Marula oil serves as a beauty staple of the women of South Africa for many centuries. The marula tree (Sclerocarya birrea) grows freely and with wild abandon throughout Tsonga, Mozambique, Malawi, Namibia, Botswana, Swaziland and Madagascar.
The oil comes as light-weight, and soaks quickly and deeply into dry, damaged skin to help prevent transepidermal water loss. It contains rich antioxidant properties and serves as an excellent anti-aging product.
Marula oil also works superb for treating scars and stretch marks, as well as acne and many other skin conditions.
How is this oil produced? How does it compare to other cosmetic oils? Furthermore, how much should you pay for it? How can you use it, and how will you benefit? In this article, we will explore these questions and more. Read on to learn more.
In this article, we will explore these questions and more. Read on to learn more.
Contents & Navigation
Contents & Navigation
Marula Oil vs. Argan Oil & Other Popular Oils
The amount of nourishment and benefit provided by marula oil weighs quite a bit greater than that provided by any other type of natural oil. Marula oil contains between seventy and eighty percent linoleic acid. Argan oil, by comparison carries approximately forty percent.
Because of its fine molecular structure, marula oil gets absorbed into the skin even more quickly and provides more effective protection than argan oil. In most instances, it appears as the right oil for the task of caring for skin, hair and nails. So far, no cases of negative side effects appeared along with the use of marula oil. However, as it comes from a nut, allergic people may wish to use a fruit, flower or vegetable based oil instead.
Below lists some basic facts about cosmetic and personal care oils to help you make a quick comparison.
A chock full of fatty acids and vitamin C and E. Marula oil also plays as a non-comedogenic oil. It holds very powerful anti-microbial properties, making it a good choice for damaged, irritated or inflamed skin, oily skin and skin plagued by inflammation and scarring.
Extracted from a type of nut in Morocco. Argan oil compares favorably with Marula oil, but it does not belong in a powerhouse in terms of antioxidants, fatty acids, and antimicrobial properties.
Another African nut oil, moringa oil packs in vitamin A and C, as well as fatty acids. Like Marula oil, it is used in a wide variety of ways in both Africa and India, where many sees it as a popular personal care and culinary oil. Moringa oil appears stable and remains fresh for as long as five years if stored properly.
Marajuca oil comes from passion-flower seeds. This oil comes rich in vitamin C and useful for treating acne, lightening and brightening the skin, and soothing inflammation. It works as a good anti-aging oil due to its rich antioxidants content.
Another seed based oil that has been used as a beauty aid and personal care product for centuries. It is rich in vitamin A and C, as well as essential fatty acids and antioxidants. As such, it is a good product for dry skin moisturizing and healing, and it makes an effective anti-aging serum.
Evening Primrose Oil
Evening Primrose Oil, a seed oil from several different varieties of North American wildflowers. It holds very high concentrations of gamma-linoleic fatty acids (omega 6), good for reducing inflammation of the skin throughout the body. The evening primrose oil also works as a good choice for treating acne and other types of skin inflammation. Moreover, it makes a nice carrier oil for massage oil preparations intended to treat arthritis pain or muscle soreness.
This botanical product, actually not an oil, but rather a wax ester similar in composition to human sebum (the natural oils of the skin). Jojoba oil is a very light, quickly penetrating oil that is good for conditioning skin, hair and nails. It is a safe choice for people who have nut allergies. Also, it serves as an excellent choice for a carrier oil used in combination with marula oil or any other conditioning oil or essential oil.
Stability, one of the main ways in which marula oil functions superior to many other types of natural oils. This stable oil works in its natural state with no preservatives added because of its antimicrobial properties, which seem superior to other popular oils.
This quality can make marula oil a very valuable ally in effectively using other types of natural oils. As astable oil with a long shelf-life, it makes a good addition to commercial cosmetics and at-home beauty and health recipes.
The Clinically Proven Healing Power Of Marula Oil
The oil packs in antioxidants, essential fatty acids (omega 6 and 9), vitamin E, minerals, and other nutrients. It boosts cellular activity, reverses sun damage, and protects against environmental damage.
