Harnessing the healing powers of organic argan oil from Morocco, Jayme Barrett—author of "Feng Shui Your Life"—finds inspiration in surrounding herself with beautiful things. In her work as a Feng Shui consultant, she transforms spaces to create positive energy in people's homes and lives. Together with her husband, Zouhir Yakoubi, Barrett is now launching Zweena, a line of argan beauty elixers bringing the wisdom and practices of Feng Shui to the body.
"Argan oil was one of the first gifts I gave to my wife and she fell in love with it," says Yakoubi. "That was our first inspiration. We feel proud to bring argan oil, which is referred to in Morocco as 'liquid gold', to the US. It's been our miraculous beauty secret for centuries. We chose the argan cooperative where we buy our oil very carefully. It's pure, organic, first cold-pressed and of the highest quality."
Celebrating the recent debut of Zweena, Barrett shares her love of Morocco, her journey to discovering the healing properties of argan oil, and how she and Yakoubi found a source for the highest grade certified organic 'liquid gold'.
What inspires you about Morocco?
Morocco is a place I feel so alive and present...it's full of inspiration and vibrancy. I'm inspired by the intricate handiwork of the tile, wood carving and fountains in the ancient architecture, by the vibrant colors in the outdoor markets with its spices, flowers, olives, slippers, scarves, pottery and everything else you could imagine, as well as the delicious food that slow-cooked in clay pot tagines. I'm probably most inspired by the people of Morocco. They are so warm, generous and welcoming. Upon greeting, they will touch their heart and say "Salam Aleikum" which means "Peace be with you." I have been to Morocco eight times, and each time I'm overcome by their hospitality.
Why the name Zweena?
Zweena means "beautiful" in Moroccan Arabic. My husband's mother always puts her hands on my face and says "Zweena, zweena." The word is used for everything that is beautiful, delicious and wonderful. We felt "Zweena" was fitting because organic argan oil is so incredibly nourishing that it makes us beautiful, inside and out. We also feel that the Berber women who make the oil are beautiful.
How did you locate the co-op you are working with? Why did you choose them?
When we decided to bring organic argan oil to the US, we visited at least 15 Berber women's cooperatives in the southwestern region of Morocco, where the indigenous argan trees grow. We were looking for a cooperative that was certified organic by ECOCERT from France. Although all of the argan oil in Morocco is organic because the Argan trees are in a UNESCO-protected biosphere, we knew that to sell in the US, it had to be certified. We also wanted to see how the women were treated, if they were given regular breaks, had a fair wage, etc. We were impressed on all counts with our cooperative. There are 25 women there and since my husband is Moroccan and speaks the language, he talked with the women directly. They were all very happy to be working there.
What did you learn about argan oil from spending time with the Berber women there?
You learn very quickly that it is extremely hard to crack an argan nut. The Berber women still use a traditional, centuries-old technique of cracking the nut in between two stones to release the raw kernels that are cold-pressed into argan oil. It can take one woman three full days to make just one liter of oil. This is why it's so precious. The argan tree is rare and only grows in Morocco. Making argan oil is extremely labor-intensive. The Berber women tried to teach me, but I was never able to crack even one.
How does the purchase of their argan oil help the women of the co-op?
The purchase gives these Berber women the opportunity to work outside the home, support their families, feed their children, and learn an industry. Up until about 10 years ago, argan oil was sold by men in the marketplace. In 2002, the Moroccan government gave local Berber women support to establish their own cooperatives to manufacture argan oil. These co-ops empower women who now earn a steady income with yearly bonuses and good working conditions. During an eight-hour day, they rotate jobs and have regular breaks. Some of the women, who are divorced or widowed, were never able to earn a living so this is a huge step forward for them.
Can you talk about the choice of ingredients in the Argan Rose Rejuvenating Face Serum?
Zweena Argan Beauty Elixirs nourish skin and hair without any chemicals, silicones, artificial fragrances or parabens. Our skin is the largest organ of our body and whatever we put on it goes straight into our bloodstream, so it's important for the products to be natural and healthy. Argan oil is a multi-use, multi-benefit dry oil that can be used on every part of your body and hair. It's rich in vitamins, anti-oxidants and contains 80% essential fatty acids, which absorbs very quickly to nourish, moisturize and protect the skin, hair and body. Our second beauty elixir is the Argan Rose Rejuvenating Face Serum, which also has a very high concentration of organic Argan oil boosted by organic rosehip seed oil, organic pomegranate seed oil, organic evening primrose oil and the queen of all essential oil, Moroccan rose damascena. All these powerhouse beauty oils are high in anti-oxidants, which protect the skin from the sun. These oils were chosen to soften, moisturize, smooth, and increase cell turnover, which diminishes fine lines and wrinkles. Morocco is known for their roses so we knew we wanted to use their extraordinary rose oil, which tones, reduces inflammation and hydrates as well as offering a very delicate rose scent. I massage it into my face and neck every night!