Marula Oil: For Your Hair Skin and Nails – The Guide



What Is Marula Oil?

Marula oil is a skincare oil that has some extraordinary extra benefits to the hair, nails and skin. While there are plenty of skincare oils on the market with similar versatility, marula oil has become a popular oil for a reason. 

Marula oil is derived from the fruit of the Sclerocarya birrea  or marula fruit tree. The marula plant is native to the southern parts of Africa. The marula fruit trees were once a rare find in this area but are now widely cultivated.

The marula tree has a traditional history and was often considered to be a sacred tree in the areas it is native to. The tree was linked to fertility practices and was thought to bring a happy marriage. This traditional history crossed paths with traditional medicine as marula oil was often used in medicinal practices throughout Africa. 

The fruit, from which the oil is derived, is a hard brown nut with a white kernel. The oil is pressed or boiled from the kernel, much like other nut or seed oils. The oil that is produced is a lightly yellow hued oil with a light nutty scent. Marula oil is rich in protein, making it beneficial in hair and nail treatments. 

As for the benefits of marula oil, it may help to improve the condition and appearance of the hair and nails, providing a source of protein. It is also a lightweight oil that is a great moisturizer for all skin types including acne-prone, sensitive or congested skin types. 

Marula Oil

the good: Marula oil may help to improve the condition and appearance of the hair, skin, and nails. It acts as a source of protein which particularly benefits the hair and nails which are protein-dense. It is also a lightweight oil that helps to moisturize any skin type without causing congestion or breakouts.

the not so good: Like with any naturally-occurring or plant based ingredient marula oil is a complex ingredient with many different compounds making up its whole. This can make it difficult to study and determine its safety and likelihood of causing sensitivity.

Who is it for? All skin types except those that have an identified allergy to it.

Synergetic ingredients: Works well with most ingredients.

Keep an eye on: Keep an eye out for more research on this ingredient.

What Are The Benefits of Marula Oil?

Marula is a relatively new plant-derived oil as compared to the more widely used oils such as jojoba and coconut oil. The main difference between marula oil and many of the plant-based oils on the market is that it is a lightweight oil with a velvety texture. Despite this lightweight texture, it provides the skin with rich moisturizing benefits. 

As is the case with most naturally-derived ingredients, they are not just one ingredient. Naturally-occurring ingredients, like maula oil, are made up of a number of different compounds. This can make their study slightly more complex and often increases the risk of sensitivity and irritation when compared to synthetic ingredients. Marula oil is no different in this fact, with its composition including amino acids, fatty acids, and antioxidants. 



Marula oil is a source of antioxidants such as phenolic compounds which include compounds such as flavonoids, tannins, coumarins, lignans, quinones, and curcuminoids. Marula oil also contains small amounts of vitamin E and vitamin C which help to reduce free radical damage on the skin. Free radical damage has been associated with premature aging and can be caused by UV exposure, pollution, diet, and smoking.



One of the best benefits of marula oil is its hydrating properties, helping to support the skin’s natural barrier, preventing water loss. Transepidermal water loss or TEWL occurs when water from the skin is lost to the air. This occurs most frequently in dry conditions, in aging skin , and in skin that has been damaged or irritated.

The moisturization benefits of marula oil are given to it by fatty acids. Fatty acids, despite their name, aren’t actually acids like you would traditionally think. They are actually hydrating ingredients. Marula oil contains fatty acids such as palmitic acid, stearic acid, oleic and myristic acid. These fatty acids have both moisturizing and emollient properties. 



A study conducted in 2018 actually found that marula oil may help to reduce the breakdown of collagen and elastin in the skin. Collagen and elastin are two of the fibers that give the skin structure and firmness. They are often broken down or degraded by enzymes within the body, however, antioxidants such as those found in marula oil may help to limit this degradation. This benefit is increased by the amino acids,  L-arginine and glutamic acid that marula oil contains. This may mean that marula oil will help to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles as well as moisturization. 



Marula oil has a long history of being used in traditional medicinal practices for wound healing. This may be due to the proposed anti-inflammatory benefits the oil provides. Inflammation is common in acne-prone, sensitive or irritated skin as well as with skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis. While there is no peer reviewed research into the use of marula oil for these skin conditions, the anecdotal reports suggest it may help to alleviate the itching and dryness that is often associated with eczema and psoriasis. 



As marula oil is a lightweight almost dry oil it is easily absorbed into the skin, helping to penetrate deeply and provide its benefits to the skin. The other main benefit of the lightweight consistency is that it doesn’t clog the skin or contribute to breakouts. This may make it an ideal oil for soothing and hydrating acne-prone skin.

Marula oil also won’t leave behind a greasy residue, like many plant-based oils do. Marula oil has been suggested to have a very similar composition to the skin’s natural oils, which may help to balance out overproduction of sebum.



Marula oil is often used in hair care treatments or as an oil treatment to be applied to the length of the hair. The benefit of marula in this context is that it provides the hair with a source of protein and moisture without adding greasy weight to the hair. This means that it is able to tame flyaways and frizz without losing the volume.



Another benefit of marula oil is that it can help to hydrate the dry skin and hangnails that often occur around the nail bed and cuticles. For this, the marula oil is applied directly to these areas and massaged in.

Is Marula Oil Comedogenic?

Marula oil is a non-comedogenic oil which means that it won’t clog the pores unlike other skincare oils that are commonly used such as coconut oil. 

Is Marula Oil Good For Acne?

Marula oil is a good moisturizer for congested skin types as it is non-greasy and non-comedogenic. It also has mild antimicrobial properties which may help to reduce the severity and frequency of breakouts such as blackheads, whiteheads and pimples. 

What Are The Side Effects of Marula Oil?

Marula oil is generally considered to be safe for use, however, like any ingredient you can have an allergy to it. Like many plant-derived ingredients, the complexity of their composition can make it hard to determine efficacy and safety. This is because these plant-derived ingredients aren’t just one ingredient, like you would find in a synthetic ingredient, they are a mixture of a number of compounds.

Marula oil has been evaluated by the Cosmetic Ingredient Review Expert Panel, a group responsible for evaluating the safety of skincare and cosmetic ingredients. Marula oil was evaluated by the Expert Panel along with a number of other plant-based oils and found to be safe in its current concentrations and uses. 

 If you are concerned, perform a patch test on the inside of your elbow and wait 24 hours before using the product on your face, hair, nails or lips. 

How Do You Use Marula Oil?

Marula oil can be directly applied to the skin, hair, nails and lips. You may also prefer to look for products that contain marula oil but have other ingredients in the formulation, for added benefits. If you are incorporating marula oil into an existing routine you would apply marula oil after your serum but before your moisturizer or night cream.

Shoko T, Maharaj VJ, Naidoo D, et al. Anti-aging potential of extracts from Sclerocarya birrea (A. Rich.) Hochst and its chemical profiling by UPLC-Q-TOF-MS. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2018;18(1):54. Published 2018 Feb 7.



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