This quality makes it an excellent choice for treating sensitive or sunburned skin, and acne prone skin. It appears light, non-comedogenic, and also carries powerful anti-microbial properties that help damaged, inflamed skin heal. It serves as an excellent choice for use following a cosmetic surgery, laser treatments, chemical peels, and the like. This Marula Pure Beauty facial oil serves as one good example.
Board-certified plastic surgeon, Ashton Kaidi of Southern California conducted clinical testing on the product known as “Pure Marula Oil.” He found that it can help a lot in scar healing for patients who went through breast cancer surgery, and radiation treatment.
He says that his clinical study showed that patients using marula oil recovered from edema and erythema far more rapidly than those using aloe cream. Dr. Kaidi also recommends the use of this oil to his patients trying to recover from other types of surgery. It included patients who went under laser treatment, chemical peel and/or microdermabrasion. [source]
7 Everyday Marula Oil Benefits
Even if you don’t use this oil to recover from an injury, surgery or a skin condition, you can reap a wide variety of benefits. Just add 100% unrefined sclerocarya birrea (marula) kernel oil to your everyday personal care routine. The below list shows seven ways this natural oil can benefit your skin, hair and nails.
Used as a daily (or several times daily) moisturizer, this non-comedogenic oil keeps skin well hydrated, reduces wrinkles, and heals irritation and damage without clogging pores. Because the oil becomes so easily absorbed, it reduces transepidermal water loss by supporting the build up of your skin’s natural lipid layers.
With its excellent nourishing, healing and hydrating properties, marula oil restores the natural protective barrier of your skin while improving skin elasticity. This quality helps prevent damage caused by extrinsic sources such as sun exposure, air pollution, smoking and even stress.
The antimicrobial and healing properties of the oil make it an excellent choice for dealing with chapping, scarring, sunburn, stretch marks, wounds and recovery from facial procedures.
Benefit from very high levels of flavonoids, amino acids and vitamins C and E. The abundant levels of linoleic acids in this rich oil allow the oil to get absorbed very quickly for deep, nourishing hydration. Marula nuts contain rich amounts of copper, phosphorus, zinc, magnesium and iron, which conveys via the oil. Absorption of magnesium through the skin promotes overall health.
Guards Against Aging
In addition to neutralizing free radicals, marula oil helps promote collagen production to reduce the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines. Its high omega 6 and omega 9 content ensures deep hydration and improved skin elasticity.
Along with its antimicrobial properties, marula oil showcases powerful anti-inflammatory properties. This makes it an excellent choice in treating skin rashes, conditions such as eczema and psoriasis and problems such as acne. The oil cleanses the skin, heals injury and reduces redness, irritation and inflammation.
Stimulates Production Of Antioxidants
Oleic acid, a mono-unsaturated fatty acid, helps increase the production of antioxidants in your body. The oil possess unparalleled abilities at free-radical scavenging, and staves off damage to the skin caused by a hostile environment.
How Do You Use Marula Oil?
You can use marula oil on its own for deep hydration or you can add it to your existing cosmetic products for an extra boost of hydration. Because of its powerful antimicrobial properties and stability, it will not degrade or become rancid even without preservatives added. Shelf life of the pure oil (when kept in a cool, dark place) measures up to eighteen months.
Marula oil remains stable for use when added to commercial products. This shows a significant difference from many types of organic oil such as olive oil, coconut, jojoba, and others, which tend to lose their efficacy when mixed with commercial products.
Add a few drops to almost any personal care product to enhance its efficacy. Experiment with using marula oil for all or part of the oil in recipes calling for coconut oil, argan oil, neem oil and others. Just a few drops of marula can convey stability to all-natural concoctions.
This makes good way to use the oil if you have gotten a batch with a nutty scent stronger than you would prefer. Use it as you would use an essential oil in combination with other oils or products at a rate of six drops per ounce. This will allow you to enjoy all the benefits of the oil while diluting the scent.
