Marula Oil in Skin Care

Marula oil in skin care

Marula oil (Sclerocarya birrea) comes from a plant in the southern regions of the African continent.

It has been used in regional traditional medicine for hundreds, if not thousands of years and is making its way into foreign markets.

Its fatty acid composition is reminiscent of olive oil, but it is not comedogenic like olive oil is.

Learn all about marula oil here to see if it's right for your skin type!

What kind of oil is marula oil?

Marula oil is derived from the nuts of the marula tree and it is primarily composed of unsaturated fats.

It also contains a notable concentration of creamy saturated fatty acids like palmitic acid.

It is a plant oil and could be considered an essential oil even though it contains lipids.

Its fatty acid composition makes it thick enough to be an occlusive, which are used in treatments like skin slugging.

Active compounds

Marula oil is made of compounds with anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antioxidant, and moisturizing qualities.

The most significant fatty acids in marula oil by concentration are: (2)

Oleic acid (69%)

Palmitic acid (15.3%)

Linoleic acid (9.2%)

Palmitoleic acid (4.1%)

Stearic acid (1.5%)


Each of the active fatty acids in marula oil provides unique benefits.

Oleic acid makes small perforations on the skin which enables easier absorption of other compounds, like retinoids, into the skin.

Palmitic acid is a saturated fatty acid that gives marula oil its occlusive properties and is an emollient that helps your skin glow.

Occlusives lock moisture and other active ingredients into the skin so they don't evaporate or drip off. In other words, they prevent transepidermal water loss.

Marula oil also has a little bit of linoleic acid in it; a soothing compound that calms redness and other kinds of inflammation. Many moisturizers rely on ingredients with a lot of linoleic acid.

The antimicrobial compounds in marula oil mean it may be useful as a preservative, or for eliminating acne causing bacteria on the skin.

Antioxidants, also found in the oil, are essential in anti-aging products alongside other anti-aging ingredients like retinoids.

Like other oils composed mainly of unsaturated fatty acids, marula oil can be used in skin lightening products for its tyrosinase inhibiting properties.

If you'd like to try marula oil in your skin care regimen, be sure to shop by your Baumann Skin Type to find the right products for you!


Side effects

Marula oil only has a few possible side effects, dependent on your skin type.

The high oleic acid concentration in marula oil can be irritating to extremely dry skin types.

Too much moisture on the face from overuse of occlusives can result in a change to the microbiome.

Marula oil is a possible, though uncommon allergen.



Marula oil is considered completely safe unless you have an allergy to it or use it outside of your custom skin care regimen.

The EWG rating for marula oil is "1." This means there are no commonly associated risks with the ingredient.

Tons of research is being done every year on marula oil as it breaks into foreign markets from its beginnings in southern Africa, and so far no dangers have been identified.




It is specifically the kernels of the marula plant that are used in the production of oil for skin care.

The rest of the plant is versatile as well, being used to feed livestock or to brew regional southern African foods and beverages. (4)

Marula oil is still fairly new in the global skin care market, so the current selection of marula products are limited and need more testing.

For those reasons, the following considerations of specific conditions are based on what we know about the ingredient's characteristics, not based on what products are available today.


Marula oil is a good ingredient for acne treatment and prevention products.

The oil is non-comedogenic, meaning it does not clog pores on the face.

It also has significant antimicrobial properties which eliminate acne causing bacteria on the skin.

The oleic acid in marula oil creates tiny perforations on the skin, helping other ingredients get absorbed.

Dry skin conditions

There are many hydrating and occlusive fatty acids in marula oil that make it a good ingredient in many moisturizers, however it is not good for extremely dry skin conditions because it contains oleic acid.

Depending on your skin's sensitivity to oleic acid, marula oil might be good for your dry skin care regimen.


Marula oil's high concentration of oleic acid can damage the skin barrier when you have eczema even though it has a lot of hydrating fatty acids and anti-inflammatory properties.

