Marula Oil Is Essentially the Gatekeeper For Skin's Collagen and Elastin Reserves
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 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.
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. More specifically, it's an emollient, which fills in the cracks and gaps in the outermost layer of the skin to leave it softer and smoother. 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. In related news, 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.1
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 the case with some other oils. (Hello, 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). On a similar note...
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 both collagen and elastin.2 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: Marula oil is thought to have good wound healing properties, and this can largely be attributed to its anti-inflammatory effects. Those same fatty acids that make it so hydrating also help combat inflammation and redness, notes Haley.
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.
A huge THANKS to BYRDIE for the info above