Try this African Botanics Neroli Infused with marula oil.
12 Smart & Easy Ways To Use Marula Oil Every Day
Condition Hair & Scalp
Before shampooing, apply marula oil to your hair and scalp either alone or mixed equal parts with argan oil or another natural oil of your choosing. Apply it a little bit at a time by measuring it into the palm of your hand.
Rub your hands together to warm the oil and massage it into your scalp. Stroke and comb it through your hair paying particular attention to the ends. This part of the hair appears typically drier than the hair nearest the scalp.
Wrap your hair in a warm towel or put on a shower cap to help the oil soak in. Relax for half an hour and then wash as usual.
While your hair is still wet, stroke and comb a few drops of marula oil through it to add smoothness and shine.
It may seem counterintuitive to put oil against an oily skin, but drying products actually make acne worse by spurring your skin to produce more oil. For better results, use a light, quickly absorbing oil such as marula to clean and soothe your skin, and help your acne heal.
Marula oil comedogenic rating plays at 3-4, which means the oil may cause breakouts when used on its own. However, because of its very light texture, highly nourishing oil that absorbs very quickly, it becomes quite beneficial for acne-prone skin when used as a component of oil cleansing.
Benefits Of Marula Oil. How To Use It As A Moisturizer And For Acne.
Try oil cleansing for acne using marula oil and jojoba oil. These two light oils combined will help soften, and float away oil clogging your pores.
To do this, simply pour about half a teaspoonful of jojoba oil into the palm of your hand and add about half a dozen drops of marula oil. Massage the oil into your face and neck for several minutes. This will help break down oils in your pores that may have coagulated and caused clogging. It will also help increase blood circulation.
Lay a very warm, damp towel over your face and relax for a few minutes. When the towel begins to cool, rinse in in hot water, wring it out and wipe the oil from your face gently.
At this point, you may wish to splash your face with lukewarm water to freshen up, or you may simply leave your skin as it is. You can practice oil cleansing every day or every few days or only occasionally. Follow your instincts on this.
Use pure marula oil as needed throughout the day and overnight as a spot treatment to reduce inflammation, fight bacteria and help blemishes heal.
TIP: According to Tiffany Masterson, founder and creator of the popular line of marula based products known as “Drunk Elephant Skincare“, you may do well to ease into adding oil to your acne care routine rather than beginning all at once.
If oil cleansing and use of oil seems to increase your breakouts, don’t give up. Just scale it back to every other day and treat your skin very gently in between applications. Don’t use any harsh, drying products!
Moisturize Day & Night
Apply a few drops of marula oil as a makeup base in the morning and as an after-cleansing moisturizer before bed. No other moisturizer exists with more effectiveness than an all-natural marula oil. Just a few drops applied lightly over your face, neck, and upper chest, can help protect and moisturize your skin.
Add It To Your Cleanser, Makeup, Sunscreen, Shampoo And More…
Add no more than six drops of marula oil per ounce of product to impart beautifying, nourishing, healing benefits to any beauty product. This will help boost the effects of positive ingredients while neutralizing the negative effects of less desirable ingredients.
Give Your Hair Shine & Bounce!
Rub half a dozen drops between your palms. Stroked through damp or dry hair will help smooth frizz and add control and shine.
Prevent & Treat Scars & Stretch Marks
If you got injured or went through a surgery, use of marula oil as a healing ointment will help prevent scarring. It is also effective when used to reduce the appearance of old scars.
The same holds true for stretch marks, whether caused by pregnancy or weight gain. Adding marula oil to your body moisturizer during pregnancy can help reduce your chances of developing stretch marks. Use it full-strength on existing stretch marks to soften them and minimize their appearance.
Heal & Preserve Tattoos
On its own or mixed with tamanu oil, marula can help your new tattoo heal faster and retain color, clarity and vibrancy.
Add marula oil to your facial care products and your foundation to improve their effectiveness and help boost collagen production. This will plump up fine lines and wrinkles. Used as a makeup base or added to foundation, marula oil imparts a silky smooth finish.
