Beauty trends come and go, but skin and hair oils have been on the rise for years. While argan oil has become the popular go-to, it’s finally time to focus on the next big thing in skin care – marula oil.
Sclerocarya birrea is known as the marula, an African tree that grows anywhere from Gambia to Kenya and Ethiopia. It bears a sweet fruit that is an integral part of the south African diet; its vitamin C content is up to three times higher than the equivalent weight of oranges (Phytotherapy Research).
Marula oil, however, is extracted from the seeds of the tree. Traditionally used in skincare and leather treatment, the oil has a light yellow color with a nutty smell. The oil is considered to be very stable as it contains mostly monosaturated fatty acids and natural antioxidants (Forestry Studies in China).
It is because of its composition that marula oil is so great for your skin. Containing oleic, linoleic, and palmitic acids, as well as both vitamins C and E, there’s really nothing about marula oil that isn’t great (Forestry Studies in China).
Since marula oil is comprised of 67.2% oleic acid (Journal of the American Oil Chemists’ Society), it helps with reducing inflammation (Cell Biochemistry & Function) and acting as an antimicrobial. As a whole, marula oil has shown significant antimicrobial activity against three bacterial strains (Journal of the American Oil Chemists’ Society), while oleic acid alone has shown antimicrobial activity against Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) in mice (Journal of Microbiology and Biotechnology).
Marula oil also contains 14.1% palmitic acid, which works by creating a protective layer on the surface of the skin, while its 5.9% linoleic acid acts as an emollient, moisturizing the skin by filling in the spaces between cells.
Finally, marula oil also contains vitamins C and E (13.7 mg/100g) which work synergistically to improve and protect skin. Alone, vitamin C targets UVA radiation, acts as a free radical scavenger, triggers collagen production, and reduces hyperpigmentation. Vitamin E protects against UVB and ozone exposure and matrix metalloproteinase (MMP) mRNA formation, a process by which MMPs degrade collagen. Together, the two offer broad spectrum (UVA and UVB) protection and protect against oxidative damage by sharing a network of electrons.
For those of you trying to stay ahead of the beauty curve, you can try marula oil for yourself; African Botanics Pure Marula Oil ($80, amazon.com) offers a pure oil, and, if you’d prefer a little goodwill with your products, try The Leakey Collection Marula Oil ($48.28, amazon.com) as it operates within Fair Trade principles.