Marula Oil Is the Hydrating, Anti-inflammatory Solution Derms Love—Here’s Why

At the risk of pulling a Captain Obvious, there’s no shortage of skincare oils out there. Still, some are more omnipresent than others (we’re looking at you, coconut and jojoba) popping up in seemingly every product as a universal panacea for all kinds of beauty issues. And they’re great for sure, but when it comes to oils, it’s well worth your time and effort to dig a little deeper. Case in point? Meet marula oil. The mega multitasker goes above and beyond the hydrating call of duty, doing all kinds of good things for your complexion. So, we asked the experts to weigh in on marula oil’s most standout attributes.

Keep reading to learn about marula oil and its plethora of benefits, including great antioxidant protection, a lightweight feel, and how it can even help tackle acne.

What Is Marula Oil?

Marula oil is a naturally-occurring oil derived from the marula tree (technical name: Sclerocarya birrea) found in sub-Saharan tropical Africa. The oil can come from either the nuts, seeds, or the fruit of said tree; the nut can be boiled, the seeds pressed, or the fruit processed to extract it. And while it might be the new kid on the beauty block here, it's been used for centuries in Africa as a cure-all, points out Rabach. In its purest state, the oil is a light yellow color with an ever-so-slight nutty scent.

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Benefits of Marula Oil for Skin

Like the many (many) other oils out there, yes, marula oil is a great hydrator, but the benefits don't stop there.

  • Seals-in moisture: “Marula oil is predominantly used for moisturization and hydration,” says Rabach.
  • Can be used as an occlusive ingredient: It also has some occlusive tendencies, creating a light layer on top of the skin to seal in moisture. Credit its high levels of fatty acids, namely both oleic and linoleic fatty acids that soften and nourish the skin, explains Haley. Still, it’s very lightweight and won’t leave behind a greasy residue.
  • Similar to skin’s own oil: A 2015 study found that the specific profile of fatty acids in marula oil was very similar to the oils naturally found in the skin.
  • Won’t clog pores: Haley says that marula oil is non-comedogenic, so you don’t have to worry about it clogging pores, as is potentially the case with some other oils, like coconut oil.
  • Offers antioxidant protection: You already know that antioxidants are a must-have ingredient in your quest for complexion perfection, and marula oil is a good source of these. Namely, it’s packed with vitamins C and E, as well as a lesser-known antioxidant: “Marula oil contains the phytochemical epicatechin, which has strong antioxidant properties,” explains Haley. And all those antioxidants are choice for helping to stave off the free radicals caused by exposure to UV rays and pollution (which might lead to things like spots and changes in skin texture).
  • Has anti-aging benefits: Collagen and elastin—the proteins essential for healthy, youthful skin—are degraded by certain enzymes, which can be inhibited by antioxidants, says Haley, including, yep, those in marula oil. In fact, a 2018 study found that the ingredient was effective at inhibiting the enzymes that break down elastin. It also contains amino acids, specifically L-arginine and glutamic acid, which also have anti-aging properties. Translation: Marula oil can help ward off fine lines and wrinkles.
  • Works as an anti-inflammatory: Those same fatty acids that make it so hydrating also help combat inflammation and redness, notes Haley.
  • Enhances skin penetration of other products: Marula oil has a high percentage of oleic acid, which means that it can help penetrate the skin more easily.

Side Effects of Marula Oil

Generally speaking, there's a very low risk of any type of side effects with marula. Still, as with any type of cosmetic ingredient, natural or not, there's always a risk of an actual allergy, cautions Rabach. If you're concerned, try any product containing it on a small area on your arm first (as a patch test) before slathering it all over your face. And as always, any allergy concerns should be directed at your dermatologist.

How to Use It

As with most oils, you can either use it straight up or look for it cocktailed with other ingredients in a serum or moisturizer. For the former, seek out pure or virgin marula oil, as it might have a higher concentration of those good-for-your-skin antioxidants than a refined version. Both dermatologists we spoke with also say it can be used daily. If you're using it on its own, you can apply it as the very last step of your skincare routine at night, or before your sunscreen during the day.

— Update: 09-02-2023 — found an additional article 7 Promising Benefits Of Marula Oil For Skin And Hair from the website for the keyword benefits of marula oil.

The quick-absorbing formula and refreshing (nutty and floral) fragrance of marula oil make it suitable for use in several hair and skin treatments. This natural oil is extracted from the kernels or outer husk of marula tree (Sclerocarya birrea) nuts native to the Southern African region (1).