Heal Burns & Sunburn
For minor burns cool the skin first with cool water or (for a small burn) an ice cube applied for a few moments. Apply marula oil full strength and cover with a clean, dry bandage for protection.
For sunburns that cover large areas of skin, take a cool or tepid bath or shower. Pat the skin lightly dry and apply a light, cooling lotion or aloe gel with marula oil added at a rate of six drops per ounce. Reapply as needed to soothe, moisturize and cool the skin. Wear lightweight, breathable cotton clothing to prevent pain and chafing.
Moisturize & Nourish Your Nails
Before bedtime, wash your hands with warm water and a mild soap. Apply marula oil directly to your nails and cuticles. Then, apply lotion or body butter laced with marula oil (6 drops per ounce) to your hands. Put on a pair of cotton gloves to help the oils soak in overnight.
Buff Your Nails Naturally
Every day or several times a day, put a drop or two of marula oil on the heel of one hand. Use it to buff the nails of the opposite hand. This will moisturize nails and cuticles, improve blood circulation to the nails, and spiff your nails up with a quick shine.
Treat Chapped Lips & Cheeks
When hostile weather conditions chap your lips and skin, use marula oil full strength to soothe and heal quickly!
What You Should Know About The Sacred & Protected Marula Tree
Because hard-to-find marula oil is a bit pricey outside of Africa, it sounds like a rare and exotic commodity. However, this is not strictly true. The marula is a vigorous, drought-resistant tree abundant throughout South Africa and Namibia. It can be successfully grown in very warm, semi-arid to sub-humid climates. In fact, the tree is grown in parts of Asia, India and Australia.
The hardy trees grow easily from seed, and if you live in Australia, you can purchase saplings at garden centers and plant them in your yard for a mere $27 each. Australians apparently use the fruit to make jams, jellies and beverages and eat the delicious and nutritious inner nut kernels from which the oil is extracted.
While the tree can be grown from seed, graft or rootstock, efforts to grow it commercially have not been especially successful. However, commercial planting is hardly necessary since the tree grows so abundantly on its own.
Its widespread natural growth is reflected in its wealth of names from one culture and location to another. You may hear this tree referred to as:
- Marriage Tree
- Elephant Tree
- Cider Tree
- Cat Thorn
- Jelly Plum
The tree (which is a relative of cashew, pistachio and mango trees) grows naturally in woodland areas, but because it is so highly valued and protected, you will often see lone marula trees or small groves left to stand in the center of plowed fields.
Every part of the marula tree is useful, and indeed, the flowers, leaves, roots, bark, wood, fruits and nut kernels have been used as a source of food, building materials, medicine, livestock fodder, insecticide, dye and more since time immemorial. In fact, evidence found in the Pomongwe Caves of East Africa and Zimbabwe indicate that the tree has played an important part in African civilization for approximately 10,000 years.
African Lifestyle: Marula Oil
Laws & Cultural Norms Protect Trees, Workers & Consumers
Although the marula tree serves as a traditional source of many valuable products for people in Southern Africa, its precious oil received attention only recently. This nutrient rich oil is a time-honored South African beauty secret. Traditionally, African women used it in the place of water to cleanse the skin.
The oil comes from the hard seed kernels found inside the pit of the fruit. This oil shows a number of unique characteristics. It consists of about 80% oleic acid (omega 9 fatty acid) making it very easily absorbed by the skin.
This means it provides genuine, deep, long-lasting hydration, rather than simply creating a moisture holding barrier on the surface of the skin. It’s easy to see why this oil would be very popular with women around the world. Also, many anticipate the quick depletion of these wild growing trees without protection. Luckily, authorities placed several levels of protection for a very long time.
Marula trees serves as a valuable natural resource cherished by native people and protected by the government. Also considered sacred, and very often seen as an old and revered tree holding pride of place as the spiritual center of its village. Villagers gather in its shade for town meetings, religious observation, socializing and special occasions.
