Marula Oil Is the Powerhouse Ingredient You Need to Be Using on Skin and Hair

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As many beauty obsessives know, marula oil is a mainstay for nourishing hair and skin. But what exactly is it, and how does it differ from other tried-and-true ones, such as jojoba and coconut oil?

According to Hadley King, MD, marula oil is extracted from the kernels and outer husk of the nut of the marula fruit, which is native to South Africa. It’s a lightweight, fast-absorbing oil packed with potent calming and healing ingredients, making it one of the best ingredients to incorporate into your beauty routine.

Related: Everything You Need to Know About Hair Oil

We turned to the experts to give us a comprehensive guide on marula oil benefits.

Meet Our Expert

Benefits of Marula Oil for Skin

According to Dr. Zeichner, marula oil contains rich, emollient fatty acids and antioxidants to soothe and protect the skin. “The emollient oil softens the surface of the skin and fills in cracks in the barrier to hydrate and protect [it],” he says. “The antioxidants neutralize free radical damage to protect the skin against environmental aggressors. This makes it a useful ingredient to help brighten uneven skin tone and improve the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.”

Dr. Chiu agrees and adds that it's non-comedogenic and can help calm irritation and supply radiance to the skin.

Related: These 15 Face Oils Give You a Healthy, Hydrated Glow

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How to Use Marula Oil on Skin

Marula oil is easy to incorporate into your routine, alone or in tandem with other products. "Marula oil can be mixed with other skincare such as serums, moisturizers, or other facial oils," says Dr. Chiu. "It generally complements other products well." However, she cautions against mixing marula oil with strong acids, like alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) or beta hydroxy acids (BHAs), as this may reduce their effectiveness.

After you cleanse and tone, Dr. Chiu recommends applying a few drops of marula oil and gently massaging it into your face and neck. You can use it morning or night. "There is no wrong way to use it, but it's best to apply it as one of the last steps in a multi-step skincare routine to seal in moisture," she says.

Regarding go-to products, Dr. Chiu loves The Ordinary 100% Cold-Pressed Virgin Marula Oil. At the same time, Dr. Zeichner is a fan of the Drunk Elephant Virgin Marula Luxury Facial Oil, which he says is a lightweight formula and is rich in omega-6 and omega-9 fatty acids for hydration and to protect the skin barrier.

Benefits of Marula Oil for Hair

In addition to the skin, there are many marula oil benefits for the hair. Dr. Chiu shares a list of them below:

  • Deep conditioning and hydration, which can help reduce frizz and increase shine

  • Protection against heat damage from styling tools

  • Nourishment for dryness and damage

  • Helpful for scalp conditions like dandruff


Dr. King notes that while marula oil does have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, there aren't studies that definitively say it helps stimulate hair growth.

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How to Use Marula Oil on Hair

Incorporating marula oil into your hair routine is fairly simple. Dr. Chiu says you’ll only need a few drops to work into damp or dry hair. “You can use it before or after styling, as well as overnight as a treatment,” she adds. “There is no wrong way to use it, but start with a small amount and adjust as needed based on your hair’s texture and needs.”

To make it a more targeted treatment, Dr. King says you can rub marula oil into your ends to treat any dryness and prevent split ends. It can also help reduce dandruff by being massaged into the scalp or aid in heat protection if you apply it to damp strands ahead of heat styling.

Related: How to Get Rid of Dandruff in 10 Simple Steps

As for what kind of products to use, there are several options. “There are many shampoos that contain marula oil, or you can add a few drops of pure, cold-pressed marula oil to your favorite shampoo or use it as a pre-shampoo treatment,” says Dr. King, who is also a fan of the OGX Hydrate + Marula Oil Serum Elixir for a rich treatment. As for Dr. Chiu's favorite hair elixir, she recommends the Vegamour HYDR-8 Hydrate and Repair Conditioner For Dry, Damaged Hair.

While most hair types can tolerate marula oil, it may not suit those with very fine hair, as it can weigh down strands if used excessively. Additionally, anyone with a nut allergy should be cautious about using marula oil on hair or skin as it is derived from the kernels of marula nuts. Other than these points of concern, there are very minimal downsides. 

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