The health benefits of marula oil are due to its antioxidant, emollient, moisturizing, and anti-aging properties. It has been in use for centuries.

Apart from the husks and kernels of the marula tree, several other parts have been used in folk medicine to help treat many health conditions (2).

The use of marula oil may help treat acne, fight the signs of premature aging, reduce patches and scars, prevent stretch marks, treat brittle nails, and give you healthy hair.

This article explores marula oil’s benefits for skin and hair, how to use it, and its potential adverse effects. Keep reading!

What Is Marula Oil?

Marula oil is a light yellow oil that is known for its fast-absorbing and lightweight properties. It is also used as an ingredient in many beauty products such as soaps and perfumes. Additionally, it is used as a meat preservative, cooking oil, and massage oil, and to treat leather.

Read more  Top 5 Health Benefits Of Scallop And Its Nutrition Facts

Marula oil contains monounsaturated fatty acids, tocopherols, and amino acids (2). Therefore, it is said to offer many benefits for skin, hair, and health.

Find out more about these benefits in the next section.

What Are The Benefits Of Marula Oil?

1. Marula Oil For Face

Marula oil may act as an effective moisturizer for dry or aging skin because it gets absorbed quickly. It is said to be beneficial for treating acne, smoothening and softening fine lines, and preventing stretch marks.

  • May Fight Acne

The non-greasy property of marula oil may help in treating different types of acne and act as a good moisturizer for oily skin. It also possesses antimicrobial properties (2). Thus, it may be effective against the bacteria that contribute to the formation of pimples and blackheads.

Marula oil also has anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties (2). Therefore, it may help reduce the inflammation, redness, itching, and dryness associated with acne. However, there is limited research available on the effect of marula oil on acne.

  • Fights The Signs Of Aging

Marula oil has the natural ability to battle the different signs of aging. It helps in preventing and treating the damage that is caused by skin aging (3).

Enzymes like elastase and collagenase accelerate the signs of aging. Marula oil prevents your skin from losing its elasticity by inhibiting the activity of these (3). Therefore, it may help fight the signs of aging like fine lines, wrinkles, dryness, and dullness. It may also boost the natural ability of your skin to regenerate and repair itself.

  • May Smoothen Skin

Marula oil can penetrate deep into the skin, even in the areas where it is the thickest. The fatty acids and polyphenols in it improve the elasticity of your skin with a regular application (3). Thus, it may help in enhancing your skin’s firmness to make it smoother.

There is also some scientific evidence that marula oil (in combination with other ingredients) may help in the treatment of wounds and scars and in the prevention of the formation of scars (3). Therefore, it has the potential to give you flawlessly smooth skin.

  • May Protect Against Environmental Damage

Marula oil may protect your skin against the damaging effects of environmental elements like the harsh rays of the sun, cold wind, and pollution. While you sleep, it is said to aid the natural renewal process of the skin to reverse the damage. It also fortifies the skin from within with a blend of moisturizing and nourishing nutrients (4).

2. May Prevent Stretch Marks

As mentioned earlier, marula oil has beneficial nutrients that help retain the skin’s elasticity and suppleness (3). Applying it twice a day may help in keeping away the hyperpigmentation and stretch marks that many women often develop. However, limited research is available to prove this claim.

3. May Prevent And Treat Skin Conditions

Marula oil has a high content of linoleic (an omega-6 essential fatty acid) and oleic acid. Thus, it has a moisturizing and hydrating effect on the skin (4). This means it could help in preventing and healing a variety of skin disorders such as psoriasis, eczema, and acne. However, there is no direct evidence to prove the same.

4. May Suit All Skin Types

Oleic acid is a great component for skin repair (5). The abundance of oleic acid in marula oil is said to make it suitable for all skin types. It is super absorbent and does not clog up the skin’s pores. Apart from dry, oily, and normal skin types, it is also claimed to be suitable for sensitive skin. Men can use it to soften their rough skin as it is very moisturizing (4).

5. May Keep Your Hair and Scalp Healthy

Marula oil is rich in nutrients, antioxidants, and fatty acids (2). It also has cellular regeneration, hydrating, occlusive, antimicrobial, and anti-inflammatory properties (2), (4). Thus, it may play a role in keeping the scalp healthy and boosting healthy hair growth. Marula oil may help nourish your hair from root to tip without making it overly greasy, making it beneficial for dry, frizzy, or brittle hair. However, there is no scientific evidence to prove the same.