Mistreatment or damage of marula trees is culturally taboo. For example, stripping trees of fruit appears as an unacceptable practice. To obtain the oil, harvesters must patiently wait for the fruits to fall.
When this happens, harvesters gather the marula fruit. They remove the flesh and crush them to make juice and a variety of alcoholic beverages ranging from beers to liqueurs. Next, they dry the pits and remove the edible, nutrient-rich kernels. Lastly, they send the produce to the factory for cold-pressing.
The marula tree provides the source of necessities and livelihood for the people of South Africa. Therefore, its care, cultivation and harvesting methods, are closely supervised by the government. The marula tree is protected throughout South Africa and Namibia by Proclamation 257, passed in 1951. Department of Water & Forestry enforces this protection.
Marula Oil – From Tree to You!
Is Marula Oil Rare?
Marula trees appear as fairly large trees, and each female tree typically produces a bounty of fruit each and every year. The attractive full-leaved shade trees produce half a ton or even a ton of fruit per female tree annually.
Initially, the fruits look like small, green apples. They ripen to shades of pale yellow and orange. These small fruits contain four times the amount of vitamin C found in citrus fruits. Moreover, the flesh of the fruit can be used to make alcoholic beverages, jams and jellies.
Outside of the trees’ native habitat, the oil is fairly rare and you may find yourself paying a pretty penny for it. In South Africa and the other 28 countries where the tree can grow wild, it is not such a rare commodity. In fact, in addition to its cosmetic and medicinal uses, people in these areas use it as a very nutritious cooking oil. Furthermore, the nuts are mass-processed to produce biodiesel.
Why Is It Important To Understand The Origins Of Marula Oil?
Many described the product as a “miracle oil” due to its countless and marvelous benefits. For this reason, it became an extremely popular cosmetic commodity in recent years.
High-end manufacturers present very small bottles of pure marula oil for very lofty prices. They make claims of pure oil, better produced, more reliable, and that they provide better incentives for their South African suppliers than lower priced offerings.
While this may be true to some extent, consumers should understand that culturally, locals consider these trees as sacred. Also, there are numerous societal taboos and guidelines in place regarding their care, management, and use of the resources they provide.
Additionally, the governments of South Africa and Namibia, made very strong rules and regulations in place for the care and treatment of marula trees. It also includes the harvest of fruit, bark, timber and leaves and the production of marula related products.
High end companies often boast that they use only cold-pressed oil extraction techniques while other companies use excessive heat, mass crushing of whole fruit or chemical extraction techniques. While this appears as technically true, everyone should understand that it is apparently only true of nuts being used to produce biodiesel.
Marula nuts used for preparation of oil for cosmetic purposes are cold-pressed in relatively small batches. [source]
Another point often made by high-end manufacturers is that they only harvest marula fruits from the ground and never picked directly from the tree. Regulations and cultural norms would likely make this a valid point for all marula oil producers. As mentioned, stripping fruit from the trees is not allowed.
The tree usually grows naturally in the wild and bears bounteous amounts of fruit. This assures consumers that most pure marula oil came from the wild, environmentally friendly, and GMO free. Because of government regulations, you can also make sure the oil you purchased went through proper handling is Fairly Traded.
Behind The Brand: African Botanics
Fair Trade Incentives
It is important that the people of South Africa be fairly compensated for their work and for this natural resource unique to Africa. The marula oil production served as a community activity, and important source of income for South African people for generations. One benefit of choosing marula oil over other types of cosmetic oil is that you can be fairly certain that the hard workers behind the scenes are being properly compensated.
Some high end companies may lead you to believe that only they are paying fair trade prices for the raw material, but this is unlikely to be true. Cosmetic quality marula oil from South Africa and Namibia is most likely entirely fair-traded.
The reason for this is that, these governments regulate the partnerships that marula producers make with worldwide suppliers. These partnerships must meet fair trade requirements, and the people who gather and prepare the oil must be fairly compensated.
