Marula Oil Beauty Uses

Historical trends of marula oil and why it’s still popular today.


Essential oils, olive oils, baby oils, and more! There is never a shortage of choices when you visit the store. You can find beauty myths and miracles in just about all natural-based oils from all around the world. Here is a look into a popular beauty oil that has withstood the test of time: marula oil.


I first heard about marula from my sister, who spent 3 years living in Botswana witnessing the beauty craze. The oil has been around for tens of thousands of years, and it is still found in skincare products today. Why is marula oil so desirable, what are the benefits of using it, and how has it retained its status to the 21st century?


Marula oil is most popular in South Africa, Botswana, and Namibia, where marula trees grow, as explained by African Botanics. Marula trees date back to 10,000 BC. People in these times used the oil for protection from the hot Savannah Desert sun, and is rumored to be the reason why South Africans have such smooth skin. They would spread the oil across their face and body allowing the nutrients to absorb into the skin. 


Marula trees grow in fertile, sandy soil between South Africa and Ethiopia in the northern half of the continent. It is important to know where your marula oil comes from. For example, oil produced from trees in Namibia may be in danger. The trees are not protected by the government and may grow in farming territories. In the South African Marula Desert, however, the trees are protected under the National Forests Act. Currently 360 trees located there are preserved from being cut down or harmed with pesticides. Trees flourish best in Africa, and no trees have been seen in the Americas. 


Between the months of January and March marula trees bear plum-like fruit. When picked and pressed, the kernel leaks an oil that’s rich in antioxidants and Vitamins E and C. Hence how the oil is made. Marula Beauty stated the oil is 60% higher in antioxidants than leading Argan or Grapeseed Oil. Fatty acids, such as Omega 6 and 9, give marula anti-aging properties. It’s good for moisturization to reduce fine lines on the skin. The joke of marula fruit is that it makes elephants drunk! Elephants would eat the rotted fruit that had fallen to the ground and feel the effects of fermentation, as said by National Geographic. Although this is a joke, it has not been adequately confirmed. 


The oil is sold by well-known cosmetic companies such as Nexxus, African Botanics, The Body Shop, and- ironically- Drunk Elephant. Since the trees grow in Africa, most marula products are exported to North America, Asia, and Eruope. It’s distributed in many forms: skin cream, body scrub, shampoo and conditioner, foundation, and even straight oil treatments. The Drunk Elephant line features a pure bottle of Virgin Marula Luxury Facial Oil with no added fragrance, selling at $40 for .5 oz from Sephora. It helps with moisture and radiance in cold or dry seasons. You will find a wide range of prices depending on the product you seek, where you buy it from, and the amount of marula oil.


Also be warned that if the marula kernel gets overproduced the oil will not hold the same beauty benefits. The result is diluted and ineffective antioxidants, and it will not absorb deep into the skin. Watch out for this in oils that are very pale or watery compared to normal yellow-orange tones.


Since marula is not native to North America, we primarily know of the cosmetic benefits and uses. However, oils aside, there are other properties of marula that have been used throughout history, as mentioned by the South African Heritage guide. The fruit is very juicy, so if not enjoyed fresh it’s made into jams, juices, and alcoholic beverages. Burning the skin and mixing with water is also a method for a coffee substitute. The tree bark has been used for medicinal purposes. It contains cleansing antihistamines that, when steeped in hot water, can be inhaled through steam. People have eaten green marula leaves to ease heartburn and ground bark to treat ehem… diarrhea.


The legend of marula trees is that the bark can be used to determine the sex of unborn babies. The trees are dioecious, meaning they’re either male or female. Mother’s wishing for a son would sip on a bark-infused drink from a male tree, and mother’s wanting girl births would drink with the bark of female trees. If the birth didn’t turn out as planned, the child was believed to be special for defying the marula tree spirits. 


Shake up your beauty regimen by incorporating a product that has been around for tens of thousands of years. Next time you go to the store, you’ll know to look for marula oil.