The best oils for eczema are primarily composed of soothing linoleic fatty acids and very little (if any) oleic acid. like:

Borage seed oil

Evening primrose oil

Rosehip oil

Safflower oil

Sunflower oil


Because marula oil is primarily composed of unsaturated fatty acids.

It is a weak tyrosinase inhibitor and can treat many kinds of hyperpigmentation but should be used in combination with other lightening ingredients like licorice extract, or PAR-2 blockers like niacinamide.

Marula oil would likely be useful in treatments of conditions like melasma, PIH, or sun damage.

Using any skin lightener can take weeks to show results, so be patient when trying to get rid of your dark spots!


Marula oil vs rosehip oil

Rosehip has tons of linoleic acid, marula oil has very little linoleic acid.

Rosehip has very little oleic, marula has a ton of oleic acid.

Other than that, both serve similar functions in skin care as moisturizer ingredients.

Rosehip oil is better for extremely dry skin types and conditions because of its more soothing fatty acids.

Marula oil is better as a supplementary occlusive oil in cases where oleic acid is desirable, like in acne treatments.

Rosehip oil also contains a ton of alpha-linolenic acid, which marula does not. Alpha-linolenic acid helps your body produce ceramides, which are essential for moisturizing.

Which types of products contain marula oil?

Marula oil is still undergoing a lot of testing and research as it makes its way into foreign markets. These are our two favorite marula oil products available today:


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Here are some of the best references on marula and rosehip oils in skin care:

  1. Baumann, L. S., & Md, J. S. (1999). The effects of topical vitamin E on the cosmetic appearance of scars. Dermatologic Surgery, 25(4), 311-315.
  2. Komane, B., Vermaak, I., Summers, B., & Viljoen, A. (2015). Safety and efficacy of Sclerocarya birrea (A. Rich.) Hochst (Marula) oil: A clinical perspective. Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 176, 327-335.
  3. Kleiman, R., Ashley, D. A., & Brown, J. H. (2008). Comparison of two seed oils used in cosmetics, moringa and marula. Industrial Crops and Products, 28(3), 361-364.
  4. Mariod, A. A., & Abdelwahab, S. I. (2012). Sclerocarya birrea (Marula), an African tree of nutritional and medicinal uses: a review. Food Reviews International, 28(4), 375-388.
  5. Braca, A., Politi, M., Sanogo, R., Sanou, H., Morelli, I., Pizza, C., & De Tommasi, N. (2003). Chemical composition and antioxidant activity of phenolic compounds from wild and cultivated Sclerocarya birrea (Anacardiaceae) leaves. Journal of agricultural and food chemistry, 51(23), 6689-6695.
  6. Baatile Komane, Ilze Vermaak, Beverley Summers, Alvaro Viljoen,Safety and efficacy of Sclerocarya birrea (A.Rich.) Hochst (Marula) oil: A clinical perspective, Journal of Ethnopharmacology, Volume 176, 2015, Pages 327-335, ISSN 0378-8741, (
  7. (SCARS) Lei, Z., Cao, Z., Yang, Z., Ao, M., Jin, W., & Yu, L. (2019). Rosehip oil promotes excisional wound healing by accelerating the phenotypic transition of macrophages. Planta Medica, 85(07), 563-569.
  8. Kazaz, S., BaydaR, H., & ERBaS, S. (2009). Variations in chemical compositions of Rosa damascena Mill. and Rosa canina L. fruits. Czech Journal of Food Sciences, 27(3), 178-184.
  9. is Special, W. R. F. O. Where Nature & Science Meet Skincare, Haircare, Beauty & Wellness Sun damage & Scar Repair: EarthWise Beauty Ruby Oil.
  11. Winther, K., Rein, E., & Kharazmi, A. (1999). The anti-inflammatory properties of rose-hip. Inflammopharmacology, 7, 63-68.