As with any commodity in demand, there are always people who want to take advantage or exploit. Due to this, always wise to check out the integrity and background of any company you plan to do business with. Some companies do establish direct partnerships with the cooperatives of workers who actually gather the fruit and prepare the marula products. Others go through a middleman.
Obviously, the ones with direct contacts provide more profit directly to the workers.
Here is a good explanation of the value of fair trade.
Marula: Fair Trade in Action [source]
Why Are Some Brands So Costly & Which Brand Is Best For You?
When choosing the right brand of marula oil to suit your purposes, you are sure to be struck by the vast difference in prices amongst products that clearly demonstrate very similar qualities. Of course, you are wise to look for products that are hand-harvested from wild grown trees, produced using a cold-press process and certified as both organic and fair-trade.
You should also understand that these caveats apply to most cosmetic marula oil. The trees grow wild all over South Africa and in many other places. They are closely protected by the government and by customs and traditions. For this reason, most marula oil products are environmentally and socially safe and can claim genuine community care and environmental responsibility.
High end companies may charge as much as $70 an ounce for marula oil. Reasons behind this include the guarantee of proper treatment of the trees and the workers, and correct processing of the oil. As seen, they do not necessarily hold unique qualities. It may show some variation in the content and enforcement of regulations surrounding Marula trees. But for the most part, you can count on getting a good quality, fairly traded product (especially from South Africa or Namibia).
Differences in preparation and quality seem to fall mostly in categories such as packaging. Also, the amount of time the owners of the company spend “on the ground” at their marula producing properties makes another category.
Differences in packaging usually amount to whether or not the oil comes packaged in a dark glass or a clear glass or a plastic bottle. The difference in price for a very similar product plays around $50-$60.
Essentially, you can get the same product (correctly and fairly grown, harvested and prepared) for a very low price. However, you should carefully keep your inexpensive clear glass bottle of marula oil in a cool, dark place (e.g. your bathroom cabinet). This seems a small concession to make for some very significant savings.
A multipurpose item you may want to try: Slice Of Nature Pure Marula Oil Cold Pressed Wild Harvested Marula Oil for Face, Body, Hair
How To Select Best Brand Of Marula Oil For You
When comparison shopping, here are four points to keep in mind:
To ensure safety and legality, investigate the practices of the company you choose. But generally speaking, pure marula oil produced in Namibia or South Africa always serve as a stable and reliable product.
The precise location of the trees to harvest makes an important thing to consider. These trees mostly grow wild in uncontrolled settings. As with any organic product, proximity to traffic, factories and other potential pollutants can make a difference to the quality of the product.
Marula oil appears light in texture and never sticky. It should not appear cloudy, but instead look transparent and liquid at room temperature. When you apply it to your skin, it should soak in quickly leaving little or no oil on the skin surface after letting a minute pass. At this point, keep in mind that you should use this light, penetrating oil very sparingly. Just a drop or two will go a long way.
Accept Natural Variations
Among a number of good choices, you may encounter variations in color and scent. But as long as you choose a 100% unrefined sclerocarya birrea (marula) kernel oil. you don’t need to worry about minor differences from product to product. This goes the same with comparing a batch to another within the same brand. Furthermore, this natural product ranges in shade from a very light yellowish-brown color to a deep, golden brown.
The oil typically smells rather nutty. Also, this scent seem light and pleasant as always, but sometimes the darker oil packs a very powerful scent. These differences may have something to do with production methods. However, they may just as well reflect growing conditions. Usually, oil sourced from Southern Africa showcases the best quality. The low rainfall and abundant sunshine produce the perfect growing conditions for these sun-loving, drought resistant trees.
Where to Buy Pure Marula Oil
You can look for marula oil at your local beauty supply shop. However, in many ways, probably better for you to shop online. This option gives you the opportunity to verify claims, compare reviews, and often take advantage of valuable special offers and discounts.
In this article, we did some of the legwork for you. The products linked here all stood up to our tests of purity, ecologically, and socially friendly harvesting methods and safe processing methods that deliver all the goodness and value of marula oil from Africa to you!