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 considered less comedogenic than olive oil. There is still much to discover about marula oil in research, but we've compiled what there is to know on its use in skin care today.

Find some of our favorite marula oil products and learn the science of this exciting ingredient today!

What is marula oil?

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.

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 of marula oil

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.

The palmitic fatty acids in marula oil mean it is slightly comedogenic and can cause acne on sensitive 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 safe unless you have an allergy to it, have acne prone skin, 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.

Is marula oil safe?


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.

This ingredient has a chance to clog the pores of extremely acne-prone skin types because it contains some palmitic acid, although more research needs to be done on it's comedogenic properties.

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:


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 vs rosehip

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.

Closing thoughts

Marula oil is an exciting new skin care ingredient in the west with interesting potential applications. It is good for inflammation, dry skin, hyperpigmentation, and it goes great in a variety of skin care formulations. Here are some of my favorite products with marula oil in skin care:

Level up your skin care knowledge with medical advice from dermatologists

Best References on Marula Oil 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, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jep.2015.10.037. (https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0378874115301963)
  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.

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