6. May Treats Brittle Nails

Marula oil possesses moisturizing and nourishing properties that may help in treating damaged or brittle nails (6). Also, it may help reduce the incidence of painful and cracked skin around the nails. Applying this oil regularly on your hands can keep them soft.

7. May Heal Chapped Lips

Marula oil is also well-known for its ability to heal dry and chapped skin (4). It can penetrate the skin on your lips to treat dryness from within. By using this beneficial oil, you can have soft, pink lips that never crack or bleed. Instead of using lip balms and other lip products that do not really help, use marula oil to heal chapped lips.

After reading about these promising benefits of marula oil, you must be wondering how to use it. Check out the next section to know more.

How Do You Use Marula Oil On Your Face?

  • Facial Moisturizer

Marula oil can be used as a daytime and nighttime moisturizer, irrespective of your skin type. Pout a few drops of cold-pressed pure marula oil on your fingers and apply it on your face. Don’t rub it on your face harshly. It can be used before applying makeup because it gets absorbed quickly.

  • Body Lotion

Marula oil, with its oxidative stability property, is an ideal ingredient for many cosmetic formulas such as skin lotions, scalp conditioners, and eyeshadows. It can be used as an overall body lotion. Try applying it after bathing for better results.

There are a couple of ways that marula oil is used to improve your hair health. Check them out in the next section.

How Do You Apply Marula Oil To Hair?

There is no scientific evidence that proves marula oil can treat your hair problems. But, anecdotal evidence suggests that this oil may help in treating hair-related issues. The antimicrobial activity of the marula oil may fight bacteria to treat scalp issues. Marula oil can be applied in the form of shampoo or hair conditioner to your hair.

Note: If you want to use marula oil as a part of your hair care routine, you will need to consider the texture and density of your hair.

  • Shampoo
  • Marula oil can be used to treat dry, damaged, and fragile hair (3). Many hair care products, especially shampoos, contain marula oil. Add a few drops of cold-pressed pure marula oil to your shampoo to reap its benefits.
  • Hair Conditioner

There are may hair conditioners that contain marula oil. Rub a few drops of marula oil into the ends of your hair to help eliminate split ends and dryness. It also works well on dry and irritated scalps.

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Try applying a few drops of marula oil to your hair prior to heat styling to use it as a heat protectant.
Here are some more things about marula oil that you may find interesting.

More Info About Marula Oil

According to historical sources, the marula tree played a major role for nearly 10,000 years. It is also known as the “marriage tree” and was believed to symbolize purity and fertility. That is why it was used in purifying rituals before a wedding.

The marula nut was also referred to as the food of kings, and it is from this nut that the revered “miracle oil” (i.e., marula oil) continues to be cold-pressed.

Before you start using marula oil on your skin and hair, check out the safety precautions you need to keep in mind.

Safety Precautions

There are no specific and scientifically proven risks associated with marula oil yet. But, people who are already allergic to nuts may be allergic to marula oil.
A patch test is recommended before using marula oil. Here’s what you need to do:

  • Apply 3 or 4 drops of marula oil on your inner forearm.
  • Wait for 24 hours.
  • If there is no sign of hives, redness, or irritation, you can use marula oil on other parts of your body.
  • Avoid contact with eyes and stop using it in case of irritation.

Though marula oil is generally safe for consumption, it does have a few side effects that you need to keep in mind. Check them out in the following section.

Potential Side Effects Of Marula Oil

Excess usage of marula oil may cause some adverse effects like low blood pressure, skin irritation, itching, redness, and gastrointestinal problems. However, there is limited research on the side effects of marula oil.
People who are taking medication for certain health issues, people who are at a greater risk of heart disease and strokes, patients who are about to undergo major surgery, and people with atherosclerosis are advised to consult their healthcare professionals before using marula oil.

  • May Lower Blood Pressure

Oleic acid is an unsaturated fatty acid that is found in abundance in marula oil. When combined with blood pressure-lowering medications, it may lower your blood pressure too much. So, consult your doctor before using this oil to avoid its adverse effects.

  • May Cause Skin Inflammation

Excess usage of marula oil may lead to an allergic reaction. People with highly sensitive skin may experience inflammation, redness, and itching. Avoid using this oil in case you have any allergies.

  • May Cause Stomach Issues

Marula oil is better known for its usage as an ingredient in beauty products than as cooking oil. It is only used in some African countries for cooking. If you are new to using marula oil as cooking oil, you may experience stomach upset, nausea, vomiting, or indigestion.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is marula oil better than argan oil?

