The marula fruit tree (Sclerocarya birrea) is native to parts of southern Africa. The trees grow wild and were once rare, but are now cultivated.

Once considered sacred, the marula tree was linked to fertility and happy marriage in ancient times. The fermented fruit of the marula tree was also thought to intoxicate elephants, who seem to adore its delicious taste as much as people do.

Many parts of the marula tree are used as ingredients in food and traditional medicine throughout Africa. Each marula fruit contains a hard, brown nut with pliable, white kernels at its core.

Marula oil is primarily extracted from these kernels, but can also be obtained from the nut’s outer husk. Marula oil is rich in protein and easily absorbed, making it an effective skin and hair treatment.

Marula oil smell

Marula oil is used as a base note in perfumes, body lotions, and soaps. It has a fruity, floral scent with a warm, nutty undertone.

Marula oil is a relative newcomer to the beauty oil scene. Its light texture, rich moisture content and noncomedogenic properties have made it a popular treatment for skin, hair, and nails.

Marula oil is used as an ingredient in a wide range of cosmetic products. It can also be purchased as an essential oil. It’s beneficial components include:

  • amino acids L-arginine and glutamic acid, which have hydrating, anti-aging properties
  • fatty acids, including palmitic, stearic, oleic, and myristic acids, which have emollient and moisturizing benefits
  • antioxidants, such as phenolic compounds and vitamins E and C, which fight free radicals and may stave off skin damage caused by the ultraviolet rays of the sun and pollution

Marula oil on face

Because marula oil is lightweight, it absorbs easily. This makes it an effective moisturizer for dry or aging skin. It may be beneficial for smoothing and softening fine lines, preventing stretch marks, and keeping skin hydrated and well-nourished. It’s also an effective lip moisturizer.

There is no scientific evidence indicating that marula oil is beneficial for skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis. However, anecdotal evidence points to its ability to reduce the irritation, itching, and dryness associated with these conditions.

Marula oil for acne

Marula oil makes a good moisturizer for oily skin and treating acne because it is non-greasy, and noncomedogenic. Its amino acid content helps eliminate dirt, debris, and dead skin cells that clog pores.

It also has antimicrobial properties and may be effective against the bacteria that contribute to the formation of pimples, whiteheads, and blackheads.

Marula oil for hair

Marula oil can help nourish hair from root to tip, without making it overly greasy. Marula oil has hydrating, moisturizing, and occlusive (preventing water loss) properties, making it beneficial for dry, frizzy, or brittle hair.

Marula oil for nails

Marula oil is effective at keeping nail beds and cuticles supple. This may help to reduce the incidence of hangnails, and painful, cracked skin around nails.

Marula oil has a wide range of uses. These include:

Marula oil shampoo

There are many shampoos that contain marula oil. You can also add a few drops of pure, cold-pressed marula oil to your favorite shampoo, or use it as a pre-shampoo treatment.

Hair conditioner

Marula oil can be rubbed into the ends of hair to help eliminate split ends and dryness. You can also massage it into the scalp to reduce dandruff. Try massaging it through your entire head prior to heat styling, or use it as an anti-frizz treatment before venturing out into high humidity or rain.

Facial moisturizer

Whether your skin is oily or dry, marula oil can be used as a daytime and nighttime moisturizer. A few drops will do the trick. Since it absorbs quickly, it can be applied prior to using makeup.

Skin lotion

Marula oil can be used as an overall body skin conditioner. Try applying it liberally after bathing. You can also use it before bed on dry elbows and knees, and behind the ears.

Nail treatment

Rub marula oil into your cuticles after removing nail polish, which can be drying. You can also use it as a nighttime treatment for softening nail beds.

There are no specific, well-documented risks associated with marula oil. Some people who have nut allergies may be allergic to marula.

If you’re concerned about a potential reaction, prior to using do a patch test:

  • On your inner forearm, apply three or four drops of marula oil.
  • Wait 24 hours.
  • If there’s no sign of hives, redness, or irritation, you’re in the clear.

Avoid getting marula oil into your eyes.

Marula oil is high in antioxidants, essential fatty acids, and amino acids. It’s widely used as an ingredient in skin products, and appears to be beneficial for oily, acne-prone, dry, and aging skin. It is also effective at keeping hair soft, supple, and moisturized.

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