds as there’s skill involved in using enough force to get the shell open without smashing your fingers in the process). They also shared how their work at the cooperatives has helped them better their lives and that of their families: One speaker shared that she was finally able to fix the roof of their home, while another was able to buy a refrigerator for her family.
This is part and parcel of the L’oréal Group’s sourcing program for social inclusion—what they call solidarity sourcing. Their commitment is to enable 100,000 people from underprivileged communities have access to work. Rachel Barré, L’oréal’s head of sustainable sourcing, explained that by providing long-term business support, they can make a sustainable positive impact on the livelihood of the communities from where they source their ingredients.
Our second and third encounters with argan came with a visit to the argan forest. Unlike the lush woodlands and jungle landscapes we’re accustomed to seeing in photos and films, this was a range of shrubby trees peppering the desert hills of Agadir. According to Prof. Zoubida Charrouf, PH.D., of the Mohammed V University of Rabat, UNESCO listed the argan forest as a biosphere reserve in 1998. The trees are unique to Morocco and, apart from providing food, shelter and livelihood for the region’s dwellers (human and animal), they also protect the terrain against desertification.
Atop a high point in the forested mountains, overlooking the Agadir Sea, we were welcomed by a Bedouin tent that was decorated with colorful rugs and cushions. We were given a taste of argan as food: the choice to dip flatbread in argan oil or almond butter made with argan oil, or biting into dense cubes of argan paste (the richly flavored remains of argan nuts after the oil is expressed).
Lastly, we experienced the deeply moisturizing properties of argan oil on the skin through a massage at the Hotel Sofitel Agadir Thalassa Sea and Spa. The amberhued oil felt warm as it was rhythmically spread all over. What’s particularly nice is how it seeped into the skin, giving it suppleness rather than leaving a slick layer in the way some oils do. It wasn’t hard to imagine how argan oil can provide similar nourishment for the hair, whose cells are similar to the skin.
A quick trip to the souk summarized everything we had seen as we discovered an array of argan products both for culinary and cosmetic use. According to Prof. Zoubida, locals use argan to treat ailments like heart disease and fertility, to moisturize skin and deal with acne and wrinkles, and on hair to improve volume and promote growth. All this deepened our appreciation for how something that comes from nature can provide so much.
1. Aura Botanica’s full product range on a bed of argan nuts, whose oil is used in the formula. 2. Berber women of Morocco showed us the traditional method of cracking argan nuts with stones. 3. Tea service in the lovely Bedouin tent and a fragrant cup...