It all depends on your skin type. Marula oil is rich in vitamin C and helps treat dry skin, whereas argan oil is rich in vitamin A and helps regulate sebum production.

Is marula oil good for nails?

The moisturizing and emollient properties of marula oil may help in treating dry cuticles and nails. Rub marula oil into your cuticles after removing nail polish and let it dry. You can also use it at night to your nail beds.

Can you put marula oil under your eyes?

Using marula oil under the eyes is safe. Apply the oil by delicately dabbing it into your skin with your ring finger. However, be careful not to get marula oil into your eyes as it may cause irritation and burning.

— Update: 10-02-2023 — found an additional article 7 Marula Oil Benefits for Skin, Hair and Nails from the website for the keyword benefits of marula oil.

Benefits of marula oil

Are you familiar with the exotic African oil whose popularity skyrocketed in the past 15 years with nearly 20 million U.S. dollars spent on it for cosmetic product manufacturing? It’s marula oil … and its demand in the beauty realm is for good reason.

What are the benefits of marula oil? For starters, it’s known for boosting skin health and appearance no matter your age or skin type (with a few precautions we’ll talk about later). 

Is marula oil better than argan oil? It’s hard to say which oil is better than the other, especially since their desirable benefits are similar. It can just be a matter of personal preference, so it’s worth comparing argan facial oil to marula facial oil and seeing which one you prefer (or you just may like them equally)! 

What Is Marula Oil?

Marula oil comes from the or marula, tree, which is medium-sized and indigenous to South Africa. The trees are actually dioecious, which means there are male and female trees.

According to a scientific review published in 2012, the marula tree “is widely studied with regard to its anti-diabetic, anti-inflammatory, analgesic, anti-parasitic, antimicrobial, and antihypertensive activities.”

In Africa, many parts of the marula tree are used as ingredients in food and traditional medicine. The oil comes from the tree’s marula fruit. 


1. Is Nutrient-Rich and Anti-Aging

If you’re looking for a new face oil, you may want to try marula. One of the reasons many people love using a marula face oil is the fact that it’s highly absorbent. Can marula oil act as an effective face wrinkle treatment? It’s definitely possible with all of its many beneficial properties.

According to Joshua Zeichner, an assistant professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, “It’s rich in essential fatty acids that mimic those that exist naturally in the outer layer of the skin. It also contains the antioxidants vitamin C, vitamin E and flavonoids.” He also points out that it’s a non-oily oil that absorbs quickly without a greasy feeling post-application. 

However, if you breakout easily, rosehip oil may be a better choice for fighting fine lines and wrinkles. If you’re comparing marula oil vs. rosehip oil, rosehip is a less comedogenic (less skin-clogging) oil that is also well-known for its anti-aging properties.

2. Soothes Dry Skin

Another one of the top potential marula oil benefits is its ability to improve dry skin. In fact, marula oil just may be one of the best moisturizers for a dry face (or a dry body).

It contains beneficial oleic, palmitic, linoleic and stearic acids. It’s a top pick by a cosmetic dermatologist for dry skin because it’s excellent for decreasing redness while hydrating dry and/or irritated skin. 

Plus, it’s rich in skin-boosting omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids. Both omega-6 and omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids are key to normal skin function and a healthy skin appearance.

A clinical study published in 2015 took a look at the safety and efficacy of topical application of marula oil. What did the researchers find? Overall, it’s an oil rich in fatty acid that hydrates the skin, decreases transepidermal water loss and is non-irritating. 

Read more  7 Marula Oil Benefits for Skin, Hair and Nails

3. Boosts Hair Health

You may be interested in the marula oil benefits for hair. Similar to the way marula improves skin dryness, it can also do the same for hair. It’s not hard these days to find marula hair oil or marula oil shampoo and conditioner. 

If you struggle with dry, frizzy or brittle hair, adding marula oil to your natural haircare regimen can help to decrease signs of dryness and damage without leaving you looking greasy (as long as you don’t use too much oil, of course). 

Some people also use marula oil for hair growth. There isn’t any research to confirm this marula oil hair usage, but the oil certainly can nourish the scalp and hair. 

4. Reduces Stretch Marks

Many people struggle with stretch marks, especially pregnant women. With its high content of fatty acids and antioxidants, marula oil can help to increase skin hydration and elasticity, possibly preventing unwanted stretch marks.

