It wasn’t too long ago that you only used oil for cooking. Now, your bathroom looks a lot like your kitchen, crammed with a selection of oils (argan, grapeseed and coconut, to name a few) that promise to improve your skin and hair. Could marula, the oil du jour, outperform the rest?

Marula trees are indigenous to South Africa, where locals have a long history of using its oil to treat leather, preserve meat, cook food and nourish skin and hair. Rich in antioxidants, marula oil is used on everything from stretch marks, dryness and wrinkles to inflammation, hyperpigmentation and even acne. 

There is a drizzle of evidence that marula outdoes other oils. A test conducted by Brunswick Lab shows its antioxidant level is 60% higher than argan oil’s and studies summarized in the South African Journal of Botany detail that marula oil is a good source of omega-9 (oleic acid), which aids absorption, and stearic and palmitic acids, which prolong hydration.  

New York City dermatologist David Colbert, MD, whose patients include Angelina Jolie, Heidi Klum and Naomi Watts, uses marula oil as the main ingredient in his bestselling Illumino Face Oil (Jennifer Lawrence and Rachel Weisz are fans). However, Colbert believes that marula and argan are equally beneficial. “There’s nothing wrong with using just one, but every molecule is slightly different,” he tells LivingHealthy. “Some people will prefer the feel of argan.”

Colbert chose marula oil for his Colbert MD skin care line because its high antioxidant levels make it a strong sun damage fighter. “In Africa, where there is so much sun, people have used it to keep their skin moist,” he says. “Leather is similar to skin. If marula oil can smooth and rejuvenate leather, it could do the same for sun-damaged skin.”

Co-founder of Marula Pure Beauty Oil, Newport Beach, Calif., plastic surgeon Ashton Kaidi, MD, FACS, commissioned an independent lab to test the marula oil in his products versus argan oil, and found marula oil to be stronger against the free radicals that cause premature aging. “Marula oil is better than pretty much everything oil-wise on the market, including argan,” Kaidi tells LivingHealthy. “It leaves your skin with a hydrated feel and a satin finish. I get products presented to me all the time, and I’ve never endorsed a product. This is the first and only thing I’ve been involved with.”

Kaidi vows that an undiluted, healthy slathering of marula oil nets results. He reports that his patients see improvement of fine lines and wrinkles after applying marula oil two to three times a day for four to six weeks. Colbert explains oils mend skin by sealing in moisture. “It reduces the water that we lose from our skin,” says Colbert. “You do absolutely get results with oils that you can’t get with creams, lotions and serums.”

Try out the super oil in these products:

African Botanics Mineral Cleansing Mask: Marula oil is paired with plant stem cells in this mask to clear congestion and brighten skin.

Ciaté Beautiful Cuticles: The hydrating abilities of marula oil help combat dry and brittle nails.   

Colbert MD Illumino Body Oil: A sister product to Colbert’s bestselling Illumino Face Oil, this body oil contains marula as well as argan, yangu, passion fruit and borage seed oils to nourish, soften and moisturize skin.  

Drunk Elephant Pekee Bar: A multifunctional soap formulated with marula oil, blueberry extract and honey to cleanse and balance skin without stripping. 

Goldfaden MD Fleuressence: This blend of active botanicals, fruit extracts and natural oils harnesses marula’s anti-aging benefits.

John Paul Mitchell Systems MarulaOil Rare Oil Treatment, Replenishing Shampoo and Replenishing Conditioner: Third party research commissioned by John Paul Mitchell System found that when used in combination, these three MarulaOil products reduced split ends and improved the condition of hair by 80% and gave hair 80% more shine. “Repair really happens and has the ability to be sustained over time,” says Kristin Firrell, vice president of research and product development for John Paul Mitchell Systems. 



  1. Brunswick Lab
  2. South African Journal of Botany
  3. African Botanics: Mineral Cleansing Mask
  4. Ciaté Beautiful Cuticles
  5. Colbert MD Illumino Body Oil
  6. Drunk Elephant Pekee Bar
  7. Goldfaden MD Fleuressence
  8. John Paul Mitchell Systems