JOUR­NEY TO THE BOT­TLE

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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...

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