Of course, application of this nourishing oil should take place daily to avoid stretch marks or to improve the appearance of ones you already have. 

5. May Decrease Acne (for Some)

You can read a marula oil review or article and find firsthand accounts of people finding marula oil treatment helpful for breakouts. You’ll also find many people warning not to use marula if you’re acne-prone. 

Can you use marula oil for acne? In some cases, it may be a helpful natural addition to your skincare regimen if you’re struggling with breakouts, because adding oil to your skin can actually help to stop overproducing oil. Marula even appears on lists of the best facial oils for acne.

Will marula oil clog pores? Well, it has a comedogenic rating of 3–4 (on a scale of 1–5), which means it has a high likelihood of clogging pores. This doesn’t necessarily mean it will clog everyone’s pores, but if you don’t do well with coconut oil, then you likely won’t do well with this oil either. And it goes the other way too; if you find coconut oil agreeable and helpful, then marula will likely suit you well too. 

6. Helps Scars

Is marula oil good for scars? Similar to the way it helps with stretch marks, this oil can also help to prevent scarring since it’s rich in essential fatty acids as well as skin-boosting vitamins C and E. You can use marula oil for face scars or scars anywhere else on your body. 

Does marula oil lighten skin? Some sources say it may help fade dark spots due to its vitamin E content, but it’s unclear how likely this benefit may be.

7. Improves Nails and Cuticles

Marula oil is also perfect for boosting the health of your nails and cuticles. Applying the oil of marula fruit can help to decrease cracked skin and hangnails while generally improving the appearance of your nails. It’s also a great idea to apply the oil to your hands while you’re at it. 

Related: PHAs for Skin: Polyhydroxy Acids Benefits, Uses & Side Effects

How to Use It

It’s a good idea to look for cold-pressed, organic marula oil that hasn’t been made using heat and solvents that decrease the oil’s inherent benefits. You can find this African oil easily these days online or in stores that sell natural beauty products, such as a health store. 

For your face, you can add a couple of drops of marula oil to cleansers, moisturizers and face masks to boost their hydration power. Looking for your next best night serum? You can also use a couple drops of oil on a clean face before bed and let it work its magic overnight. 

In addition to your face, you can apply a few drops of oil to the neck, chest, hands or anywhere else that you’re struggling with dryness. 

For hair, rub a drop or two between your palms and glide your hands over any areas you want to increase shine and/or reduce dryness. This is a great way to reduce frizz and make split ends less noticeable. Is your scalp dry? You can apply a couple drops of marula oil. You can also use the oil as a pre-shampoo hair mask or apply to damp clean hair before using the blow dryer or other styling tools to protect against heat damage. 

For pregnant women looking to avoid stretch marks, apply three to four drops on the belly daily and rub it in. 

Risks and Side Effects

It’s always a good idea to perform a patch test before using a new product on your skin to check for sensitivities. 

Does marula oil cause breakouts? Everyone’s skin is different, so to one person, marula may be the best facial oil, but to another, it may not agree with them at all. If marula oil causes you to breakout, then you may do better with another option like squalane oil that is lower on the comedogenic scale. But keep in mind, you likely can still use and benefit from marula oil for skin areas other than your face so you don’t have to stop using it entirely.

If you’re wanting pure marula oil, make sure to read ingredient labels carefully. Sometimes marula is mixed with other ingredients. Look for 100 percent unrefined (marula) kernel oil. When marula oil is kept in a cool, dark place, its shelf life can be between two to three years.

Currently, there are no established common risks associated with the use of the oil of marula fruit. However, if you have a nut allergy, then you could be allergic to marula products. As with any oil, avoid getting marula in your eyes. 

Final Thoughts

  • The best marula oil is pure or virgin marula oil, which means it is unrefined and doesn’t contain any other ingredients. You may also choose to buy an oil that combines marula oil with other beneficial natural oils such as argan or rosehip seed oil. 
  • Top benefits of marula oil include improved hydration and appearance of your skin. It can benefit most skin types, but be cautious if you are prone to breakouts and already know that you don’t do well with coconut oil, which has a similar comedogenic status. 
  • With its high fatty acid and antioxidant content, it may also help to reduce the signs of aging as well as stretch marks and scars. 
  • You can use this oil for hair, skin, nails and cuticles. 
  • If you’re wondering where to buy marula oil, it’s not hard to find it at health stores, beauty stores and online. Reading marula oil reviews may help you decide which oil is best for you.


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About the Author: Tung Chi