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Argania Salon de Beauté

An Exotic Oil Showcased

Certainly, proper pampering has its price but if you’re tired of all the superfluous amenities and exorbitant fees that are part and parcel of the typical day spa experience, don’t fret -- classic indulgence can still be yours. Tucked away on a quiet, tree-lined corner of Martin Luther King Jr. Way in Berkeley is Argania Salon de Beauté, the perfect one-stop place to address all your beauty needs…at the fraction of the cost and fuss.

When aesthetician Miriam Bndimerad opened the diminutive Mediterranean-inspired spa at the end of 2000, she envisioned a unique outpost where clients could enjoy personalized treatments in a peaceful, casual environment -- and also be treated to a slew of unique products and services one would be hard-pressed to find at other establishments. Miriam, who was born in North Africa and lived in Belgium and France for years, draws from 15 years in the business of making skin beautiful. And it’s her frequent globe-trotting and incessant desire to find products that are effective and unusual that has fueled Argania’s success.

Walking into Argania’s front lobby, you’ll be treated to surroundings that are both airy and luxurious. Sunlight dapples the hardwood floors, while richly hued drapes and Mediterranean-influenced ceramics outfit the cozy treatment rooms. It’s an environment that perfectly fits Argania’s philosophy that “feeling good about oneself and living in peace with our surroundings is important to achieving complete beauty.”

The six staff members at Argania offer a wide variety of treatments, including facials that incorporate a variety of cosmeceutical and all-natural lines, various types of massage, waxing, makeup application, and manicures and pedicures. Argania’s relaxing algae wraps, which help to firm skin and aid in detoxification of the body, are a wonderful complement to any of the services here. Unsurprisingly, the spa’s European facial scores high among its passel of repeat customers.

I’m at Argania for their signature Argania Experience Facial, which is based on Argan oil, harvested from the rare fruit of the Argan tree, which can only be found in Morocco. According to Miriam, Argan oil has been used as a curative for centuries. It’s rich in vitamin E, incredibly soothing, an effective anti-aging treatment, and it’s packed with antioxidants, to boot. It’s so gentle and hydrating that it can even be used on sensitive or acne-prone skin, which helps assuage my initial discomfort with having a strange oil slathered onto my face.

Miriam herself administers the treatment, which includes lots of leisurely facial massage and thorough yet gentle extractions. What’s great about the facial is that it’s perfect for all skin types (who, after all, doesn’t want healthier and “younger” looking skin?), and it leaves my face feeling dewy and firm. Miriam uses the ever-gentle Pevonia Botanicals line to cleanse my skin, while she applies Argan oil and a mask of ghassoul (pure Moroccan clay) to rebalance and rehydrate. Ghassoul literally translates to “to wash and clean" and, much like Argan oil, it’s an essential ingredient in ancient and modern North African beauty regimens. It also happens to be rich in magnesium and zinc oxide, and its antibacterial quality helps soothe sensitive or extraction-irritated skin.

By the end of my treatment, my face feels incredible. Aside from the fact that you can purchase Argan oil and ghassoul directly from Argania’s lobby boutique, simply by getting a treatment here, you’re also benefiting the Moroccan women-run coop that distributes the rare product. And despite the fact that the oil is new as far as the American beauty scene is concerned, Argania’s professional, results-oriented service will make a believer out of anyone who doubts the potency of the time-honored elixir that’s at the heart of this spa.